Monthly Archives: February 2016

It Takes Two

Dinner Alfresco
Date Night, April 2020

We were seventeen. We had just had dinner at The Dock at Crayton Cove, Old Naples. We held hands and walked the docks in the marina in the cool evening air, talking about all sorts of things—what we were reading, what we would do after high school, the trouble with parents. Jay pointed out different kinds of boats and explained what they were and what he liked, or didn’t, about each one. He had sailed throughout his childhood on his dad’s catamaran and crewed on racing sailboats on the weekends. I had sailed maybe once in my life at that point—a thrilling but not altogether pleasant experience. But I loved the water, and I loved the idea of sailing away, and I loved that young sailor.

This was to be the first of a series of date nights that stand out in my memory as being important because we were not just talking, but laying plans for our future. We knew that sailboats would be a part of that future, but we were just beginning to imagine what that might mean. Over dinner and drinks through the years, we have plotted our escape from normal life, planned cruises, solved parenting dilemmas, made lists of boat projects, done marriage maintenance, and dreamed up new ideas for our future.

Sometimes, the questions we discussed were pivotal. Over dessert and coffee at Café Intermezzo in Atlanta: should we buy the bigger house in the nicer neighborhood, or should we sell our suburban starter-home and move back to Florida, with the goal of getting back on the water?

When Jay bought Blue Bear, the baby-blue Ranger 22 we day-sailed on Tampa Bay, he waited for a perfect day to take me out on the boat for the first time. Jay’s mom kept the kids (bless her), and Jay took me sailing. It was a chilly February afternoon, but sunny and breezy, a dazzling day on the water. Smart boy, he wanted to make sure I had an experience that I would want to repeat.

Tanya on Blue Bear 2006

Once, Jay came to dinner at Columbia in Clearwater with pens and paper and an assignment: write down every marketable skill we possess that could serve to either make money while traveling or help us live aboard and cruise.

At our favorite little French place, Le Bouchon, we made a list of things we could do to help us live more simply and prepare for life aboard: wash dishes by hand, give things away, homeschool the kids, turn the air conditioner off (we lasted until mid-June), and take sailing classes (which I did).

Last year at Harbor Cove, we made a list of the places we still want to go and what it would take to get there. Two weeks ago at Herbie’s in Marathon, we worked on our go-list as we prepare to set off again, chasing new horizons.

For many years while we had small children and nursing babies, Date Night was a rare and cherished treat, reserved for birthdays and anniversaries. Now, with teenagers in the house, Date Night has become a regular part of our week. Despite the fact that we are living in the castle we built in the clouds so many years ago, we still have decisions to make and problems to solve, and getting off the boat and out of our wonderful-but-chaotic home environment helps us to look at things more objectively and focus on our relationship. Like the song says, it takes two to make a thing go right.


I bought a little red ukulele with my birthday fun money two months ago. I had wanted one for a long time, most recently being inspired by a boatful of fearless twenty-somethings getting ready to sail the seven seas. They would stay up late into the night, talking and laughing and singing ballads to ukulele accompaniment. These tunes would drift into my hatch and set me to dreaming of palm tree-fringed lagoons on Pacific atolls.

Now the merits of this instrument are many. It is small and portable, making it perfect for life on a sailboat. It has a mellow, sweet sound; even when played inexpertly it sounds nice. It is easy to learn—figuring out a few chords on its four strings sets you up to play dozens of songs from the beginning, a reward that I find addictive. Its recent growth in popularity, probably due to the ubiquitous Iz rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” means that is easy to find chord diagrams and songs and Youtube lessons online. At $30-50, an entry-level soprano ukulele is inexpensive and easy to acquire. And they’re so cute. I know you’re not supposed to select an instrument based on its appearance, but when I saw that little red ukulele with the shark-shaped bridge, I couldn’t resist.

And it has not disappointed me. My constant companion, it has transformed the tedious dinghy rides to and from shore into practice sessions. Hours at the park with kids who play basketball or ride skateboards are now opportunities to learn a new song. And the quiet hour after everyone has gone to bed and the dishes are done is my equivalent to singing in the shower. Granted, the time I spend playing the ukulele is time I used to spend doing other things, some of them arguably more productive. The novelty may wear off and I’ll go back to doing those things, but the gift of music is one you get to keep. Long passages when we’re just sitting in the cockpit, starlit night watches when my eyes tire of reading, beach days under an umbrella: these are idle hours transformed by music into entertainment, creativity, and hopefully, beauty.

Recently, I gathered a group of friends at Dockside Tropical Café for the monthly Ukulele Night sponsored by the Florida Ukulele Society. A ukulele band with a bass, tenor, and soprano ukulele plays onstage and the audience plays along on their own instruments. At our table, ukuleles appeared out of nowhere. In addition to my red one, we produced a yellow, green, blue and natural wood ukulele. In that setting, it doesn’t matter that no one plays well. That sound system can drown out any mistake! The band does covers of classic rock to pop hits, from the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Chuck Berry, and Bob Dylan to Gnarles Barkley. Anything seems possible with this adorable, versatile little instrument.