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Donna_F 07-13-2011 04:02 PM

Getting *Him* Interested in the Details
I see the irony, believe me. I constantly see inquiries from men on how to get female partners interested in sailing. My question is how to get a male partner more involved.

Or, maybe I should just shut up and be happy. You can tell me that. I won't be offended.

Here's my situation:

It's not that John doesn't like sailing. He does. In fact, this past Saturday we only had one day to sail and he dragged me out of bed at the crack of dawn to drive down to Rock Hall (we live in SE Pennsylvania) where we keep our boat. OK, it was 0830, but still. Anyway, winds were forecast as favorable for most of the afternoon and he was eager to get out so sailing is not the problem. It's the details and nuances that I can't get him interested in.

John's boating background: Former Electrician's Mate in USCG. No prior sailing experience before we met.

My boating background: USCG Auxiliary coxswain and instructor. ASA and USPS courses. I owned a 22-foot sailboat when we met.

John's responsibilities on our boat: Engine and electrical system monitoring and maintenance. Beer.

My responsibilities on our boat: Everything else: Navigator, communications, provisioning, cook, trip planning, cruise director, list maker, project manager, etc.

I decide where we're going and do the DR plots on the paper charts, research destinations, plan the routes on Polar Navy, monitor the weather starting three days before we leave, plan meals, make marina reservations if required, choose anchorages, etc. Basically, I do everything that doesn't have to do with the engine or the electrical system although I do ask questions about those so that I know what's what. John has never used the VHF radio, hands me the handheld to turn it off. When we participate in club sails and get hailed, he offers to take over the helm so I can "do my thing" on the radio. He spent his Coast Guard years in the engine room where he never had to do anything but keep the engines running and now it appears that he's doing the same on our boat.

Not that I don't appreciate his skills with a 30-year old diesel engine and I let him know that. Not that I don't have loads of fun doing what I do (OK, I do hate food shopping. I get shopping cart road rage - but I love cooking and do that well). When we decided to buy a larger boat John left the research and decisions and questions for the broker up to me and happily just signed the check. He has no complaints about our boat choice.

As I type this I guess I really don't have it so bad, but on a practical level, I do want him to learn how to read a chart, use the radio, know the basic rules of the road. How do I get him interested in at least that? He can stay the hell out of the galley. I'll give him that as a trade off especially after one hot weekend he routed around in the ice box in the dark for beer and left the meat out on the counter - all night. He felt awful. I told him it wasn't the end of the world, just the end of the meat. I now take a separate cooler for beverages.

But reading a chart and using the radio I see as somewhat of a safety issue. I'm forever telling the women in my classes that they should know what to do when their male partners fall overboard/have a heart attack/whatever, know how to use the radio and get the boat to a safe harbor, learn how to read the weather. Somehow I think a different approach will be needed for a man. I try to explain sailing maneuvers as I make them. For example, he now knows the proper procedure for passing/crossing another vessel from me (intentionally) muttering loudly to myself as a powerboat comes barreling our way when we're under sail. When we tack I exaggerate looking all around before changing course to make sure we're not tacking into another boat. Now he looks. In the beginning he never turned into the wake from a passing powerboat and I'd damn near get whiplash from the rolling. After I explained the stress that puts on the rigging and potential cost of replacing it, he now turns into the wake.

I adjusted early on to our different approach to navigation and I'm OK with that. John always sails buoy to buoy. I know that the buoy we need to get to to turn into the channel to Rock Hall is below a certain cut in the treeline. I can see the treeline way before I can see the buoy. The first time we came across the Bay from Baltimore and I told him to point the bow at a particular cut in the trees for two hours, it didn't work for him. He kept asking where the next buoy was so I finally directed him across the bay buoy by buoy and using compass headings. When he tacks, he doesn't plan beyond the current tack. When I tack I plan the next two or three tacks in my head (barring any interference).

The man's an industrial electrician and troubleshooter for crying out loud so he isn't stupid but I swear sometimes it's like having male boat fluff on board. Don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate what a fantastic position I'm in with someone who cheerily just asks where we're going, how long we'll be gone and what should he wear. Not to mention the fact that when we're at anchor and a storm rolls through at 0300 he's happy to get up and close up the boat (although the last time I had to remind him that when the lightning lit up the night sky that everyone else in the anchorage could see him standing on deck naked).

I don't want him to take over everything I do, I just want him to know how to do what I do. I want him to be able to use the radio when I'm busy or know what the italicized "h" on the chart means. If it wasn't for safety, I'd be more than happy with my boat fluff.

Or, maybe I'm just sulking because I would like to be the boat fluff every once in a while.

junkrig 07-13-2011 05:31 PM

Looking for a replacement? I can do engine, electricals, beer, piloting... lots of stuff. My wife would just as soon never leave the farm and her cattle.:(

hellosailor 07-13-2011 05:42 PM

DR, it sounds like he just wants to kick back and relax and not et all cerebral about the details.

Some folks like to get in the car and take a road trip, others like tohang their head out the window and sniff. Not drive.

So I have to ask, are you looking for someone else to carry some of the load? Or...could you just let him stick his head out the window and sniff, and everybody be happy?

Donna_F 07-13-2011 06:05 PM

Not looking to replace

Originally Posted by junkrig (Post 749896)
Looking for a replacement? :(

Not in this lifetime. I want him to learn how to read a chart and be able to use the radio in case of an emergency!

There's usually only two of us on the boat and when we have guests, they have no sailing experience. I'd like to stick my head out the window and let my ears flap in the wind every now and then! Metaphorically speaking.

junkrig 07-13-2011 06:36 PM

You know what they say: the perfect is the enemy of the good. Sounds like you got it pretty good. In an emergency he might have more stored up in there than you think.;)

Donna_F 07-13-2011 07:23 PM


Originally Posted by hellosailor (Post 749900)
Some folks like to get in the car and take a road trip, others like tohang their head out the window and sniff. Not drive.

So I have to ask, are you looking for someone else to carry some of the load? Or...could you just let him stick his head out the window and sniff, and everybody be happy?

So what I hear you saying is the next time we're sailing down a relatively empty river and it's hot and I feel an urge to stretch out in the cockpit and...even out my tan lines and feel the gentle breeze on my skin...I can't because I have to keep watch so that he can stick his head out the window? :)

Seriously, we're sailing and life partners and I'm in no way looking for a replacement. We take turns at the helm but I would like some indication that I can feel a little confident that he knows how to call for help if needed and give our location.

Donna_F 07-13-2011 07:24 PM


Originally Posted by junkrig (Post 749916)
In an emergency he might have more stored up in there than you think.;)

I hope you're right.

junkrig 07-13-2011 07:57 PM

Seriously, I'd give a lot if I could get my wife to give half a sh**. I have to drag her kicking and screaming.

wingNwing 07-13-2011 08:26 PM

Donna, I don't have any sage advice to give because we're equal partners on our boat with approx. equal skill levels. Okay, Dan enjoys sail trim and is much better at it than me; while I love navigation and am better at it than him ... but each of us has at least minimal competence in each others' specialty. Does your guy say *why* he isn't interested in those other boat skills? Bored? Won't ever need to do it? You're so good at it he doesn't feel the need? Hearing problems so can't distinguish words on the VHF? etc etc [I can't even imagine other possibilities]

wingNwing 07-13-2011 08:28 PM

PS - I have no idea how I got the waving flag under my signature, this is the first time it appeared.

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