He’s trying to keep me from making the mistakes he made as a
novice. But, as I remind him, he was able to learn by making those
mistakes. Now it’s my turn. Not an easy thing for men to accept.
That’s why I recommend that women attend one of those all-female
boating courses, which gives them a chance to gain confidence
and hone skills in a conducive and less threatening atmosphere.
On the other side of the coin, by allowing for mistakes without
letting it ruin your day, you’ll also make life afloat more pleasant
for your partner. Boats are pretty tough machines. If you avoid
$10,000 spray-on topside paint and highly varnished toe rails, a
chip caused by a misjudged dock approach becomes “just a little
putty, a little paint, no big deal.” Boats
are far easier to mend than broken
boat back into port alone, anchor, then contact assistance should
a partner be out of commission. Women do worry about this
scenario. Address it together and you’ll have removed one more
obstacle to boating.
8Encourage your partner to talk to other experienced women.
There’s nothing as contagious as enthusiasm. Include as many
positive-reinforcement opportunities as you can. Conversely,
especially at the beginning, try to minimize or short-circuit
encounters with people, lectures,
books, and movies that emphasize
the negative aspects of boating.
Create an exit strategy.
Once, when we were facing an
upwind slog of about six days, I felt
my confidence sapping away. Larry
encouraged me: “Let’s go as far as
Portobelo. It’s only 20 miles to windward. If you really hate it, we’ll come
back and I’ll find crew to help me sail
up, and meet you at the end.” That
worked. I had an out. I tried it his way
and learned my fears were grounded
in inexperience. I didn’t love bashing
to windward for six days, but I did
enjoy the accomplishment.
My friend Lori Lawson interviewed 27 boating couples and asked
what they liked least. Maintenance
topped the list. If it isn’t a problem with the refrigeration, it’s the
generator, watermaker, or radio gear.
Simplicity is one way to cut down on
maintenance. A modest-sized boat
helps. Learning to inspect gear and
avoid breakdowns in advance helps.
Once you leave the dock, it’s 10
times harder to fix gear, because
it’s up to you to do it. In Lori’s
survey results, the top four ways that couples found to create
a successful boating partnership were: establishing a sense of
interdependence; sharing the same boating goals; trusting each
other when the going got rough; and establishing good communication methods. Communications are the key to good boating partnerships. Combine learning how to communicate afloat
with some confidence-building boating experiences, and you’ll
increase your partner’s enjoyment and sense of self-sufficiency.
Be logical about
Don’t make false
promises about boating.
Boating isn’t always easy, and
isn’t always romantic. Say it is and
you’re leading yourself astray, too.
Furthermore, even the most sumptuous 45- or 50-footer will never have
the space or convenience of a small
apartment on shore. So don’t lure
your partner afloat on the premise
that it will be more comfortable.
Boating is physical. You must carry
everything you use from the shore to
the boat. You have to store things so
they don’t get loose in a seaway. This
means you’ll always need to move
one thing to get something else,
which is a hassle. When you actually
set off on a cruise, learn to give each
other physical and mental space. Be
realistic, and talk about it more as an
intimate adventure that will connect
you to nature.
Don’t suggest overly adventuresome sailing destinations until she
fully embraces your dream. John Harries and Phyllis Nickel did not
take Morgan’s Cloud to Iceland until they had acquired a lot of sea
time in more moderate climates.
Make and keep real promises
about what boating can offer.
Make cruising a real pleasure by getting off the boat to savor shore
Think beyond the boat when
you’re trying to entice your partner
into the boating life. Imagine what she loves to do, and incorporate
those interests into your time on the water. Does she love craft
shows, antiquing, or art galleries? Then dinghy ashore and stroll
the shops with her in new towns you visit. Does she love visiting
historical sites? Make time for that. Does she love biking, walking
on the beach, dining out? You know what you have to do. Before
you know it, your partner will connect boating with her interests,
and view the boat as a vehicle that opens her to new experiences
that she loves.
PHOTOS TOP TO BOTTOM: LIN PARDEY, MICHAEL MARRIS
Contingency planning calms fears.
The majority of women I know don’t know how to troubleshoot or fix diesel engines, generators, or electrical systems. Some
have never operated the VHF radio. One fear that eats away at
some women is how they’d bring the boat home should the engine
and electronic gear give out, or something happens to the skipper.
Some boating schools now offer courses on how to bring your
This story was adapted from the revised and expanded third edition of
Capable Cruiser, Lin and Larry Pardey’s newest book. To read six more
tips, visit www.BoatUS.com/Magazine. Over the past 43 years, Lin and
Larry have accumulated sea miles equivalent to five circumnavigations
onboard their two self-built engineless cutters, both boats less than 30
feet long. The Pardeys earned their way by delivering boats, doing boat
repairs, rigging, and writing. They’ve produced four DVDs and written 10
books. Read their newsletters and cruising tips at www.landlpardey.com.