Trust Couples who successfully make the transition from land-lubbers to boat-people develop a high degree of mutual trust. This does not come automatically, but only after training, teamwork, practice, and time. In La Paz, Mexico, we met a couple who had been married for over 30 years. They had sailed in San Francisco Bay for a number of years in a very seaworthy, 40-foot boat. After less than six months of living their dream, they were splitting! They had not effectively prepared themselves for full-time cruising and found that neither could trust decisions made by the other.
Don't think you have to be an expert in every aspect of the maritime lifestyle before you move aboard. However, don't wait until you are aboard to start learning—chances are that it will be too late by then.
Responsibility In some cases, the man cannot effectively deal with the stress and responsibility of being in the role of Captain. One lady confided to me, "I would like to go on like this for years, but my husband says he just can't take all this responsibility—so we're going back to the States." After three more years of retirement preparation "on the beach," they sailed to the South Pacific and followed the golden triangle of New Zealand, Tonga, and Fiji for a number of delightful and fulfilling years.
The following two incidents are true:
- While out for a daysail, we heard a woman frantically pleading for help on the VHF radio, "My husband's collapsed; he's unconscious! Won't somebody help me?" Marine Patrol and Coast Guard personnel responded without success. She did not know that the radio's squelch control was turned so high that no sound came from the speaker.
- While crossing San Pedro Channel one night, a fog developed and we heard a man's anxious request to the Coast Guard for assistance. In the ensuing conversation, it was revealed that his only problem was that he didn't know where he was. He had lost sight of land when the fog came in, had not been keeping a DR, and did not know how to use his navigation aids. Plan for the unexpected—the worst-case scenario—and you won't be surprised; you will be prepared! By training both members of the cruising team for the unexpected, you'll eliminate stressfull and nasty surprises once you're underway.
Louise and I try to share the load. Both our knapsacks were full of groceries in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It started to rain cats and dogs when we were still blocks from the bus stop. After finding shelter under a storefront awning, she pronounced: "I didn't retire to become a pack mule!" We caught the next cab back to the dock without further discussion or thought. When you share the tough times, you will have more and better good times.
I cannot overemphasize the value of shared abilities and responsibilities. Louise likes the sunrise. She takes the early watch and then wakes me with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. One morning she handed me the cup and said, "We're having fresh fish for supper tonight!" She had caught, landed, and cleaned a Dorado while I slept. When I asked about the cleaning operation, she replied, "I've watched you do it enough times—I learned by watching". No fish ever tasted better, even though it was our mutual choice that I cook most of the seafood and make all of the bread.
After both partners are prepared—when they are both ready and willing to take that last giant step of casting off—then the adventure of their lifetimes will begin. Bon Voyage!
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