Cruising Relationships

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It’s best to agree on who does what before the trip, and review during.

A cruiser we met described his boat as having ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ sides and the importance of steering clear of the other’s territory. Duh, ‘pink’ the female side: galley, meals, fridge org and replenishment of fast disappearing cans of beer, dishes, groceries & pantry management, etc. ‘Blue’: navigation station, battery banks, water maker, equipment, etc.

I was utterly appalled and actively discouraged Roger from adopting such a sexist model; and it took perseverance to get him off this track!
However, a fair-based reality check necessitated our settling into clichéd gender roles.

Roger knows everything about generators, engines & fuel, navigation technologies, charting, malfunctioning toilets (thank God!), volts and batteries, etc.

I know about, and do all things galley-slave and domestic-diva. And I am primary care-taker of the dogs: meds, meals, matted hair removal, trimming of nails and coat, towel drying post evening swim and swaddling into blankets for senior dog Charlie, then chasing the youngster Alie off of the cabin top when it’s too dark to keep an eye on her should she tumble off into the sea.

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Roger and I share much. We spent two decades sailing mono-hulls. Now our loyalties are to catamarans. As sailors we have had heavenly times in various settings, and survived several serious tests such as gales, lightning storms, squalls, near-by water spouts, injuries, and learning about the of passing of Elaine, Roger’s mother, while underway.

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When I first me Roger, I was enjoying a sailing course on Toronto’s downtown waterfront. I’d recently bought myself a 22’ Edel and kept it at Toronto Island Marina. Buying ‘Tobasco’ was motivated by dwindling sailing invites as most of my friends were marrying and raising babies. I was a single parent of my darling yappy Schnauzer, Bengie. My owning a boat at TIM was affordable and an easy across-harbour escape from Canada’s largest urban centre.

Years later I suffered through achieving my navigation certificate. This modest and formal sailing education combined with two-decade first-mate sea apprenticeship with Roger, plus the even-earlier intermittent sea-faring occasions with friends through my 20’s and 30’s (including two weeks of Bare Boating in the Bahamas with friends in the ‘Asshole Tour of 1986’), qualified me as a valued sailing partner.

At all times, however, Roger was ‘Captain’. He always thoroughly prepared and researched. Roger grew up with sail, motor and hydroplane boats on the shores of Lake Superior at their family cottage at Pointes des Chenes, Sault Ste. Marie, Northern Ontario, Canada. Additionally, Roger has a long history of cars-everything including International Drag Racing in the Florida circuit. There is no one I trust more in a car or boat.

Meanwhile, to afford him the time and energy to chart, plan, analyze weather, etc., I attend to the mundane everyday practical requirements that soften our life. Roger is a type-A. God help me. I am still learning to cope as I don’t have a ‘soldier mentality’, and, heaven forbid, continue to offer my own thoughts on an issue. Marriage is a complex journey we continue to forge.

I would prefer a less domestic role and instead study the guide books to deliberate navigational issues and hazards, tidal considerations, grow proficiencies with the technologies that front our helm station, and as a bonus, read about the local history and lore. Except it takes partners to get all things done in a timely and efficient manner. Both of us doing the same thing at the same time doesn’t work. And no way is Roger going to cook meals and do dishes!

I do appreciate his setting the table, lighting the candles around the boat, finding excellent and thrilling classical music, keeping the dinghy clean and taking the dogs ashore alone for their last whiz at night, building shade areas for me and the dogs – he is off to the side baking in the sun (never enough!).

We both have time to read, work our Nikons, get sauced in the sun and recline in the cool Atlantic shallows and yak on about anything and everything, play ball-toss with Alie, scout for our ‘Happy Wonderer” Charlie (no surprise we got him as a stray), slump into the hammock at sunset and compete on iPad Scrabble (BTW I usually win – true!) while sipping a nice red wine, later we gaze upwards at the magnificent canopy of stars; the oil lamp inside sheds a warm low-glow inviting us to our bed; when we finally get there, the cooling trade wind breezes softly flow down through the broad overhead hatch lulling us, and the pooches, to sleep.

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