Boat Your Way to a Great Marriage

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to spend some time on the water doing lessons and it has been a lovely experience. At Buckeye, we will often receive calls from a spouse saying “I’d like to set-up a private boating lesson for my husband or wife for their birthday/father’s day/ mother’s day etc.” and this often results in a couples boating lesson.  Because we have a roster of instructors to choose from, it is not as often that I personally get to go out on these lessons.  This year however, I have had a blast boating with couples!  The blog below speaks to points that I have shared with my boating couples on the best ways to ensure that you are having a great time on the water and arriving back at the dock still married! 

Before we get to the specific pointers, the best tip that I can add is to get educated. I recommend to all my student couples that they purchase the book “First Mate 101” and have both parties read it. Brenda Dawson does an excellent job of articulating helpful tips for both the captain and the first mate that make boating together an enjoyable experience. I also highly recommend taking a lesson. If nothing else you will have a mediator to help determine who is actually right in your boating conundrum! 

Now to the pointers…What I have learned about working with couples is that often the advice I am giving about boat operation is similar to those points learned from the marriage counselors and trainers that I have worked with. These points include: establish responsibilities, communicate and have fun.

Establish Roles and Responsibilities: And do so early and be clear about it. In a marriage, the roles are typically pretty clear but most often responsibilities need to be established. Who is going to do the dishes? Who will take out the garbage? This isn’t to say that if one person is sick the other can’t step in but being clear about responsibilities removes conflict that can arise out of uncertainty. This is most certainly true in boating. No matter who the captain is and who is the first mate/navigator it needs to be established which person is acting in each role. It is also important to note that all roles are equally important to a successful boating journey. The role of the captain is to operate and control the boat and to do so safely. The role of the first mate is to assist the captain in effectively performing his/her main role. The role of the navigator is to aid the captain in navigating a safe route. (note: In most instances in our boating area the job of the first mate and navigator is done successfully by one person). Establish these roles and understand the responsibilities of each early and you will minimize undue stress and confusion for both parties. 

Communication: As most marriage counselors, clergy or marriage trainers will stress “effective communication is key in any relationship”. This is ultimately true when boating. In close, long standing relationships, we often take advantage of the fact that we can finish each others thoughts and speak in terms that our spouse has simply learned to understand after years of being together. Then we put a boat, wind and waves, marker buoys, on coming traffic and the odd storm in the mix and we assume that our partner is still able to read our minds. Let me tell you from experience this is NOT the case. Whether under pressure or not it is always important that within our established boating roles we communicate our plans, actions and decisions. In addition, it is most effectively done through concise, specific and clear directions. As an example…

Captain -“I will be docking against dock A on the port side second cleat from the shore. I will be bringing the bow in first” 

First Mate- “Dock A, Port side, second cleat from shore, bow first”. 

From this interaction the first mate knows that he/she needs to ensure fenders and lines are out on the port side and that he/she needs to be on the bow ready to catch the boat. The captain knows from the first mates response that he/she understands what is about to happen and will ready the boat accordingly.  As one can imagine if the captain were to have said “I’m gonna dock over there” the first mate is left with a much larger margin for error, thus heightening the stress levels of all involved and the chances of someone sleeping on the couch! 

Have Fun: Remember, boating is about fun! This last step should be the one that comes easiest but is often the one that is over looked while underway. Boating can be a stress-free and effective way to bring couples together. The “have fun” piece of the puzzle is one that should always be front of mind. We like our boating couples to think of boating as an activity that they do together that enhances there marriage not one that puts additional strain on it. As long as you master the two points above this third one will be a snap! So get out and enjoy all that the water has to offer and boat your way to the happiest of marriages!