Wednesday 11 October 2023

Could you live with your partner 24/7/365?

 Cruising seems to be the Ultimate Relationship Challenge. 

How difficult do you find it to keep your relationship on an even keel, whilst living onboard 24/7/365?

“Wherever your relationship is headed, cruising will get it there faster”. These words, seem to always be uttered by the old salts when a couple announce that they are planning to move onto a boat. I use to listen to these words being spoken and think. “You don’t know these people, how can you judge their relationship”.

The phrase becomes more compelling the more I consider it and the more time we live together onboard. As we have accumulated 12 years and 24,273 nautical miles onboard I feel that we might have an idea of what it is really like to live onboard.

Some days the little things can break you

The number one question people ask us is, “How do you live on a sailboat and not kill each other?”

Can you imagine the reality show: Two people who love each other dearly, thrown into a tiny, floating, leaky hot cylinder, with temperamental equipment, limited water, charts that are incorrect, limited provisions and must work together through third world countries using only the power of the wind and sun, battling tumultuous weather, currents, seasickness and emotions.

Some days there’s tension 

Most couples get up in the morning have a couple of hours together, head off to work, come home for another couple of hours, spend part of their weekend together. Then repeat this week after week until retirement. If we were generous and said 5 hours per day over a married life of 40 years before retirement that would equate to 72800 hours spent together. A sailing couple will top that number of hours in just over 11 years. With 12 years under our belt I think we can honestly talk about our relationship onboard.

Or maybe we are just crazy to talk about our relationship openly

We live on a 42 foot (12 meter) monohull which amounts to approximately 36 square meters of living space. It is nearly impossible to move around without bumping into each other, stepping on each other’s toes, and knowing if one or other hasn’t put on deodorant. Our bathroom is a small wet room, and even though it is separated by the engine room to the living space, you can still hear and dare I say sometimes smell the ablutions of the other. Personal space is hard to come by.

This is as far apart as we can get bow to stern.

Entire weeks can go by in which we are never apart from each other. This is unique to no other living conditions that a couple can find themselves in. Other tiny living options are normally on dry land where a walk to defuse a small irritation is available. For us the closest thing to that walk to the bow, 12 meters away, “I can still hear you” 😂😂😂😂 “What’s that you say? I can still here you breathing” 😂😂😂😂“You won’t be for long” 😂😂😂😂😂

This togetherness happens by default unless we consciously choose to be apart. The last time I can remember us being separated was over 100 days ago and it was literally for 2 hours. Being with another human 24/7, even one you love, is a tougher challenge than most believe. It takes a strong understanding of each other’s traits and the ability to accommodate these with patients and humility. 

Our day is spent together for every task onboard

Over time those small insignificant traits can add up. Rob is messy especially with power cords, I hate the tangled mess of them when charging the camera gear. I tried to set up a system, but we are back to the tangled mess every few days. He on return must struggle with my insistence of wiping down the bathroom countertop after each use. Or the knives to be placed in a certain way and order on the knife rack. 

Cruisers will tell you the worst time on a boat is coming into anchor or docking the boat. We are in total agreement with this. It is certainly the most nervous time I have onboard, I would rather be out to sea in 40+ knots and seas than dock the boat. There are all matter of things that can potentially go wrong when anchoring or docking and the stress levels rise with this knowledge. The use of radios “marriage savers” is a good start to keeping a level of tension down as you are not yelling at each other, over wind and engine noises. However it just means the rest of the world can’t hear you say “Whatever”.

The demands on each of us intensify when things are going bad, inclement weather, breakdowns, tiredness, illness, stresses on finding a comfortable anchorage for a good nights sleep, or simply just the anchoring process. There are countless things that can trigger the small things that then become big things. It’s not unlike arriving home tired after a stressful 10 hour day at work, struggling with bad traffic in the pouring rain, then running into the house soaking wet to be met by “WTF …… You didn’t remember the milk”. 

Remember the photo a few paragraphs above 👆 things can go bad very quickly

Yes and at times there are heated words, words that are said under the stress of running a boat. It is like no other stress that you can put a couple under, we are after all only human and when the S*#* hits the fan sometimes so does our demeanour frazzle. At other times we go about all of it calmly, this really only depends on the lead up to the situation. 

We have had many guests onboard with us that at times when we do let the stress take over, believe that one day we will kill each other. But we are good at defusing the situation knowing that at times we need to let off steam. To let each other have space to breath and calm down.

 Our life is not the norm, we never close our eyes at night and have a deep sleep ever, there is always one eye and one ear listening and watching for changing conditions. Only the other night did we take turns to sit up throughout the night as the weather changed from its predicted 6 knots to have us swing onto a lee shore in 25+ knots.

We rely on our family and network of friends to keep us connected to the normality of life. We are intentional about staying in contact with as many as we can. Whether it be through Social Media, FaceTime, or enjoying the company of other cruisers. Having this support network is of great importance so we are not, “just the two” of us.

To get through our day we must be the comedian, the empathetic ear, the stimulating conversationalist, the problem solver, the plumbing and electrical specialist, the researcher the navigator and so many other occupations that we never got a degree in. 

But at the end of the day we must step back into the role of a partner, be best friends, team players and lovers, without that, the following day on our great adventure can never happen.

We are real people leading an unusual lifestyle, we try to show exactly what it is like to live aboard full time if you would like to know more, have a question for us or are just interested in where we travel, leave a comment below or tune into DreamtimeSail YouTube 

Cheers R&K 🥂🍾❣️

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