Top Four Reasons for Couples to Learn Boating Together (Even If You Already Know How)


Sailing together requires teamwork and can be a huge challenge for even the strongest couple.

In my thirteen years of teaching sailing and powerboat handling, I’ve always encouraged couples to take my classes together. As with other parts of their life, most of the time couples come from different boating backgrounds and perspectives. Usually, one partner has been boating for a long time and the other has not, or has learned completely differently. Taking boating lessons together with a professional instructor can be crucial to a successful voyage (and relationship!).

Here are my Top Four Reasons for Couples to Learn Boating Together (Even If You Already Know How)-

     1. When learning together you also learn how to work together.

When learning together in a structured setting, each can learn how to support the other and who might be the best person for each job when the time comes. For example, I have found, more often than not, that women have a better feel for the boat and tend to be more patient when docking. Conversely, men tend to have more physical strength and spatial ability, and are often more adept at getting a line on a piling.

     2. Even the closest couples don’t have the same boating experience, preferences, or styles.

When one partner (often the man) has significantly more experience, the other may feel intimidated and appear unable to perform even the most basic tasks. I’ve seen this dynamic cause tense moments and even end a relationship. And even if you are both proficient sailors, your styles could be very different. An unbiased instructor can recognize differences in styles and suggest ways to complement each other’s styles and prevent conflict.

     3. You are not your partner’s best teacher (trust me on this).

Teaching your partner yourself is usually not successful. Now, I know you might be thinking “I’ve been doing this since Noah was an ordinary seaman; I don’t need no stinkin’ lessons!” You are undoubtedly correct. However, if your partner does not possess all of the same skills, and understand everything the same way as you, trouble is lurking. Trying to impart that knowledge, while it may be vast, is usually easier said than done.

For whatever reason, there is often an unconscious resistance to taking instruction from a partner. Taking some training together is more about learning to work together and being on the same page. Let’s face it, not everyone uses the same language, and whether you call it a Smurf or a gybe, a thing-a-ma-jig or a propeller, isn’t important. What is important is that you do and understand things the same way and use the same language, which happens best when you learn together at the same time.

     4. You have different learning styles. 

As with most things, in general, men and women have different learning styles. Typically, men are fine with a few basic instructions and they’re ready to jump in with both feet, and fine tune as they go along. Women, on the other hand, generally like to know ALL of the smallest details before they start. What they’re doing, why they’re doing it that way, and what the outcome will look like. Additionally, women are generally much more conservative than men, who tend to be more risk takers or “seat of the pants” rather than “technical”.  Neither style is right or wrong, just different. Imagine, though, the chaos when the man shouts “throw the line now!” and the woman wants to know why! It’s important to recognize and understand these differences, rather than judge and react negatively to them.

     The Bottom Line

The cost of not taking boating lessons together, even if you think you already know enough, may be much greater than taking some redundant lessons. What’s the cost of divorce or ending a long-term relationship.  Separation and conflict can cut short your sailing dream faster than salt water corroding your expensive electronics. And who, knows, perhaps you’ll learn something new!

Taking the time to create a harmonious relationship by investing a little time and money in taking lessons together will pay off in the long run, allowing both of you to have a happy relationship, and continue… Sailing Happily Ever After.

By Bob Morse

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