Living aboard a sailboat is a life-changing experience with lessons to be learned at every knot. If you are a sailing couple, whether recently together or long time married, the many challenges you face daily will reshape your relationship as well as your life.
Although living on a boat and sailing around the world is a very exciting life, it can also be lonely, scary, and it changes the rules in most relationships. For the adventure to even have a chance of being successful, sailing and living in a boat has to be a shared dream. Having a common dream will help overcome the difficulties and challenges, where you are constantly faced with new and sometimes life-threatening situations.
Fine tuning communication is an important skill in any relationship and, living on a sailboat, is indispensable. Couples have to figure out ways of dealing with the many new issues, and they have to establish new rules and new routines. Sailing couples need to handle all aspects of the boat alone and as a team, they have to decide who is in charge of what and, ultimately, you have to agree on who is the captain. Considering you will be spending so much time together, you must enjoy each other’s company. You are partners, lovers and best friends, and with the one whom you have decided to share this most amazing and unusual adventure.
Living on a boat and traveling from port to port requires a special mindset. The very first challenge is to adjust to the fact that your new home is small, that it floats, and that the green grass is replaced by blue water. There is no garage because your car is something called a dinghy. As for storage space, well, if no one told you, to live on a boat you also have to be a magician. To go with your new life, you also have to learn a new language, the nautical language; the kitchen is called the galley, the bathroom is the head, and never say ropes or downstairs, you say lines and down below. Some land pleasures, such as long hot showers will become a distant memory; laundry becomes an adventure and an all-day chore.
During your life as a landlubber, you had a routine; you had friends and maybe family close by. You knew where to go if you needed a doctor; you could speak the language and were familiar with the local culture. Unlike your previous life, the life of a sailing couple is unpredictable and ‘routine’ goes on the list of obsolete words.
The adventure requires extreme adjustments, but it’s nothing short of amazing. We are able to sail and visit different places and are exposed to different customs and languages. We witness different ways of life and dance to new beats. Also, our taste buds are constantly challenged. We make new friends for life, we share; we give and we receive.
Life is better when you share, and sailing is much more fun when Captain and First Mate are happy. Always remember that only a few privileged souls get to live their dream. Therefore, here’s a toast to life, compromise, love, and sailing!
Monica and Jonathan
Top 22 Tips to survive Living Aboard TOGETHER!
To write this article I conducted a survey among fellow cruisers and here are some of the most common concerns, advice, thoughts, and comments from couples who are sailing mates. I hope you find them helpful or give you something to reflect on.
- If it’s not a good relationship on land, sailing will only aggravate it.
- Learn how to sail. Women learn better if away from their husband.
- Both people should be able to do all jobs aboard: sail, recover MOB, navigate, run dinghy, use radio, anchor, dock and moor, maintain the engine and cook, etc.
- Teamwork is essential.
- Discuss and practice certain tasks.
- Share decision making.
- Communication is key and it is the most important thing to work on.
- If you take it out, put it away, NOW.
- Both need to feel a sense of ownership.
- Create and practice clear hand signals for anchoring, mooring and docking.
- Don’t yell, the engine is loud and the person at the helm cannot hear you.
- Make your boat a home with rugs, comfortable seating, pillows, pictures …
- When you fight, don’t stay mad, the boat needs its team.
- Recognize each others’ strengths and weaknesses and use that to divide up tasks.
- Help the other do tasks he/she dislikes.
- Try to make each other feel good.
- For private time, find your place in the boat and claim it.
- Plan a date night, dress up, and go do something romantic.
- Give each other space.
- Make a point of socializing.
- If you are bored, change things, perhaps sail to somewhere less isolated or somewhere new and interesting.
- Every once in a while, pamper each other and stay in a marina for a night or two.
Have any Tips to Add? Chime in on the comments below…
Monica Pisani and Jonathan Morton live and cruise aboard Journey, a 42ft Tatoosh. To learn more about their voyaging, visit: www.sailing-journey.com