Friday, October 17, 2014

A Key Secret for Cruising

New Bern, NC

A friend, Jill Upchurch, is circumnavigating on her W32.  She is currently in the South Pacific, heading home to NZ.  She recently posted the following on Facebook.

Seems like it is the time of year when maritime marital bliss is strained. I have had a steady stream of boat wives visit saying if they/their husband doesn't get off the boat for a few hours, blood will be shed. I'm blaming the humidity
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A key to successful cruising is that you must somehow arrange for privacy/time-apart from your sailing companions to maintain sanity.  That applies to your spouse and to anyone else on board with you.  How much privacy/time-apart you need is highly individual, but we all need some.  The consequence of insufficient privacy is a growing sense of annoyance that will continue to build and eventually explode if not relieved.

Remember that a sailboat offers far less area and volume than a house or apartment does.  On board, Libby and I live 90% of the time in 150 square feet.   That includes kitchen, eating, living, and sleeping accommodations.  For most of you readers, that may be less area than in your bathroom.

Many people remark that they and their spouse would never be able to live in such close quarters.  They are probably right.  But for those of us who succeed, finding ways to be apart from each other sufficient time is essential.

When we are in port (which applies 8 months out of the year), Libby and I live very separate lives during the day.  I go to the gym, or the library, or ride my bike, go to lunch with my friends, and spend most of the day on shore.  Libby likes to work on her baskets on board the boat, but she also goes shopping, to Tai Chi, or to visit with her friends independently from me.  In Marathon we like to have a weekly luncheon with our closest friends, but we split up.  Men go to one restaurant and women to another.

Don't we ever do things on shore together?  Sure we do, but the majority of time ashore we are apart.

From suppertime on, we are together on the boat in that 150 square feet.   But we have a knack of being able to read, or basket, or even watch a movie together in silence, and with a sufficient feeling of privacy that whatever tensions exist between us, don't build up.  Not everyone can do that, and not everyone can adapt to living on a boat.

When we are at sea, there is no opportunity to go ashore to be truly apart.  But 24 hours per day, one of us is on watch while the other is below decks usually trying to sleep.   We get to see each other only 10 minutes each 4 hours as we change watch.  Instead of an excess of togetherness, we actually feel lonely when at sea.

We we are under way on the ICW,  we typically travel 10 hours per day.  Most of those 10 hours, one is on the helm, and the other below decks.   But the evenings at anchor, are much the same as when we are in port.  Those are some of the most varied and fun days of the whole year.  We really like them.

Of course there are many single-handed cruisers, but I have little experience with that, so I can't say much.   But in terms of cruising with other people, and especially your spouse, you must learn to manage togetherness in close quarters if you are going to succeed in the long term.  I suspect learning how to do that may be more difficult than learning the skills of seamanship and boat maintenance.

I don't think I can offer good advice on how to achieve that; it is very individual. I simply point out that it is a must.


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