Ne­go­ti­at­ing the choppy wa­ters of love


Eighty per cent of mar­riages end at sea, so they say. I never let this put me off when we de­cided to buy a boat. I’d al­ways thought liv­ing on a boat would be ro­man­tic.

I imag­ined cute cud­dles un­der the stars and es­cap­ing the ho-hum of bor­ing re­la­tion­ship stuff. I def­i­nitely thought we wouldn’t bicker as much.

The best thing about be­ing in a con­fined space with your part­ner 24/7 is there is no es­cape. You just can’t hide, so you have to deal with things.

At sea, you have to get your frus­tra­tions out re­ally quickly and move on be­cause there are more im­por­tant things go­ing on, like five-me­tre swells and auto pi­lot mal­func­tion.

The worst thing is that there is no es­cape!

Back when life was nor­mal, I’d es­cape to my world of girl­friends, theatre shows and runs along a river.

That just can’t hap­pen when you’re stuck in a boat with some­one for nine months at a time.

Even when I storm off to my own cabin, Dean is ten cen­time­tres away be­hind a very thin door. I can hear him shift in his seat and it’s very an­noy­ing.

We’ve had to ne­go­ti­ate our sense of space.

When we lived in a house, I’d come home through the front door into a nice hall and have a few sec­onds to ‘land’. I’d put my bags down, hug the dog­gie, hug the Dean, then won­der off and ground my­self in my own time.

Now when I come home there’s an ex­plo­sion of dog­gie mad­ness, stinky boat smells, a rock­ing boat and a man in­volved in his own thing who I have just gate crashed – all within one square me­tre.

Dean says we’ve got to know each other bet­ter by liv­ing on a boat. And he likes be­ing able to calm me when I’m ter­ri­fied. In our land-life I’d say ‘‘I’m fine’’ and huff off to deal with my demons in pri­vate.

You get to see each other look­ing re­ally bad, too. Bed hair af­ter a rest­less night shift is just not pretty. And you lose track of whether you’ve brushed your teeth. Show­er­ing is also not a pri­or­ity (and some­times down­right dan­ger­ous).

But the amaz­ing things are pretty ex­cep­tional.

I would trust Dean with my life be­cause I al­ready have.

Boat peo­ple

When we sailed up the east coast to Auck­land, the boat was bash­ing into a northerly. Our head sail had blown out and I’d been in fight or flight mode for days.

Dean and I were sit­ting across from each other in the cock­pit. Just when I thought I couldn’t han­dle it any more he put his hand out on the ta­ble, palm up, and said, ‘‘It’s go­ing to be OK’’. I put my hand in his and felt my­self re­lax for the first time in days.

When we’re in Queen Char­lotte Sounds or Pelorus Sounds, the magic of shar­ing such won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ences is def­i­nitely bond­ing.

Time and anx­i­ety drop away when you’re on the front of a boat, un­der the stars with a glass of wine and an arm around you.

When space gets tricky in­side, there’s al­ways the world out­side. It’s lib­er­at­ing just to look up and out.

We’re on an ad­ven­ture, to­gether, and that wins out ev­ery time.

And Dean’s anec­dote about the 80 per cent of mar­riages end­ing at sea thing – we’re not mar­ried!

If you can’t feel love in a sit­u­a­tion like this, there’s some­thing very wrong!

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