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Maritime Marriage Success

Date published
October 13, 2023

Maritime Marriage Success

Will we make it? Ask yourself these questions and find out.

Sailing, with its promise of adventure and connection to nature, has an undeniable allure. For couples who share this passion, it can be an incredibly rewarding and bonding experience. However, it also brings a set of unique challenges that can test the waters of even the strongest relationships. In this blog, we'll explore fundamental gaps in four areas where we believe the biggest risks reside when it comes to making your sailing project work: interest in sailing, sailing experience, enthusiasm for change, and risk tolerance.

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Interest Level

An ideal scenario is when both people share the same interest. When we first met, Stephane shared about his love for sailing. I was like, ‘I like camping, travel, and boat-stuff so I’ll probably like sailing.’ As the years went by and I learned how to sail, I did start to really love it. In particular, I love the balance of the technical and mechanical aspects, I generally like knowing how things work. I also have a little weakness for fast things, even though they scare me. And I like how the ocean keeps you focused on the present and it also keeps you humble. It’s that interest that made me want to learn more and be a better sailor, but had I not found it interesting, it would have been really hard to keep up with the learning and challenging myself.

When there are differing levels of interest in sailing it can be hard to make it work. One partner may be a die-hard enthusiast while the other is more of a reluctant sailor, doing it because it is either meaningful or a life dream of their spouse, but not for themselves. The issue is that to operate a boat safely, especially a performance catamaran, you really need two people that know the fundamentals so you can work together as a team.

Sailing can be incredibly frustrating at times and if one person is only half way in it all along, it can be hard to stick with it over the long haul. To bridge this gap, it's essential for each person to experience new aspects of sailing so they can find out more about what they love and hate about it. Start with shorter, less intense trips, or compromise by alternating activities between sailing and other interests. Communication is key; the passionate sailor should be patient and nurturing, and the less interested partner should be open to trying new things.

Sailing Experience

It’s rare that couples come to cruising with the same level of experience. It happens, but it’s not the norm. Couples with disparate sailing experience can find themselves at odds when it comes to making decisions on the boat. The more experienced partner might feel frustrated, and the less experienced one might feel overwhelmed. I myself went through this phase.

As I was still learning, I would try to be helpful in ways that just weren’t helpful either by sharing too much information or not enough information about what was happening or getting worried about things that weren’t important in a given situation. In trying to ‘help’ I just added to an already stressful situation. As I got better, I could anticipate the situation more and be helpful not by running my mouth off, but by taking an active role in what was happening. I knew what to look for, what was coming next, and could augment (not interfere) with what needed to happen.

A proactive approach is crucial here. The less experienced partner must become competent crew and must be able to safely manage the boat if the other person got sick or injured. The best thing that ever happened was that Stephane encouraged me to take the helm in our second season and it was a game-changer! With me at the helm, we could get more creative with on-board roles when docking, mooring or doing maneuvers. I went from taking orders to collaborating on what was going on. It also helped us hone our communication dynamic so it worked best for both of us and helped us make better decisions as a couple about critical things like weather windows and anchorages. When there is a common ground to make decisions on, both partners can be heard and participate in important decisions.

Enthusiasm for Change

I love change, the more the better but some people favor routine and stability over adventure and completely upending life as they know it. This is especially important during the transition time, the 2-3 years it takes to make a change from life on land to life on the sea. If one person craves change, and the other is settled in to their current life with no desire to let it go, it can be difficult to make the transition as a couple. It leaves one person clinging to the pontoon as the other is throttle down wanting to leave the safety of the marina.

This gap can lead to frustration and disappointment if not managed carefully. Finding a compromise between these two approaches is essential. Plan a mix of routine trips and adventurous passages to satisfy both partners' desires. Regularly discuss your sailing goals to ensure you're both on the same page.

Risk Tolerance

Sailing inherently carries risks, and couples can often differ in their tolerance for taking calculated risks. While a more risk-averse partner may prioritize safety, the thrill-seeker might be more willing to push boundaries, the boat, and the weather window. This has been one of our challenges to work through as a couple since Stephane is a recovering racer and I can be a worry wart. Here’s how we solved it.

We put together a risk management plan to determine what our real risks are. First, we walked through all the possible things that could go wrong and rated them by how serious they are. Then we walked through the same list and rated them by how likely they were to happen and multiplied the ratings. The top ten items with the highest score, we created procedures for and talked through how we would prevent them from happening and how we would address each of them if they did happen. This helped a lot!

Respecting each other's boundaries and establishing a clear safety protocol that we both agreed on was critical for us. It helped me (the control-freak worrier) to feel like we were prepared and it gave us confidence together that we could handle the situation if we needed to.

We also have a system that for decisions that matter, both people need to ‘on board’ with the final decision if its a planning matter, say for a weather window. For urgent matters underway, Stephane is the skipper on board and he makes the calls.

I do!

Sailing as a couple can be an incredible journey filled with adventures, shared dreams, and unforgettable moments. However, the challenges that arise from differing interests, experience levels, enthusiasm for change, and risk tolerance can sometimes feel like rocky seas to navigate. The key to a successful sailing partnership lies in open communication, compromise, mutual respect and….patience, patience, patience. Be kind to each other and remember, you are both learning!

These challenges are not roadblocks but opportunities to learn and grow together. By actively working on bridging these gaps, couples can create a harmonious sailing experience that strengthens their bond while allowing each partner to explore their unique interests and passions. With the right mindset and willingness to adapt, sailing as a couple can be an enriching adventure, deepening your connection with each other and with the sea.