I've been watching this thread with interest because I am in the same boat as bchaps. I read the replies and chuckle; They are what I would have posted if I had not gone through this with my own first mate.
Originally Posted by bchaps
Am I asking too much? ...should I just drop to my knees and thank the Good Lord she is willing to sail with me and help in all the ways she does? ...or should I be concerned for her well being if "the big one" nails me?
I don't know if you are asking too much; I ask that question of myself many times.
Yes, you should be grateful that you have crew that is willing to sail with you and participate in the chores. The alternative, without her onboard, is less pleasant so you should be grateful for even half a crew. Remember, even if she can't get you back to safety, you won't be completely alone should you become incapacitated.
As for your last question, I'll withhold my opinion.
It's possible that your dream isn't her dream and that she found tasks that she likes to do (or doesn't mind doing) in order to spend quality time with you. Otherwise, would you sail off and leave her at home? Not saying there's anything wrong with that, but it would be time you aren't together.
I think this nails it for my situation. It's my dream, and not hers. She enjoys being out there somewhat and comes along with to spend quality time with me. When buying the boat, we consciously talked about the subject being equal partners in the venture; I explicitly wanted an activity we could do together and that the investment was big enough, I didn't want her to back out and say, "Go on, I'll just stay here" as she does with so many of my other hobbies. If I wanted to be alone I wouldn't be in a relationship.
Many of these replies in this thread make logical, rational assumptions during logical, rational arguments... that don't apply in the irrational world of human nature. For example, explaining the safety implication of needing to learn the basics of sailing; logically, this makes sense but after an intro course to sailing, a few years at the yacht club, constant discussion and watching volvo ocean races and over 6-weeks cruising the Great Lakes, she cannot remember the terminology for 3 corners of a sail vs the 3 sides of a sail. Why? Because it's not in her realm of interest. Just as I can't remember who wore what to the Grammy's or who's having kids with who in Hollywood or which colours are in for this season or when my next dental appointment is ... those details just never stick with me because my brain says they aren't important to me. You can't push a rope and you can't make someone remember something if they have no desire to tuck it away - even if it is logical and rational to do so.
FWIW, we sailed 6-weeks on the Great Lakes this summer; Lake Huron, Georgian Bay/North Channel, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario including Detroit/St. Claire rivers and Welland canal. She handled it like a champ. Even though she does not swim and is naturally an anxious person, she did well. Yet she still won't take the helm, start the engine, or take a stab at navigation because she's deathly afraid. The trip built some confidence, but we still have a long way to go...
Lastly, I found a local program by women sailors for women sailors and am encouraging her to join. By getting involved I hope that she picks up, not the skills, but the motivation to love sailing and boats. After that, it's just a matter of learning over time. bchaps, perhaps being more involved in some sailing community would help your mate become more enthused about the program? I notice my mate likes to have a friend onboard to whom she can pass on her limited knowledge... Perhaps ask her to help you teach a friend or child how to sail? By teaching someone else, she must first learn herself.
edit: I missed post #13 where you said you did fine a women's program and she wasn't interested. d'oh. Excuse me for being redundant. However, perhaps there is another program, such as teaching disadvantaged youth to sail. At our yacht club, we have women-only race nights which might be a big draw if she is competitive. I still think it boils down to encouraging her to put her mind to the task.