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Could she sail the boat if necessary?
About two years ago I was discussing our cruising plans with a part-time sailing instructor and he said "it's not your sailing skills that should be of concern, but your wife's! Could she turn the boat and get you into port if necessary?" My honest answer was "I doubt it". After spending six months cruising the Keys and US East Coast, my answer to that same question now is "absolutely not!"
Understand, my wife is a fantastic First Mate...pulls wire in the tiny floor lockers, sands and refinishes teak, cleans, cooks, helps with oil changes and hands tools when I'm half buried in the bilge. But she has no idea how to sail the boat. Yes, she does an off-coast auto pilot night watch with me sleeping in the cockpit. But as that instructor asked, I must conclude if I'm incapacitated, there isn't a chance she can drop the sails, determine a heading to return, or even dream of docking. If absolutely necessary, she could drop anchor but is clueless about the dangers of injury during windlass operation.
Now if you're thinking..."what a ditz he's got". My sweet little beauty queen has several advanced science/math degrees in stuff I can't even spell let alone comprehend and she taught her last six years at college level until retiring.
What is lacking is desire! Just as I have no desire to understand simultaneous equations or how to balance electrons in a chemical compound, she has no desire to pick up a sailing book, learn to dock the boat, navigate, or take a sailing course.
I must now think of each cruise plan with an eye to "exposure" or the amount of time in open water. The Bahamas is our next adventure creating approximately 10 - 12 hours "exposure" time while crossing the Gulf Stream.
I know my situation isn't unique...I've observed Captains yelling at the First Mate to drop a line, push off the piling, back down on the anchor, and on and on, telling me that First Mate doesn't understand what is necessary either.
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?
What do you do? Can your First Mate sail/dock the boat?