Navigation, communications, accounting, provisioning, cooking, cleaning the inside and outside of our home, plus our tender are just a few of the jobs I tend to do on Ta-b, our home for the last nine years. Pink jobs? Blue jobs? They all work for me. I have always been a multi-tasker, so love swimming and feeding my fishie friends, while at the same time having a wonderful workout as I clean our hull. My husband is better at maintaining our boat’s equipment, another huge job as our boat needs constant attention. We acknowledge that both of us have different strengths and specific talents, and appreciate each others’ fortes.
We are a team and have been from the beginning of our cruising dream. We planned our budget together, searched for boats online, side by side for months; well more like years. Mutually, we agreed on the perfect boat, the equipment, where we wanted to cruise and for how long, and what to do with our house, etc. Having the same values really helped. We wanted quality time and freedom over money and comfort, plus the healthy lifestyle that living on a boat brings.
A solid relationship is critical when living on board a boat full time with your partner. Cruising will strengthen a healthy partnership, but ruin a tenuous one. We have found that improving our communication skills and having an ever present sense of humor is very important. The balance of the relationship is like the motion of the sea and will be tested often, especially when you are under stress, which occasionally happens on all boats. Russell enjoys having his boy time and I enjoy my girl time, not always easy to get offshore. I remember after six months from letting the lines go, I was missing my girlfriends. Russell suggested I go on the daily net in St. Martin and organize a girls’ coffee morning. What a great idea I thought, there is sure to be someone out there wanting company like myself. I was blown away when not one, but twelve ladies turned up. We had a fantastic morning, some of us even spent the whole day together, quickly making lasting relationships. It seems like I was not the only one missing my friends back home. I now actively go around anchorages when I want “girl time” and find there is always someone who is keen for some company.
I am not the perfect first mate, admiral, co-captain – all just names to me, as I feel we are a team – therefore I am happy to let Russell be the skipper. He has been sailing much longer then I have and therefore has a lot more experience. I have girlfriends who have more experience than their partners, who take on this role; whatever works, but someone on board needs to accept the role. This is not an area where egos should ever come into play; sadly something we have witnessed way too often. We call ourselves co-captains when we sign into a new country. Sometimes this does not go down very well with the authorities, but for us it works. If anything happens to either one of us, the other can then take charge as Captain, so being able to leave the country with our boat. We heard of a boat not being able to leave St. Martin with the hurricane season coming, because the Captain was not able to be on board, being out of the country with his sick mum.
Often it is the man who is proficient in sailing and it is better if the women learns independently how to sail and helm. I have always enjoyed the sea and fell in love with cruising when I first sailed with Russell’s parents in New Zealand, on their boat when we were first married. I learned so much from them and continued to do so with all the courses we did together, with the RYA in England, 35 years ago. I have found the more knowledge a women has, the safer she normally feels, so helping her relax and really enjoy the cruising life. We are amazed how few women do not even know how to helm. This is a massive safety issue! Women must always feel confident enough to take control of the boat if necessary. If the husband does not let her take the helm, the cruising and relationship will not work as it shows a lack of trust. I started helming when I was pregnant with our twins, and have never looked back. We both contribute to making decisions; however, if there is any conflict we always take the safest one. Much better that way, even if the journey takes a bit longer, it is certainly more relaxing.
We have found our best crew has been with one other couple or with family. Everyone is different. I have girlfriends who enjoy an all male crew, particularly those women who don’t mind being in the galley full time. I enjoy cooking, but not 24/7. On long passages, twice we have had male crew that were going to share cooking with me. Both then found out what hard work it is and quit; which certainly did not work for us.
We were lucky that each of us had the dream of cruising together. Sometimes it is the woman that is the captain and/or the dreamer, but more often it is the male. We have heard of a couple where it was the the husband’s dream, but after being away for a year, he decided it was not working for him. Strangely, it was working for her and she is still now sailing without him. Living the dream takes a degree of commitment and is a huge adjustment. It takes time to get used to the lifestyle, a lot of patience, and having one’s own space can be difficult. We love being at one with nature and learning from it, working together, planning our routes, traveling and fulfilling our cruise dreams. We do what is important and let go of the rest to enjoy the journey. We find that happiness is best shared and we have never had a bad day, some are just more memorable than others.
I feel my positive attitude, practical thinking, organizational skills and being a team player have been my strengths on board. I am also lucky to be petite, flexible and fit. My challenges are probably letting go of control, not having enough land time and missing my friends and family. We feel blessed in our relationship and the wonderful community we live in. We have made some very close friends with each day being different, exciting and fun. Life is certainly not boring on Ta-b.