How to Get Her to Go Sailing With You
By Trish Lambert
My introduction to boating was probably about the best a potential first mate could have: A two-week bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands. Palm-studded shores, white sand beaches, great diving-and those trade winds! I got hooked, and came back home ready to jump on board and learn everything I needed to know about boats.
Some months later, we bareboated again-this time a summer trip on the Chesapeake Bay. On the way to St. Michaels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, we were overtaken by a thunderstorm that scared me to pieces. I didn’t yet know enough about the physics of sailing to understand that releasing the main sheet would bring the boat back upright (heck, I didn’t even know what a main sheet was!), so I trembled in the cockpit while the port scuppers went under water.
I got through that experience, and went on to many more years, and many more islands and thunderstorms, on a variety of boats in lots of great cruising destinations. I’m glad I took on the challenge of becoming the first mate in a boating marriage and I love getting out on the water whenever I can.
I was lucky. I did things in the right order. If the Chesapeake charter had been my first boating experience, I know that I would never have sailed the BVI nor had the chance to experience boating at its best. And my husband wouldn’t have had me as a sailing partner.
My trade-wind memories overruled my thunderstorm experience, so I stuck with it. Many women, however, first experience the boating world in terrible conditions. Their husbands or boyfriends, boating nuts themselves, either aren’t bothered by or have forgotten the multitude of discomforts and hazards perceived by the uninitiated. They “just bring her along for the ride,” and let the chips fall where they may. If luck is with them, the weather is good, the waves are down, and nothing gets hit on the way in or out of the slip. If not, she gets off the boat as soon as the gunwale is within jumping distance of the dock, walks off, and never looks back.
Unless the damage has already been done, there is no reason why a boater’s significant other can’t become a happy partner on the water. There is no one right way for a her to participate-she can fall anywhere on a spectrum from “full second in command” to “cockpit adornment.” Regardless of her ultimate role, her level of enthusiasm greatly depends on the skipper’s attitude and expectations.
What can a boating guy do to stack the deck in favor of having a boating wife or girlfriend? Follow these suggestions, and you will be on your way to having a willing and eager boating partner.
Do your homework. Regardless of its length, plan your trip. If it’s your first time out, plan on traveling waterswith which you are already familiar. Decide on your destination and your route, and enter the appropriate waypoints into your nav system. Check the necessary charts and guides and be sure to bring them along with you.
Check the forecast. If you are still in the “introduction to boating” stage, go only when conditions will be good. If the weather forecast is bad or even iffy, abort the mission and stay at the dock. Later, depending on how involved she wants to get with the boat, you might go out in bad weather on purpose to learn how to handle thing-but when you get to that point, she will be fully committed and willing to deal with some discomfort in exchange for the experience.
Stow extra clothes for her. Even on the nicest days, it can get chilly on the water, and being chilled with no way to fix the condition can impair enjoyment of the boating experience. Have additional clothes on board that she can put on if needed-coat, sweater, hat, gloves, socks, even extra pants in case she gets wet.
Serve good food. Forget crackers from the box accompanied by aerosol cheese. Provision for the trip and come up with menus for whatever snacks or meals you plan to have on board. This may be an area she will want to take over later, but for now act the host and cater to her tastes.
Bribe some dolphins. Wouldn’t it be great if you could really do that? Dolphins playing on the bow are always big with boat passengers. Even if you don’t get visited by marine mammals, though, you can heighten her enjoyment by pointing out any interesting sights or animals that you encounter. Be sure to carry binoculars and a bird guide with you.
Give her a job to do. If she wants to do something other than just sit in the cockpit, be ready to give her a job. The first time out, give her the helm for a while and let her get a feel for the boat. If she gets hooked and wants to do more, include her in trip planning and navigation. Come up with an efficient anchoring process that she has a part in; ditto for docking. Also, cede the galley to her if she wants it.
Have entertainment sources on hand. If you are taking a multi-day trip, plan for evening entertainment. DVDs, music, dominoes, cards, board games-it could be pastimes you already enjoy on land, or something new.
Last but by no means least, make sure your head doesn’t stink. There is nothing more off putting to a novice boater than head fumes. Make sure that your boat doesn’t have unpleasant odors (even ones you’ve gotten used to). As part of your pre-trip preparation, pump out holding tanks and flush your plumbing with disinfecting cleaner. Air things out well so that nothing but freshness greets her nostrils as she steps on board.
Keep up the good work, and you and the woman in your life will have a great time on the water
Trish Lambert’s shortest bio is on Twitter, where she is billed as “Fervent champion of solo biz owners who want to stay solo and successful, woman of high, unmodulated energy, sometime couch potato.” Trish started 4R Marketing ( http://4rmarketing.com ), a home-base marketing and copy writing consultancy, in 2005 and built it into a 6-figure business in less than two years. In addition to running 4R Marketing, Trish now works with other at-home service professionals through Success in Sweatpants ( http://successinsweatpants.net ), her coaching practice whose tagline is “It’s all about freedom-no excuses!”
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