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  #1  
Old 10-09-2006
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Getting Her use to sailing

The admiral and I went out sailing on a lake this weekend with very good winds (15 knots gusting to 25) but lousy weather (rain, reduced visibility, cool) . We just got the boat (26’ Chrysler) last fall after not having one all of our married lives (20 years). After a summer of poor wind and too hot temperatures I was excited to actually have a day with good wind and would have gone sailing if it were in the 30s (it was in the low 60s). After about 30 minutes she let me know she was uncomfortable with the conditions, stability of the boat, gusty winds, rain, and wanted to return to the slip, i.e. she was scared (actually she was very uncertain with the conditions before we left the slip, and told me so). I have sailed in much worse and on much smaller boats, but her experience is limited and long ago (10 years +). I tried to talk her into staying, even reefing the main to try and reduce the heeling of the boat, but not wanting to sour her on the whole sailing experience I soon relented and returned. She is a good mate and handled her portion of the docking procedures and boat decommissioning chores easily and without complaint, even in the rain.

If it where one of my sons, I would have laughed and put on more sail. I would have let them work through their fear on the boat and let them see that the boat and they could handle the situation. But this was the Admiral. The last thing I want to do is to have her scared of going out in the boat.

Did I do the right thing in returning? If the weather was clear and the visibility good she probably would not have been as nervous. Do I wait to get her use to the action of this particular boat in fair weather before I try it again in rain, or do I plow on as I would with one of my sons, and let her find out that she and the boat can handle the conditions?

I invite opinions, especially from those of the female persuasion, please.
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  #2  
Old 10-09-2006
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Welcome Chrysler owner, I have a 1980. I agree with returning to the dock, I am struggling with getting my wife used to the heel and stability of our boat as well. You want her to come back! With her previous experience, you should be able to get her "used" to it again. In hind sight, maybe reefing before you left as she was already uncomfortable, this may have eased her into the conditions that you were sailing in.
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Old 10-16-2006
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There are books written on how to help a partner become comfortable and enjoy sailing. I am not of "female persuasion", so you may get better advice from the ladies on this site.

But in my 15 years of experience owning 3 different boats, I have learned to ALWAYS respect and listen to my wifes wishes on board (except where an immediate decision on safety is needed, when as the captain I reserve the right to manage the boat). The one time I suggested we stay out a little longer after she thought we should return to the dock (last sailing day before leaving the boat for a month, and it's so hard to leave the boat....), my wife lost her balance when a large wave hit, fell and bruised her arm quite badly--I learned my lesson!

I try to choose good sailing days (so you might have waited for a warmer/sunnier day with lighter winds til she is more comfortable with the boat). I have also learned to work with my wife as sailing "partner" rather than as crew/go-fer. I also try to ensure we share tasks ie. doing what I can to make her day on the water as pleasant as possible as well, and minimizing the "work" aspect of preparations and sailing.

My wife now likes taking the helm sometimes, but other times she doesn't want to--I don't understand yet what determines that (I always love being on the helm!), so I offer, and respond accordingly. I also bite my tongue alot regarding "sail trim" and have to remind myself that I have more sailing experience/"feel for the boat"; as long as everything is generally all right, I overlook a sagging telltale or trim problem.

We also try to alternate with time on the boat and doing other things--even though it almost kills me to go for a walk or other activity when the sun/wind are "just right" for a great evening sail.

Finally, about your idea of adding more sail or similar steps to show what the boat can do...I think this idea has merit, but ONLY after explaining carefully that you are doing this for a short while, and describing all the controls you have available to make the necessary adjustments to manage it if it gets overpowered--e.g. lowering the traveller, adding backstay, boomvang, releasing sheets, rounding up, etc., so she and others are sure they won't capsize or worse. And even then, I would only do it on a nice day, when all has gone well, everyone is in a good mood, and again in somewhat moderate conditions when you are sure of what you and the boat are doing--and then only with everyone's permission. Then showing how lowering the traveller reduces heel, or furling the headsail restores equilibrium can be effective in showing that there are ways to manage when the wind or waves increase.

I'm sure others also have better ideas, and most of us would do the things I've described anyways. However, I would be interested in what others have to say about this important topic.

Frank.

Last edited by FrankLanger; 10-16-2006 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 10-16-2006
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No question - easy does it is the ticket here. We learned to sail in a famously heavy air area, fortunately no big seas, but daily breezes to 20+K were routine. My wife was a nervous nelly to start, and I can't recall how many times we nosed out of the marina only to turn around and try again later. It was occasionally frustrating.

However we (she) persevered and today, 20+ years later she is a good sailor, able to help and comfortable in all conditions except extremes. Interestingly her upwind "extreme" is around 25K or more her downwind "extreme" kicks in around 15 - 20 apparent. Heeling no longer bothers her at all. She would rather beat all day in 20 knots than sail downwind in the same breeze. (could have something to do with setting the kite in a race in '93, fumbling the hoist in a gust and putting the masthead in the water while she and her friend were in the water as well. Fortunately the boat essentially stopped and we were able to retrieve the women before salvaging what was left of the spinnaker and righting the boat. - Oh yeah - I'd overridden her request/decision not to fly the chute.....)

The more involved they are in handling and working the boat the more they will understand all the forces, controls and issues involved. It pains me to see cruisers approach a mooring, seeing the skipper struggle with the conditions, and when he finally succeeds, only then do the spouse and children pile out of the cabin ready to play.

Education, practice, time, and especially patience will pay off in spades.

Last edited by Faster; 10-16-2006 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 10-18-2006
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Here's one from the female persuasion... I grew up sailing, so love heeling, etc. However, a lot of women a) like control, b) don't like to feel OUT of control, and c) feel physically insecure in ways men don't even think about (not to mention the "if I get hurt, who's going to cook, clean, shop, etc, train of thought). If your wife isn't a good swimmer, I'd do some things to help her feel more comfortable with the off-chance of falling in. I'm in NC, too, and the water from May or June through October is great! Even something non-sailing like tubing or something a little crazy but safe might help her feel like the world will not end if she hits the water. Also teach her that it's sometimes safer to LET GO than to try to hold on too long!

Another thought would be to do some racing, if she's competitive. A lot of newbies will overlook conditions/heeling that might otherwise give them pause when they're concentrating on passing the next boat. Esp if there's a fun group around (think water balloon cannons and the like), the racing community can be a fun way to get comfortable.

Finally, I'd do as much light sailing and anchoring and grilling and swimming as possible. The more she feels the boat is "home", the more she'll be happy to plan picnics and spend time and even get wet and cold. And make sure there's a place to go to the bathroom that's private!!! (This is very big for us female types!) Make tee shirts that say "No More 'While You're Down There!" so she doesn't get stuck getting everyone drinks or snacks when she does use the head, too...

My two cents!
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Old 10-19-2006
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Another female voice here ... I agree with jswwrites that control, knowledge, understanding what's going to happen next, is important (maybe not to all women, I can't speak for your wife, but for ME!)

If it were me:
No macho "work thru your fear" games. Knowledge is a much better way to fight fear. Go out on a pleasant (warm, clear) lighter air day, more like 10-15, not gusty (those sudden shifts). Go thru all points of sail, to learn that you heel when close-hauled and it almost feels like you're standing still going downwind. Then reef and do it all again. Yeah, I know, you're undercanvassed but the point is to see how depowering the boat can mitigate scary circumstances when the weather is big.

Share the helm, share the chores. You want to be equal partners in this.

Then go to a nearby bar, buy her a beer, and really LISTEN to what she says.
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Old 10-19-2006
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Thank you for that post eryka, I have forwarded it to my afraid-of-heeling, but ocean loving wife.
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Old 10-19-2006
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Here's a point worth making, I think....

I've known couples where SHE was the gung-ho, rail-in-the-water, give 'em hell sailor and HE was the 'fraidycat. So it doesn't just go one way. All the same strategies will need to be applied to bring whoever it is who is uncomfortable with the situation around to some kind of comfort zone.

Also there are couples that as a team are very tentative sailors, who motor whenever the breeze exceeds their personal limits, or simply turn around and go back. Their potential problem is going to be one day they will be caught in an unexpected blow and perhaps come to harm from inexperience or fear (or unnecessarily tax our Search and Rescue services)

At the end of the day we should all be enjoying what we do - different people find different things and circumstances "enjoyable". And we can learn to deal with things that once frightened us.
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Old 10-19-2006
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you could lose your glasses... ref: "her first time"
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Old 10-19-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrueBlue
Thank you for that post eryka, I have forwarded it to my afraid-of-heeling, but ocean loving wife.
You're very welcome, TrueBlue. Unfortunately I doubt you'll get a chance to do anything of the sort this year - is the season already closed down there in New England?
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