This article was published in Summer 2016 Nor’Easter for TONE (Tartan Owners Northeast). Inc.

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Boating is supposed to be “fun”, isn’t it? Then Stop Yelling! It’s stressful enough for your spouse/ significant other who’s not sure what to do if something happens.

In order to have a successful sail, couples need to learn how to keep boating fun and safe. To do this it’s a great idea to discuss and/or role-play different situations, use laminated cheat sheets, hand signals, etc. Don’t assume anything; even if you’ve boated together for years.

If this is your situation then read on!

  1. Cheat sheets – There is a lot to learn and remember on a sailboat. Seasons in the Northeast are short. If you don’t go out every week it’s easy to forget things. Why not put together a set of laminated cheat sheets beginning with a checklist of how to prepare the boat. This should include starting from the dock, sitting on a mooring or anchoring. Don’t forget how to start and shut off the engine, work the radio, and calling a May Day. Anything specific to your boat that they would need to know.
  2. Hand signals, Use a Walkie-Talkie – When leaving and arriving at the dock, picking up a mooring or anchoring one of you will be at the helm, the other on the bow. Save your voice, don’t yell. Use hand signals or a pair of walkie-talkies to communicate. Make sure if you use hand signals, you both agreed on what they should be and have rehearsed them many times. Same goes with the walkietalkie.
  3. Classes – Take boating classes together either for the first time or as a refresher. Just keep in mind, you’ll see, hear, and learn things 5 differently. Then discuss what you learned with each other. If there’s a question, ask the instructor.
  4. Practice/role play – This is something that doesn’t always happen. Partially because the spouse/significant other doesn’t feel comfortable with the boat. When it’s just the two of you, practice starting up the engine, opening and closing the head and water. Role-play by each one taking the helm, docking, and picking up a mooring for starters.
  5. Explain things, don’t assume anything – Ask questions first and listen.

In a survey I did a few years back at several boat shows, I asked both men and women their thoughts to what makes boating fun. Here are the results:

Robin is a published author of Boating Secrets: 127 Top Tips to Help You Buy and Enjoy Your Boat, passionate marine enthusiast and sailor who has interviewed countless industry experts as well as visited, interviewed personnel at, written about, and photographed hundreds of marine ports in the US and abroad. Robin also works with businesses to help them tell their story through articles, customer successes, and videos to name a few. Her current projects include technical writing for B2B. If you’d like to learn more, contact Robin at: robin



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