Ilove the out-of-doors. Give me a mountain to climb, an afternoon of gardening, even a squishy tromp through a bog -- as long as the ground under me doesn't move in waves. As long as the ground under me is ground.
Put me on a boat and I, together with my stomach and nervous system, am tossed and turned about, disoriented and desperate. But hey, he was my husband-to-be. I knew he loved sailing from the get-go -- our first date involved a boat -- and I could learn to love it too. He even gave me a book, "Addicted to Sail," on my 25th birthday. We were in the spring of our romance, when love knew no bounds, when idealism ruled, when the world was our oyster. We got married.
He took me out on Long Island Sound in an International 420. We went so fast and there was so much water splashing on my face that I couldn't see the forest for the trees, or the ocean for the drops. I began to have doubts. I was jealous of his sailing because I couldn't share in it. And I feared it would be the mistress that would take him away from me. Our marriage and our sailing were on the same rough and rocky seas. We didn't sail together again for a long time.
Our relationship grew in swells and circled in eddies. We drifted off course. We moved and moved again. His career with the Coast Guard took us to Cape May, Seattle and Alaska, where sailing is not a popular sport for good reason. But there were more boats in our life and none too positive. Late at night he'd get calls that a ship was beached, a crab boat sunk, an oil spill, a casualty. Even without a boat of our own, boats were taking him away from me and from our family of two young daughters. We battened and reefed and weathered the storms.
We reached the 10-year point in our marriage. We set a course for Rhode Island, where calmer seas prevailed. I was secure enough in what we were about. He was home more. We had time and I felt guilty that I had made him wait so long for a boat of his own. So when his mother and her husband offered their Sunfish, no longer in use, I tried not to see it as a Trojan horse and accept their gift graciously. The girls, at 6 and 3, were old enough to sit on deck. The fact that we didn't all fit and I had to wave from the dock was something I was willing to accept, as long as he was willing to take them along and give me a few precious moments to myself.
Now we are in Annapolis, the "sailing capital of the world." The girls are 9 and 6, too young to know fear and eager to go with Dad. And I am beginning to feel left out again, standing there on the dock, waving. I suggest we buy a boat big enough to hold all four of us. So we sell the Sunfish and buy a Compac 16. Not my husband's dreamboat, but a sturdy little craft that, he promises, won't bump about so much. In my eagerness to be recreating with the rest of my family, I even take a sailing course and, though I enjoy it about as much as dental surgery (I can't believe I paid to feel this way), I come out confident that I might actually be able to handle the tiller without a panic, raise the jib without hanging on for dear life. I learn what motion sickness pills work the best without making me feel too drowsy.
Nonetheless, when we launch our little boat, my desperation, my panic, my nausea return in waves of green and gray, and I am defeated once again by the water and must return to the dock. And so I resign myself to this. Perhaps I'll learn to like sailing; perhaps I won't. Though I'll keep trying, for my husband's sake, we have learned that it really doesn't matter. A marriage can be made of two people, one a sailor, one a landlubber, as long as one can happily wave from the dock while the other is free to set the sails.
Though I have not yet learned to love sailing, I have learned to trust in our marriage, which has proved to be a sturdy little craft of its own. After all, we both love mountain climbing, tromping in bogs, gardening, reading, dancing, and our two lovely daughters. A marriage is not measured in an ability to share in all things, only the willingness to let the boat go and know it will come back again. I know now that he will come back again, for I am and will always be his home port. And he will forever be mine.