Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sailing Promise: A Book Review

Every couple living aboard a small boat who spends any time on the ocean will recognize that there are circumstances which test the relationship. We know lots of single-handers whose spouse jumped ship after a long passage. In her book, Sailing Promise, Alayne Main tells the story of her circumnavigation with husband Alec in the 90s aboard a Prout 33 named Madeline. While the book chronicles their travels—new places, new friends, new cultures—it also tells the inside story of how the journey affected their relationship. The following is a quote which sums up, for many, what it’s like to live in close quarters on a small boat with a spouse who may or may not handle stress well.

Despite my seasickness and the uncomfortable ride, it was only three days. Although many of the same fears plagued me, I could tough it out for a short passage…I thought of a girlfiriend of mine who had spent a year backpacking with her husband, spending 24 hours a day together, every day. She had said there wasn’t one moment when she wanted to be away from him. Envious as I was, our circumstances were vastly different. All my possessions, my lover, and I were contained inside a tiny 33-by-15-foot boat, which was put to the mercy of the wind, waves, and weather. The only certainties were that things would break and the wind would change. With an added dash of seasickness, a little thunderstorm or a ripped sail, a kind of stress was created that would cause even the most pleasant of people to get irritable. Alec and I dealt with stress differently and this often aggravated things even at the best of times (from the chapter entitled "Wild Horses"). 

Anyone considering a life aboard would be wise to read the book, whether they have dreams of circumnavigating or not. It is an honest look at a side of the sailing life you seldom see in a cruiser’s blog or travel book. Most of the people who buy a boat to travel the world think long and hard about what kind of boat they want, which of their belongings they want to keep and which to get rid of, where they want to go, how they will provision, what tools and gadgets they want aboard, and so forth and so on. But less thought is given to something that may have the greatest impact on whether the people going will be happy at all.

It is important to think about what isolation might do to your marriage, how each of you responds in a crisis, how well you communicate, what kind of outlets you or your spouse needs to reduce stress, how to find contentment in a difficult setting, and how to overcome fears and surmount obstacles so that you can strengthen your close relationship instead of tearing it apart. Through Alayne’s thought-provoking inner journey, it’s possible to envision how good communication and compassion can help two people pass the tests they will surely encounter on their adventures.

The First Ski Trip

Our trip to Maine was a huge success.  We made it there and back, nobody got sick, nobody got (seriously) hurt, and everyone had a great time.
We didn’t play it up beforehand because of the disappointment we suffered when last year’s trip was cancelled at the last minute.  But now that it’s behind us, we aren’t able to stop thinking about it.  The gratitude we feel toward everyone who made it possible, makes me feel almost… effusive.  Almost.
The instigator of the plan, and major player in its execution, was Heather, Tanya’s best friend from college.  She once visited us on H-Dock, where she was known as “Heather from Maine”, and helped make stories that will never be forgotten.  She and her husband, Nathan, have a boy about Aaron's age and run a brewery in Portland.  Her parents split their time between a trawler and their condo at Sugarloaf Mountain.  They are all skiing fiends. 
We were welcomed to spend the first part of our trip to Maine at the Sugarloaf condo.  We didn’t let ourselves believe it was really going to happen until our plane was descending into Portland.  The kids’ excitement reached critical levels when we broke through the clouds and they could see the snow-covered landscape below.  The first snowball fight erupted on the sidewalk just outside Baggage Claim.  Another 2-hour drive, and after fourteen hours of travel we had arrived at Sugarloaf. 
Our first day on the mountain was spent just playing in the snow.  It was a day of testing unfamiliar gear, having snowball fights, sledding, and making snow forts.  Basically getting oriented and working out all that childish delight about the white fluffy stuff.  We received several comments from jaded Mainers telling us how nice it was to see kids enjoying the snow.  By the end of February, all the locals are pretty much sick of winter.
The serious work began on the second day, when we signed the kids up for lessons.  We consider it our job as parents to help them find their loves in life, and sometimes they need a little encouragement to try new things.  We did something similar with dinghy racing classes last summer, and the results were… meh.  They learned the basics, but didn’t really want to pursue it.  So we didn’t have huge expectations for skiing.  If they were done after a day, we would have been okay with that.  But that’s not how it turned out.
For three days Heather and her parents shepherded the kids as they progressed higher and higher up the mountain… and came down it faster and faster.  Eli and Sarah on skis, Aaron on a snowboard, and Sam on both.  Even Rachel got in on the action, wearing tiny skis and holding onto Heather.  Tanya and I enjoyed every minute of it… vicariously… from the lodge.
On our fifth and last day on the mountain, we traded downhill skiing for cross-country, and the kids reaction was less wholly positive.  Aaron and Sam asked how fast they could go and were not impressed with the answer, especially the part about going back up the hills, and decided they'd rather sit in the lodge and watch the fire.  But we had mercy and let them slide on inner tubes down an icy slope onto a frozen lake instead.  
In three days and countless wipeouts going downhill on skis and snowboards, nobody got hurt.  But after fifteen minutes of tubing, both Aaron and Sam had injuries.  Aaron flipped his tube over and landed on his head (no helmet) and Sam took a bad spill while dragging his tube back up the hill.  Neither was seriously hurt, and both felt much better after a couple hot chocolates, but that was it for the tubing.  
Sarah really enjoyed the cross-country skiiing.  Eli I think would have rather smacked his head on the ice.
We always try to quit while we’re still having fun, and we were totally successful this time.  Everybody wanted more.  We really didn’t know how well the kids would take to skiing, so we didn’t plan to spend more time on the mountain.  Next time we’ll know better.  Yes, there will be a next time.
See all the skiing pictures here