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Couples Learn to Sail

Couples Learn to Sail by Julian Putley
Couples Learn to Sail

Charlie has noticed a pattern of behavior when he gets a couple on board to begin a ‘learn to sail,’ live-aboard sailing course. That is that the wife or female partner always tends to hang back when it comes to getting involved with practical aspects of sailing. Even when Charlie names the female in question, directs her to the job or task at hand and explains the reason why, the lady often asks her husband first. “Should I go ahead and do that?”

“Don’t ask him,” responds Charlie, “he’s learning, too.”

Sometimes it can be very difficult to get an overly-pampered female off her butt. Now, I’m not trying to be sexist here, just saying it the way Charlie explained it to me. There are many expert female sailors out there: world girdlers, single-handers, racers … etc. And it’s not only the ladies. Often a male crew member is either oblivious to a situation or reluctant to offer assistance to another crew member struggling with a problem. How many times has Charlie had to say, ‘Go forward and give him a hand’!

Charlie has to explain that if you’re a crew you have to muck in with all the work, all the duties and all the chores – then he relates his favorite story: “I’d just sailed across the Indian Ocean and dropped the hook in the Seychelles. I was on my own and after 30 days at sea my rush to get a lady aboard was perhaps driven by less than purist motives. Anyway, Nellie proved to be an excellent crew. She had unusual Seychellois recipes for the sea food we would catch. In the Chagos archipelago fish, crab and turtle were abundant. She learned tacking, jibing and trimming the sails and would keep watch during night passages. We sailed to Mauritius and Reunion island and around the Cape of Storms without incident. I had intended to send her home from Cape Town but changed my mind at the last moment. We left from Cape Town bound for Brazil, a 30-day passage, and after a couple of days she declared that … she wouldn’t be doing watch keeping at night, just too afraid. When her share of the chores slacked off I made an executive decision. I changed course for Namibia and … dropped her off.”

There are sometimes gasps of shock, frowns of disapproval, even words of anger at such callousness; for most wannabe cruising couples this is a jaw dropping story. Most don’t want to hear about this type of insecurity – but it certainly instills the need for everyone aboard to pull their weight.

Charlie continues, “Of course the single hander doesn’t have to worry about crew problems at all – and there are certainly other enticing benefits. Imagine pulling into Tahiti and having a beautiful, topless, sarong clad Polynesian girl swim out to your boat with a smile and a hibiscus between her lips asking to come aboard.”

Soon the female spouse is jumping up at every command, volunteering at every opportunity, even studying engine maintenance. Meanwhile the male is working extra hard and studying with gusto envisioning single-handing to tropical paradises.

Charlie often uses these two examples of sailing scenarios. It seems to add a certain incentive.

Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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