#75: How to Get Your Wife to Go Cruising

She is NOT a passenger, she is crew!  There’s no magic secret to getting your wife (husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other) on board with cruising.  She just needs to know the realities and infinite rewards of the lifestyle and want those.  Share those basic philosophies with her first and cruising will become merely the means to your mutual end.  Once she’s on board in principle, get her (comfortably and confidently) on board in practice with sailing lessons and continued training and teaching together.  “Put her behind the helm!” says Linus Wilson.  “Make her retrieve a cushion,” says Pam Wall.  “Get over your fear of crossing an ocean!” says Lazy Gecko Brittany.  And, most importantly: “Remember it is not about the boat or the destination, it is about your shared desires and the more fulfilling life you both want to live together,” says Nick O’Kelly, author of Get Her on Board.

I have worked hard to pull together lots of viewpoints, perspectives and advice from fellow cruisers and trusted sources for you all.  If you are struggling to get your significant other on board with cruising, I hope you find this video as well as the resources and interview below helpful.  Please let me know in a comment or email!



My complete interview with Nick O’Kelly:  https://youtu.be/TI2EBLqVksc

Nick O’Kelly’s Get Her On Board:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008P4WR68/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav

Book Review: Get Her on Board by Women and Cruising’s Gwen Hamlin:  http://www.womenandcruising.com/blog/2010/06/get-her-on-board-secrets-to-sharing-the-cruising-dream/

Nick O’Kelly’s “6 Mistakes Men Make in Sharing their Sailing Passion”:  http://www.womenandcruising.com/blog/2010/07/6-mistakes-men-make-in-sharing-their-sailing-passion/

Debra Cantrell’s Changing Course: A Woman’s Guide to Choosing the Cruising Life:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0014DBEFC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav

Many women have told me my first book, Salt of a Sailor, vocalized all of the stupid questions they wanted to ask when learning how to sail but didn’t.  If there’s a chance it can do that for your significant other, pick up a copy on Amazon or email me for a free eCopy: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00T7YGKJU/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00T7YGKJU&linkCode=as2&tag=havewcom-20&linkId=3UM4C3FFPWHIBTGM#nav-subnav

Pam Wall Sailing and Cruising Consultant: http://www.pamwall.com

Lazy Gecko Sailing:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwIThXjmw8eBlEfFZLgZ3-g

Women and Cruising:  http://www.womenandcruising.com

Women Who Sail (Facebook Group): https://www.facebook.com/WomenWhoSail/

Beth Leonard’s Voyager’s Handbook:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0072UO1VA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav

“How to Convince a Reluctant Partner to Go Cruising” (Catamaran Guru):  http://catamaranguru.com/lifestyle/cruising-resources/300-how-to-convince-a-reluctant-partner-to-go-cruising



I also spoke with several women who are wives of some of my most long-time, die-hard male followers and I talked to them about their fears, excitement, hang-ups and worries about going cruising with their mate.  Thank you Elizabeth, Hallie, Kathaleen and Shelly for sharing your thoughts with us:

Elizabeth (and Rob)

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“Let’s start with what makes me nervous.  My fear is that I don’t know a lot right now and something is going to happen to Rob and I will just shut down and not know what to do.  I’m not afraid of the water at all.  I actually enjoy sailing, even when it is a little bit of an uncomfortable ride.  My biggest impediment is just feeling nervous leaving the dock.  Once I am out there, I think I am fine. I sometimes just want to make sure I hold the lines when we leave the dock, and enter a new dock. I can throw the lines once we reach the marina, usually there are many people willing to help, but if no one is around, I need to feel confident, grabbing the line and getting onto the dock and I do not yet.

Rob handles the boat while we are sailing but I need to feel confident in setting the sail, looking at the wind direction, and knowing how those forces are working.  I also want to feel secure that I am not going to fall off the boat if I have to remove a line that is tangled.  I recently had to use the radio when entering the marina in order to learn our dock reservation location and whether the dock was starboard or port side.  I felt very confident doing that and it was empowering.  I think just “going” is what is going to get me over the hump.”

Hallie (and Joe)

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“I think I fall into the rare group of women who were completely on board with and encourage their significant others to become full time live-aboard sailors.  Once I saw Pam Wall’s presentation and understood that circumnavigation was a thing people did I was on board!  I also feel Joe and I fall into another rare category of couples who truly get along and don’t fight … like ever!  We have complete mutual respect for each other and I think that is why I am not hesitant in the least about sailing around the world with him. It is all the other stuff that worries me, i. e. weather, boat condition, my abilities, etc.

Joe and I have been sailing as a team in small races and regattas and I think that is key, that experience working together to successfully maneuver the boat in tight spaces or difficult situations.  We are mostly a well oiled machine.  I know what he is going to do and he knows what I  am going to do.  We know our roles and know how to do them well.  We also really communicate with each other well and that I believe is key.  We didn’t start out big on a big boat.  We started sailing together on our small 16ft Hobie and on some other smaller sailing dinghy boats through Hoofer’s Sailing Club.  Talking before hand and discussing what were possible scenarios and what we should do if those occur before we get out on the water is also something we do regularly.  Having both of us on the same page for expectations is really important, especially on the Hobie.

My biggest impediment to cruising is definitely my own confidence in my ability to manage the boat if something were to happen to Joe while we are out there.  This one keeps me up at night.  Will I be able to manage the boat and situation if something happens to Joe?  What if he falls off the boat, what if he is sick, what if he dies suddenly??? I have been focusing on these since I fell off our Hobie two years ago and watched Joe struggle in 25knot winds to get back to me.  It felt like 20 minutes but in reality it was only 4.  I then thought, “Oh crap, what if Joe fell off the boat?”  We would have both died and the boat would have sunk.  I had never been at the helm of the boat before because I was always too scared to “drive” the boat.  This summer is when I have been taking the helm and learning about how to steer the boat.  I think for all women who are new to sailing, this is by far the biggest impediment.

The best way, in my opinion, to get over the hump is to take sailing lessons and get out on keel boats as often as possible to get comfortable.  These were the most important steps I can think of that have helped me this summer.  I am still nervous about sailing our Hobie with me at the helm so I have not taken that step yet, but maybe in time.  (It is a really fast sailboat!!)

I know The Voyager’s Handbook goes over some of how to get your mate(wife) on board. I hope these answers help you.  Sailing for me is this freeing/flying experience.  I love being out on the water and not hearing a motor (hopefully).  It is peaceful and exhilarating all at the same time and I have only been out on small inland lakes where we have to tack all the time!  I cannot wait until we can get out on larger water and set the auto-helm and go on the same tack for a day, heck even a few hours would be awesome!”


Kathaleen (and Joe)

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“I think my biggest impediment to cruising with Joe is that I have no sailing knowledge or experience, just a passion to try.  I am not worried about what it will take to learn (I’m actually excited to learn!), and I’m confident in our ability to find a way to afford to do it.  The part that worries me is leaving my family (children and grand children) ashore while we travel to faraway places.  What if something happens and I cannot return quickly?  How will I get home?  I also worry about leaving my business to another’s hands.  I’ve scraped this into existence and it’s just barely taking off, what if it fails to thrive?”


Shelly (and Lance)

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“Stepping out into the unknown makes me very nervous.  Letting go of my comfort zone and trying something new makes me very hesitant.  Land I am sure of, I know where I am going there are signs everywhere that tell me when to turn where to go.  Ahhh…. but water is wide open you can sail for miles even days with no land in site.  That makes me nervous.

My biggest impediment is that I have no sense of direction what so ever.  Lance is very good with direction and he is a very logical thinker.  I tend to be very emotional and unsure of myself.  But I believe in myself enough to step out there and work together to make this happen.  My biggest fear is getting sea sick to the point that I am unable to do this.  Confidence in myself is going to be key to getting over the hump and making myself get out there and thrive while cruising.  Believing that I can step of the land and let the sea carry me wherever it will.”


Our goal is to help more people realize their dream of cruising.  Paramount to that is the ability to share that dream with your best friend and soul mate which is why Phillip and I worked hard to produce this video and help those of you out there who may be struggling to get your significant other “on board” with cruising.  If you have found these tips and resources helpful, please help us help more people like you by supporting our efforts to share the cruising lifestyle on Patreon.


10 thoughts on “#75: How to Get Your Wife to Go Cruising

  • Your first sentence says it all, only I would say that ideally the partner should be a co-captain. I would urge people to always try to push the person with the weaker skill to work on it. Also to always be on guard about falling into “traditional” roles for the man and woman. In a pinch you’re going to want everyone to be as good as they can be. And rig the boat so that both people can do everything regardless of strength. Oh, and along those lines, figure out a MOB recovery that works for everyone. Big dude with a belly, small woman… might require special ops!

    • Great insight Mike. Thank you! I know you’re right in that even I need to take the helm more often and get more comfortable with it, just as Pam said. My own video has encouraged even me to challenge myself further (and impress Phillip even more!) Appreciate you watching and your input. Thanks! I gotta ask though “Like-a-bike-Mike?” What’s the story there?

      • In a past life–before I met my with-a-boat-and-now-fiance Andrea–I built “freak bikes”, kinetic sculpture racers (look it up), and was involved in bicycle advocacy. Now it’s all boats all the time. Funny how life changes.

  • What Nick said rang true for me. I am not excited about sailing because we have a sail shaft or a drive shaft (I don’t even know what those are…I think one makes a bigger hole in hull but don’t ask me, ask my husband who has told me 20 times). I am excited because the feeling when you cut the engine off and you are moving by physics, God, wind, or whatever is incredible. Every time it is magical.

    I also really, really want to see other cultures. I have lived and visited many other countries and I love how I changed as a person because of learning about their cultures, lifestyles, and customs. Sailing is just our chosen method to get to experience an enormous amount of wonder in the world.

    • Hey Admiral. For whatever reason, I’m just now seeing this (too many platforms, not enough time!) but I had to laugh when you said “ask my husband who has told me 20 times.” I’m the same way. Anytime I try to explain the connection between C&C Yachts and how that started Hinterhoeller who built our Niagara, Phillip just cringes because he knows I’m going to botch it. Thanks for this. We couldn’t agree more. While sailing is an awesome feeling and we love our boat, the travel, the diversity and the awe-inspiring new scenery is the larger goal. Appreciate you following along Admiral!

  • Hey Annie: This piece is some of your best work. My observation after teaching a couple dozen couple-teams to cruise/voyage over the years is to say that success is a joint venture… when both parties are enthusiastic, the voyage works. It sure isn’t about the boat! In my work with couples I stressed cross training during the day of sailing exercises. In the evening, around a glass of… we’d talk dreams. Dreams matter. I know a few couples who still day-sail together but don’t cruise together. They figured out their sailing relationship. Another couple I trained is having their second child aboard somewhere “out there.” Shared dreams.

    One of the reasons my parents married was that they each wanted to raise a family under sail and cruise extensively after the kids moved out of the house. Before they were married, they shared a common goals. Marriage was their only option! It worked! We went voyaging and it was great.

    I know a lot more couples who don’t cruise because of “paycheck separation anxiety.” Interesting.

    Sail on…
    Norm on Cape Cod

    • As a sailing instructor, I get to hear a lot about why sailing on voyages doesn’t appeal. Often it comes down to two things: tight quarters and too much time outdoors. One couple’s comment as we arose to watch the sun rise over the mountains and have coffee in the cockpit while anchored in the BVI’s North Sound, “Captain, can’t you make the wind stop blowing?” The husband notes, “The rain showers, too.”

      It helps to know what motivates/demotivates oneself.

    • Thanks! It’s definitely a common topic (one I’ll actually be speaking on at a boat show in Baltimore soon) – I should rewatch this video again for inspiration!

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