This months raft-up is about relationships: "How do you think you'd do living and working in a studio apartment with your significant other? It's not unlike what cruisers do every day. We live in 30, 40, 50 feet and are with our partners and children all day long. We eat together, sleep together, do chores together, site-see together...you get the point. We are pretty much always together. Cruising will either make a relationship stronger or will cause it to crumble to pieces."
If you read books about cruising, especially books about cruising with a family, you’ll often see titles that allude to the fact that once you’re underway together, you are together. Oftentimes that’s the entire point of setting sail; stepping off the hamster wheel and slowing down enough to see the world and to really see each other. The thing is it’s not as straightforward adjustment as you might think. For us, getting the hang of cruising meant sorting out first how to have no time for each other while we got the boat ready to go, then how to be together because that was the whole goal, and finally how to be together but still be ourselves.
Looking back it feels like the whole thing was seamless—but thanks to the beauty of blogging I can see now we went through some pretty specific steps and a few rocky moments:
Stage One--Someday We’ll Sail but Until Then Our Family Will Just Have to Survive
When you spend years re-building a boat, you stop sailing, you stop hanging out together and, if you’re not careful, you stop dreaming. Every weekend, and often weeknights, Evan would head to Ceilydh. Sometimes I would tag along with Maia and we’d all install hatches, lay-up fibreglass and remove old fittings. But mostly Evan worked alone. The project, while often fulfilling, also wore us down - it taxed our marriage, diminished our bank account and pulled us away from family and friends. If ever there were a time I longed to just go sailing - this was it. But instead, the tasks stretched on.
Stage Two—We Worked Hard to Get This Time Together So I’m Going to Cherish It No Matter How Annoying You Are
We’ve been at this cruising thing for eight months now. For the past 34 weeks it’s been me, Maia and Evan; sailing, exploring, and hanging out together. 240 days of just the three of us. 5,760 hours where time spent apart has been the exception, not the rule.
When you are together. All. The. Time. It’s the little things that start to grate: the messes that seem to materialize where ever Maia is sitting; Evan’s half-finished projects that give our boat a semi-derelict feel; the fact the two of them try and talk to me while I’m working; and the way they seem to hover when I’d rather be alone…
The problem, when you’ve just spent 345,600 minutes together, is there is no unique perspective to give things a fresh energy. Maia and I can anticipate the joke Evan will tell before he tells it (although we still give a half-hearted laugh to keep his confidence up). Maia and Evan know what I’ll order in a restaurant before I do. Maia tends to surprise us still (especially when she waxes poetic about something like the beauty of a burro in, “the soft morning light”), but even she’s becoming staid and predictable.
Stage Three—Balance For Now
I pretty much have all the same balancing/time issues as every mother everywhere—I’m just doing it on a small boat far from girlfriends, gyms and therapists…
But sometimes, like mothers everywhere, I do find a way to take time for myself. I decide we can skip laundry wear dirty clothes for one more day and join our buddy boats for a yoga class. And I realize that Ev and Maia can fend for themselves for an evening while I sneak off to have a girl-night on Britannia.
And while eating a double batch of popcorn and yawning, and watching a lushly romantic movie that husbands and kids would never want to see, it seems that for one day, at least, we found just enough time to fit the important stuff in. And maybe tomorrow I’ll get to the laundry.
It’s easy to feel guilty if you are not happy all the time. For us our happiness as a family and as a couple often comes down to how we’re doing as individuals. And sometimes it’s hard to sort out your individual needs when you are crammed together like sardines. But for us that’s the clue—when the boat suddenly feels too small it’s time to find out why.