By Lin Pardey
warm, caressing breeze soothed the northwest
swells as Larry urged me to try my hand at
Agamemnon’s wheel. It was my first time being
more than 20 miles from shore. Larry and I had
known each other for six months, and I’d been
asking him to take me along when he delivered
boats. Until this peaceful night, he’d made
excuses, limiting my experiences to afternoons
on friends’ boats, or in the dinghy. Now, as we shared a beautiful
midnight watch, I stared at a star instead of constantly staring at
the compass, and waxed poetical about the moment. Larry put his
arm around me and said, “An old friend told me, you’ll go out 10
times before it happens — that perfect boating experience — and
you’ll keep going out nine times more to recapture that magic.”
It was a half-dozen years of loving the boating life before I
learned how carefully he’d planned my introduction to it. Boating
and cruising may be the dream of only one member of a couple.
The trick to creating a successful boating partnership is to use
some of the following ideas to encourage your partner, and make
the dream as much theirs as it is yours.
Introduce your partner to boating gently.
It starts with those first experiences. If you’re experienced
yourself, go out of your way to plan each boating day so your partner gradually builds confidence in your skills and at the same time
gains his/her own confidence. If both of you are new to boating,
make sure your early excursions build confidence. Go out in only
beautiful, calm weather. Ask around until you find other boaters
known to be competent and relaxed. Invite them to go with you. If
you hit it off, they might invite you out on their boats so you and
your partner gain knowledge about best practices and using gear
Don’t fool yourself by thinking that it’s easy to become a successful skipper. Look at it from your partner’s perspective. Would
you fly across the Atlantic with someone who just got his or her
license to fly a plane? It’s easy to buy a boat and learn the basics of
maneuvering it. But it takes time and varied experiences to become
proficient so you react correctly and calmly in a variety of situations. If you take the time to learn and practice before attempting
anything ambitious, you’ll avoid confidence-sapping situations
that could destroy your dream of boating with your partner.
Surround yourself with other enthusiastic sailors to encourage your partner.
Melinda and Darren Druzilla have now been cruising together for three years
and still look forward to more.
Remember, everyone really IS watching you.
The knowledge that hundreds of eyes are on you as you come
into the marina creates concerns and tension that can turn you
from a relaxed, coming-home-to-roost boater, to a matador about
to be gored by a raging piling. Your voice rises; your partner’s
hackles rise in response. Anger creates inattention, which leads to
fumbles that escalate the problem — one more chip in the confidence you should be building in your partner.
Until you’ve both gained confidence, avoid entering marinas
during peak hours. If possible, anchor out in clear water until after
the rush, or until the wind eases. If you’re planning to anchor,
forget trying to find a spot close to shore, where it’s crowded.
Anchor farther out, even if it means a longer dinghy ride ashore.
Then find some time during the week when fewer eyes will be
around and practice docking, anchoring, and mooring procedures
without spectator pressures. Create communications plans. Figure
out ways to make your boat easier to handle in marinas, such as
clearing the side decks and adding easier-to-reach handholds to
help you or your partner climb out of the cockpit more quickly.
Consider adding rub rails with brass half-round strapping to protect the topsides. But above all, discuss and accept the pressures
that observers create.