Marriages and other close relationships are solidified and enhanced by the shared enjoyment of leisure-time activities.
But what happens when half of a relationship picks sailing as the most compelling pastime while the other (sane, thoughtful, intelligent) half knows that sailboats are cramped, treacherous, unstable traps that alternate between boring you to death and scaring you to death?
I'll tell you what happens, for I happen to be most familiar with just such a relationship.
Put a man at the tiller of his own boat and you have the makings of a Captain Bligh. The first time this couple tacked into a marina in their novice sailing days, someone on the dock shouted, "Will you want anchorage for the night, Captain?"
The husband (then still a reasonable, kindly, unsure-of-himself sailor) looked around in bewilderment.
"I think he means you, dear," said his wife.
Suddenly, right before her eyes, the metamorphosis occurred. Epaulets sprouted on his shoulders. His eyes sharpened and narrowed to that years-before-the-mast look and his landlubber legs braced, swayed and then planted themselves into the familiar seaman's stance. He'd have folded his hands behind his back and paced the quarter deck, but this was a dinky little rental boat that afforded scant room for sitting, let alone pacing.
And so it came to pass that the Captain must needs own a boat of his own. The early years weren't bad. The couple still had offspring in residence: able-bodied seapersons who could be shanghaied to crew on weekends.
From the beginning, the Captain's wife was relegated to below-decks duty because she had flunked "Fetching Lines off the Pier at Docking Time." In that process, she also dropped the boat hook overboard (the boat hook being a miserable, unwieldy, 6-foot long "jousting pole" with a hook on the end).
Salty expletives abounded at the time, but now the episode is recalled with nostalgic laughter as they sing the old family sea chantey, "The Ballad of the Unhappy Hooker."
From that time on she got to huddle in the galley and prepare nourishment to stave off scurvy and make sure that Captain Bligh was served his ration of rum (Scotch if on land, rum at sea, yo, ho, ho).
The years went by. Most of the crew shipped off to faraway places. The Captain has refined his Bligh with a touch of Queeg and soupcon of Ahab. His mate has emerged reluctantly from below deck, but the years have not rendered her more dexterous of hand nor nimble of foot. The Captain, however--bless his salty hide--keeps trying, especially when he's hard put to round up a crew.
"Why can't you learn to like it?" he shouts. "Your ancestors were Norwegian--love of sailing should be in your blood!"
"Au contraire," Mrs. Bligh counters triumphantly, if not ethnically. "Women in Norway never went to sea. They stayed home and knit socks!"
It would be good to report that the Blighs are sailing smoothly into the sunset of their lives. But, alas and alack, each time they ship out au pair (and never, since the Owl and the Pussy Cat, has there been a more unlikely sea-going combo) the threat of mutiny lurks in the shrouds and hangs over the deck like the proverbial albatross.
Mrs. B. has refused to learn Sea Talk (all that mains'l, fo'c's'le, stays'l, jabberwocky, jib-jive), so the language barrier persists, like this:
The Captain (adjusting a sail up front while his wife steers), "The Morgan 36 off your port bow is on a starboard tack, so I suggest you harden the main and genny and come up close."
"So--do you want me to turn left or right?"
The boom? Helmsperson can think only in terms of lowering it.
She's hoping to revive the old superstition holding that women on board ship mean bad luck. And if anyone mumbles anything about "down to the seas again," she asks, "but why?"