The Little Things That Help Partners Build Confidence
Print out clear step-by-step procedures for
using the radio, head, and engine; laminate each
one; and affix them near each apparatus. Knowing
how to use these marine devices builds confidence in new boaters — and in your guests.
Buy a waterproof hand-held VHF that either
of you can take with you in the dinghy. Cell
phones aren’t reliable enough in the marine envi-
ronment, where reception may be spotty.
Develop and practice hand signals for: go left, go
right, go forward, stop, reverse, increase RPMs (the
Women, please take note: Our vanity is more often wrapped
up in the physical appearance of things — i.e., is the boat clean and
well organized? Men’s vanity tends to be more wrapped up in how
their actions appear — i.e., did I look like I knew what I was doing
when we came in? Accepting these differences will help during those
times when spectators, and the pressures they add, are unavoidable.
Candidly discuss the fear yelling creates
and the power it gives.
True story: It was a race day and 25-knot winds were
forecast. I was slated to skipper a Buzzards Bay 25, a boat I’d
sailed twice in light winds. This was a big regatta right on the
waterfront. My all-female crew consisted of two neophytes and a
foredeck hand who’d never sailed this kind of boat. We invited
Larry to join us on the condition that he “act like a lady.”
“Spell it out,” he joked. “What are the details?”
“Rule one: We’re out here to have fun,” said Sarah, the boat
owner. “If anyone makes a mistake, no blaming her. We’re all in it
together. Rule two: No yelling.”
The rest of my crew added, “Rule three: No yelling.”
Halfway up the windward leg, we passed yet another boat, and
began to feel very competitive. Sarah called out, “Larry, yell when
you’re ready to tack. You almost wiped us off the cabin top.”
Larry retorted, “Can’t yell, I’m being a lady.”
We all called back in almost perfect unison: “Forget that! Yell
so we can hear you!” It became a standing joke for the three days
of the regatta. “Don’t be a lady, yell,” we called to our foredeck
hand when we couldn’t hear her commentary on which boats
were tacking ahead of us. We’d learned several lessons. Men learn
at an early age that yelling is part of the aggressive team sports they
play, a way to be sure their teammates hear them above the fray,
noise to be forgotten the minute the game is over. Most women are
raised to feel that yelling is reserved for times of anger or fear. The
memory of raised voices lingers in a woman’s mind long after the
incident has passed.
Talk together about this scenario: You’re coming in to anchor,
the wind gusting 25, engine thumping, a dodger between you
at the helm and your partner on the foredeck 30 feet from you.
Your partner is, by necessity, facing away from you. How can you
make sure he or she hears you, without yelling? Practice helps.
Developing hand signals and wearing two-way radio headsets help
some couples. Lowering the dodger, adding more sound insulation to the engine room — all helpful. But what we found works
best is practicing calling “very loudly” and then having the other
person repeat the order so that each person knows the other heard
and understood. Finally, be ready to accept that some instances
of yelling are caused by your own tension/apprehension, real or
imagined. Apologize sincerely once the situation is under control
and explain that no anger was intended so you can work toward
developing into a better boating team.
Give your partner (and yourself)
room to make mistakes.
No one does their best when someone is coaching them constantly. In fact, as Larry and I have relearned several times, the more
he coaches me, the more my helming skills deteriorate. I begin to
pay more attention to what he might criticize than I do to steering.
Don’t promise that cruising will be perfect. Yes, there will be days when dolphin
guide you across sunlit seas. This was taken as we headed toward Kiritimati in
the Line Islands south of Hawaii.