By choosing to live and travel on your boat you inevitably submit your coupledom to the peculiar world of cruising – living in tight quarters, constantly together – and as a result, your land relationship transforms into a boat relationship. Sometimes it can be a pleasant shift and other times you find yourself in desperate need of a break from all the boat hassles. To the cruising couples out there, you know exactly what I mean. For those that haven’t yet become familiar with the delicate intricacies of a boat relationship, here’s a quick rundown of the tell-tale signs.
1. You’ve packed a personal go-bag, complete with your essentials should you one day be ready to call it quits. We’ve met couples along the way that make this a requirement. Just a few days away from the boat, and each other, can make a world of difference. Other times, your go-bag is a very useful dramatic ploy.
2. You communicate using hand signals in public. When you’re navigating your boat and the other person is at the bow either looking for obstructions, getting ready to drop the anchor, or doing any number of the million tasks necessary to move and park your boat safely, it’s nearly impossible to hear each other from opposite ends. So rather than shout down the length of the boat, which we’ve attempted way too many times with little success, you use hand signals to communicate which way to turn, how fast you need to turn, how much depth you have, and so forth. It’s a beautiful thing to master, and once you do you’ll start using this technique in normal, everyday land situations. I particularly love to do this in the grocery store. Romain and I will be at opposite ends of the aisle. I’ll hold up four fingers and then charge my other arm back and forth to the left, signaling it’s time to hurry up and go to aisle four. Romain doesn’t always find this very amusing, especially when the other shoppers give me the crazy eyes.
3. You forget you’re in public. The point above is a perfect example of this. When it’s just the two of you on a boat, with no one else around for days on end, you get accustomed to living in your own little floating bubble of a world. Sometimes you forget that having a lovers tiff on the fuel dock isn’t the best timing.
4. You ask each other if they’ve showered today. In the Caribbean it’s fair to say your body maintains a constant condition – hot, sticky, and lightly salted. You must then cram that body into a non-air conditioned vestibule of a bed each night. A shower ends up becoming more important for your other half than for yourself. Your clean, non-sweaty body lying beside your partner is much appreciated.
5. You swoon when the other cleans the boat. Or fixes a leak, refills the tanks, anything that saves you from having to do a repair or cleaning project yourself. This is better than receiving flowers, times a thousand!
6. You’ve both mastered bringing things on and off the boat from your dinghy. Five-gallon jerry cans filled to the brim with water, bags of groceries, laundry, even the dinghy and its clumsy outboard engine. The entire process goes on autopilot and you don’t have to say a word, each step flows automatically. Your newly sculpted biceps thank you for this.
7. You no longer mind seeing your partner in the same shirt for one week. It’s a slow progression to get to this point, but eventually you stop worrying about the material things you used to covet back in your land life. Laundry is too much of a hassle to do frequently, and you end up living in your bathing suit anyway so you don’t really need to wear much. If it passes the smell test, it’s all good.
8. You know more about your partner’s bodily movements than you ever wanted or needed to know. Close quarters. Enough said.
9. Your activities are dictated by the weather. Mother nature rules all, but her tendencies are even more impactful when you live on a boat. You have to wait for the right weather to travel safely. Then you have to change your anchorage because the wind direction or swell shifted. Or it suddenly pours like mad so you find yourself running to grab the boat soap, scrubbers, and while you’re at it some body soap because it’s the perfect opportunity to wash the salt off the deck, and your body.
10. You say “you’re fine” to every ailment. Constant scrapes, cuts, and bruises, along with a probable fracture in your toe that never seems to feel better for long, become the norm. At first a perfunctory exclamation of pain yelps out loud and your partner asks if you’re okay. After three seconds of pause you reassure them it’s all fine. Just another day on the boat.