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Old 04-16-2007, 03:59 PM   #1
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We're sitting on a mooring in very windy conditions. Gale force winds blew most of yesterday along with cold rain, and the winds are expected to continue for a few more hours. At least today the sun is out.

For whatever reason, a number of boats in the mooring field decided to leave today, and we watched one of them get off their mooring, which prompts this posting.

The mooring lines are extremely sturdy and the procedure here is to provide your own line to tie onto the mooring line. Slipping the line is simple when you want to leave. I was curious when I saw a fellow in a dinghy from another boat busy untying the mooring line for a neighboring boat while the skipper was in the cockpit with the engine running. With the heavy winds, I figured that the skipper was a single-hander and didn't want to take a chance on drifting into another boat in this crowded mooring field. As his friend released the mooring line, I noticed that the skipper of the boat did, indeed, have another person aboard - a woman that I assume was his wife or partner. My question now is, why did he need an outsider to help him slip his mooring?

I raise this issue because we've met several boats where the women on board do not run the boat and admit to not knowing how/not wanting to drive the boat.

I cannot believe that a man would want the total responsibility for the running of the boat on his shoulders, yet I also cannot understand a woman who would not want to know how to run the boat.

I know it happens. Years ago, when the LifeSling was first introduced, their publicity recounted various tragedies due to an inexperienced spouse/crewmember being unable to operate the boat, recover a man overboard, and other such problems. We've seen boats where the female partner is more cook and passenger than equal partner.

It's not possible for me to correctly interpret the actions of people on a neighboring boat, and I realize that sometimes the most capable man or woman might be hampered by injury or illness, so I don't mean to pass judgment on the boat we watched today.

I believe, however, that it is appropriate to open a discussion about the consequences of "unequal" partners on a cruising yacht. What is your experience, and how do you feel about it?

In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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Old 04-16-2007, 04:22 PM   #2
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We came across what you describe often. One comment was made that "I am singlehanding and my wife is along for the company".

I think that if your wife is not interested or willing to learn how to navigate, use the radio, trim sails, take the helm, drop/raise anchor, pickup a mooring, start and run the engine and select gear, etc., etc., then you should not be doing what you're doing together. Try golf or something.

How would she feel if the "singlehander" is incapacitated and/or she needs to launch the liferaft in an emergency?



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Old 04-16-2007, 08:39 PM   #3
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I compare a cruising couple which functions as "Unequal Partners", to a solo sailor with a companion, sligthly more useful, than an anchor without a chain.

Jeanne stated, "It's not possible for me to correctly interpret the actions of people on a neighboring boat....” I can not either, but their actions certainly raise questions.

As described, a dinghy in high winds seems like an unnecessary risk, and further compounding the shoving off process. I envision the assisting tender maybe having to stand up to reach the mooring lines. Once the yacht is free, the little guy maybe in the way, something both skippers otherwise would not have had to consider or contend with.

~ ~ ~

From the start of our cruising plans, my first mate and I determined that I would take the lead role as the skipper and agreed that both of us must acquire adequate sailing skills in all capacities, radio skills, medical training, SCUBA certification, and more.

I can not understand why a partner of either gender would be content with simply being a passenger.

* What would the sole passenger do if the skipper was washed overboard, and maybe did or did not drown? In either case, with skills and quick action, that person could be saved. Standing by helplessly, in grief and terror, is not an acceptable option for us.

* If two weeks from land, what would the helpless passenger do upon awakening, finding the skipper had a serious stroke, or dead from a heart attack? The helpless passenger does not know where they are, where they are going, how to sail to someplace, drifting in circles, rations diminishing, and weather happening. Now is not the time to begin studying the mysterious knobs and dials on the Com and Nav equipment. But hey, what else have you got to do at this point, to pass time before your own fate? Ignorant (lack of knowledge) and helpless is not an option for us.

~ ~ ~

This post relates to a response in my post "Gratuities - Appropriate" (which currently has scrolled to the second page). The following quote is an excerpt of only the parts relating to this topic.


I am also an ASA instructor (20 years). I never, never allowed a couple to take the course at the same time. The male would take the lead and the partner (female) would hang back and not really learn anything or assert herself. The dynamics of the couple's relationship precludes both learning fully the subject and techniques crucial to safe sailing. Better to be on two different boats or two different time/classes. Bottom line you are waisting one whole tuition cost as one of you will be alpha and the other will milktoast it. Not a good situation when on a boat by yourselves it becomes necessary for the partner to take charge.
I took note of oririssailings' comments, and understand his reasoning. I have not changed my mind about attending our sailing schools together, and here are a few of the numerous reasons.

A bond exists between various people. A bond exists amongst couples, and teams, especially teams in the life saving and survival business, especially strong amongst experienced police, fire fighters, and military. I trained and worked as a civilian marine fire fighter. Both my first mate and I served in the military and participated sports, both separately, but have those experiences in common.

Training as a team is invaluable. Team members think alike. Often communication is not required. Team members know what to expect of team mates. They know each others strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. Team mates are brutally honest, challenge each other, and provide motivation. If something requires immediate attention, and one partner is sleeping, incapable, or otherwise occupied, a team member fills the need. Teams working together are more efficient and successful than individuals of the same number attempting the same objective.

My first mate and I have attended various seminars, classes, and participate in regular 30 minute conference calls. Afterwards, we compare notes, and discuss the content of the communication received. That proves so valuable. What one may have missed, the other did not. Working together we obtain so much more. We approach our sailing studies and schools in the same way.

We have considered oririssailings' comments but will not comply with them, denying ourselves so much more. We know we will be better sailors and get more "bang for the buck", participating as a team, and strengthening our bond as a couple.

~ ~ ~

As a former military officer charged with training troops there was a saying, "killing them with kindness".

It means: In order for training to be effective, it must be tough, realistic, and challenging. In practical application, the person in charge may want to be a nice guy and go easy on those in training.

For example in SCUBA training, an instructor may allow students to pass and become a certified diver, by describing how two divers share a single respirator, (a basic diving skill), rather than demonstrating the ability to do so under water. When and if the need arises to share a respirator, both divers lack the experience of having done so, and both drown.

In actuality the SCUBA instructor denied them the experience required, and "Killed them with kindness."

As the skipper in our cruising partnership / team, I know and realize this. I certainly will not kill my first mate with kindness, or allow her to do that either. That requires discipline and self-discipline.

I understand oririssailing's firm policy and I commend him for it.
When in doubt, do the right thing.

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Old 04-17-2007, 05:35 AM   #4
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I'm certainly no expert, but...

I'd wager that your neighbor who needed another person in a dinghy to help them slip their mooring was just a rookie captain who had tied the bitter end of their line to the eye on the mooring pennant... instead of passing the end through the eye of the pennant and then brought back to the same cleat on deck. I see it happen frequently with charter boats here in the Virgin Islands... wind comes up and they cannot safely untie the knot they've put on the mooring.

I believe my wife and Aye can both single hand Gallivanter if the necessity forced itself upon either one of us. I know she can navigate, hoist & reef our sails, start our engine, tack & gybe, use the radios, rig preventers, get us into port and anchor the boat by herself... as can I.

We have a loose system of blue and pink jobs which we know we're both best at - but sometimes we swap those jobs just so that we can appreciate what we each have to deal with sometimes. As a result - I'm learning how to cook and she's learning how to rebuild the toilet pump (just not at the same time) and ever since we installed a giant electric anchor windlass, we flip a coin to see who works the foredeck! We're always learning new tricks and we share 'em with eachother. I feel a degree of comfort when I take over the watch and realize that she has rigged the whisker pole or tucked in a second reef while I was asleep.

I believe that in a perfect world, every person aboard the boat would naturally take enough personal interest to figgure out the best way to safely operate the vessel all by themselves. But, the reality of it is that I (the "captain") am still trying to figgure it all out for myself! I mean... I'll never know everything about the safest and best way to sail and I know there's always room for improvement.

That said... I'd feel pretty foolish if I got myself knocked overboard and watched by boat keep sailing away from me... knowing I never made the effort or took the time to show my better half how to come back and get me!

One of the very few rules on my boat is that whenever someone's hat gets blown overboard - we declare it a Man Overboard Drill and whoever is closest to the helm at the time has to co-ordinate the boat and the crew to rescue the hat without my help. I've now seen my wife retreive enough hats, by herself to give me comfort. We also wear whistles on extended voyages for the same reason.

Adding a child to the crew has added some new twists to safety issues... but we're working them out together, as best we can, one daysail at a time.

To Life!

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Old 04-18-2007, 12:10 PM   #5
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Yup I've also seen lots of ladies struggling with heavier work whilst the guy stands behind the wheel - but who knows - maybe that was the ladies choice at the time???

Both Sue and I know how to handle the boat - but I tend to agree with the earlier comment about working best as a team. In this respect she's never wished to know how to dismantle a toilet in the dark - and I've never wanted to know how to knit.


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Old 04-18-2007, 05:16 PM   #6
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...well, the same applies to "crews" sailing in the more protected waters of northern Europe - the Baltic Sea. In many cases the sailing is done by just one partner (mostly the male part) and the other partner just goes along, taking over some small jobs and skills as long as the conditions are fine. And when looking at the arrangement more closely it becomes obvious that in most cases only one partner (the man) is the sailor, owning, maintaining and running the boat and the (female) partner just participating in what the husband/friend likes so much, as long as the conditions permit.

In most times this arrangement works out fine, as long as the captain knows the limits. In the Baltic Sea they are overlookable - weatherforecasts are excellent and at hand almost any time and the next marina is not more than 20 miles away. And there is always a helping hand on the pontoon when tying up.

In most cases these crews know their limits. They don't even plan to sail the North Sea from Esbjerg (Denmark) to Edinburgh, they stay in the well protected waters between the danish islands, they stay in the harbour when the weather forecast predicts more than a gentle breeze, they don't anchor overnight, they don't sail at night, they rather run under engine for the next harbour when thundry clouds appear on the horizon...

It's a different philosophy of sailing, I guess. It is not blue water sailing. And it is fine as long as the captain does not force the partner into situations she cannot (or is not willing to) handle.

I am the male part of the crew and I am more than lucky that my wife is into sailing so much as I am - she even had sailed more oceans than I did!

But on our slideshows (about our blue water sailing on the Northern Atlantic between North Sea, Gibraltar and the Caribbean we did for two years on two occasions) in local sailing clubs here in Germany we talked to so many sailing couples where one partner always dreamt of sailing a little further away but the partner says NO. And we accept their way of sailing and help, where we can, when we do the normal little cruising in in the Baltic.

But you are right - as soon as you do more than costal sailing it is essential that everyone on board can do everything. At least we try to live up to it as close as possible. Of corse, getting up the hook (35lb) with chain (8mm) without a winch, we do not (yet) have, puts me on the foredeck - but we love to sail to and from anchorages (it's only a 32ft-boat) and my wife does the helm and the sails. But most things are shared equal - doing the watches at day and night, navigation, communication and the mainenance work, but I must admit that I get the oily fingers from the engine... and not so often the greasy fingers from the pan. But we share the work on the boat on the dry during winter season, which is seldom seen in the winter storages here in Northern Germany.

SY Aquaria

If you have the time, you alwas have the right winds.

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