Boating Couples — Smooth sailing? Or Rough Passage?
I always make sure the wheel is ‘centered’ before I put the engines in reverse and pull away from the dock. I know it’s an elementary move, but if I forget, my Coast Guard licensed husband will wonder what the heck I’m doing, and I’ll be assigned to ‘line duty.’ Not that line duty is bad – in fact, I know I need to learn my knots and how to correctly tie a spring line, but I prefer to drive. And since he drives boats for a living, albeit big ones, he doesn’t mind me taking the wheel as long as the wind isn’t blowing.
“Use more power! You have to learn how to use power,” urges my husband, whom I grudgingly admit, is likely right. My rule – never go any faster than how fast you want to hit something. That rule serves me well when the winds are calm, but if it’s blowing in the marina and I need to dock our 32’ powerboat, I can quickly find myself in trouble, calling for my ‘better half’ to bail me out.
I’ve informally surveyed other couples who boat, and found that many women take line duty, or even galley duty on a regular basis, but few actually drive and dock the boat, or even want to.
Dan McClure trains couples on how to drive their boats – and says it’s usually not a good idea to have the husband teach the wife, unless the guy’s a ‘really good teacher.’ In McClure’s experience – he finds he sometimes has to tell the guy to go stand in a different part of the boat. That’s to ‘take some of the pressure’ off the driver. He says the yelling can start when people are nervous or uneasy, and I’m in full agreement with that.
My husband and I are just starting the ‘empty-nester’ phase of our marriage, and while we’re sad on one hand that our son is off to college, on the other, we’re excited to get to boat overnight on weekends without worrying whether hordes of teenagers will descend on our house while we’re gone.
We first bought a boat after our son’s freshman year of high school. (Yeah, I know – a lot of you might be thinking why didn’t we start boating earlier, but our son played sports year round and weekends were devoted to coaching and being spectators). But then we decided to head out on the water. I figured, since I’m married to a captain, why not get some real use out of that license? Turns out for us, it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
I love the sense of teamwork and learning new skills on the water from my husband. And he in turn, (mostly) enjoys teaching me what ‘twist right’ and ‘red right returning’ mean in boater’s terms.
Yes, there are times when I’ve been reduced to tears — you have to tell me ‘why’ I’m turning the wheel a certain way and it has to make logical sense before I’ll act, but overall, the result has been a positive for our marriage and our relationship as a team.
In fact, during a recent visit from friends on the East Coast, my husband suggested we take them out on the boat and he insisted that I drive the entire time. I’m proud to say that once back at the slip, all he had to do was step off the stern onto the dock to tie up the boat, telling me, “that was your best docking job ever!”
Now I say, just bring on the wind.
Margo Myers, Principal, Margo Myers Communications