I can truly find bliss in this seafaring life in the form of companionship of my husband, time to read, reflect and marvel at the colours of the sky. Life at sea can also get dreary and monotonous so staying positive and self-motivated is a daily focus for us both as it would be easy to let the 20/21 challenges take away the shine of our adventures.
I do not profess to be an expert but happy to share my thoughts on a subject which many ask us about saying something like “Relationships in such a confined space, have you not killed each other yet!”
If you recognise that everyone is different, from the way they take their coffee to the way they prefer to learn, you are already well on your way to having effective and harmonious relationships. For me, observing something new and having access to learn more later helps the lesson sink in, I like time to reflect quietly and do follow-up learning at my own pace, in a place comfortable to me. Most often this takes place whilst sitting on the bow or when snuggled up on the quarter birth, reading, doing yoga or meditation. Of course, when we are close to land then walking is the time where my creative juices flow and I become more self-aware of my own behaviours and needs.
Irish poet William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Both Gary and I need our own space and as you can imagine living aboard a 36 ft boat does not give much opportunity for that at the best of times let alone in times of lockdown. Earphones are key in these times as it enables us both individually to satisfy our own restful and energising activities without disruption or annoying the hell out of each other. My friend bought me Bluetooth earphones for my birthday a few years ago, great for walking the dog but in our full-time seafaring life these earphones have really come into their own. Bluetooth all the way for me, the fewer wire attachments around me is best, as in my world wires become trip crash bang wallop moments. We are lucky that we learned much of our need for personal space a few years ago but everyday is a school day and this next bit is an art form. Yes, you guessed it, communication is key and it includes honouring difference, you know when you come across differing preferences as it makes the red flags fly and the blood boil. Differing preferences exist not only in the spoken word but in all we do, how we apply time, express feelings, engage with others, assess risk, apply action, think and problem solve. How an earth can we live with another human in such close quarter with so many variables? I often must remind myself, to pause, breathe and remember difference is good.
Most of the time the intentions of others are good, it is just we communicate differently and usually in a manner by which we ourselves prefer. If only we could match the needs and preferences of the other person, we would avoid so many red flags and the turmoil this creates in our lives.
In my coaching world, I came to realise that some of us are logical in our approach, driven to understand facts, precise and reserved in their expression until all the ducks are in a row. Some communicate their feeling and observe that of others. They live a life that upholds their values whilst listening and showing compassion. Both these preference types tend to be more introverted in their persona and get their energy from being alone or in small, trusted groups of people. Whereas the others are more extroverted in their approach, one group love to be in control often taking charge of conversations, concise in their communication, driven to act quickly and do nothing without a purpose. No dilly dallying here! The last group love to be in the thick of things, ideas orientated and can often be heard a long way away telling jokes and using humour to connect. Of course, we are a mixture of all but we have preferences that lean towards one of the 4, hence, if not self-aware in our style and able to mirror and match, the red flags rise when long periods of time is spent together.
Gary and I are both introverted but differ in our expression. Luckily, to some extent, this helps in our sailing life as I can reach out to others for advice without the need to know the question, never mind the answer. Whereas Gary will research and problem solve most things from books and the internet. These differing approaches enable us to support each other when bouncing around of ideas and options. I also recognise that I need to talk through my thinking and feelings before moving on, not to be fixed you understand, simply to be understood. Gary indeed does not need to speak his feeling out loud and often thinks so deeply he is convinced he has told me. Both of us understanding this avoids all sorts of mayhem. I share this as an example of differing preferences and how it shows up aboard Sandpiper, I could go on but you get my point.
We have lived onboard Sandpiper for 4 years now and the last year we have been onboard in each other’s company for 24 hours a day. Now I would be lying if I said there has not been a single cross word but in the main, we have got on simply great. Much of this I put down to us both recognising each other’s strengths and appreciating the differences. I have certainly learned how to laugh at myself and not take everything to heart, most importantly I have learned how to reframe my fears and think more positively about my ability as a sailor. My sailing fears drive Gary mad and after all if I do not believe in myself then there is no room for anyone else to do that. I learned that long ago on the topic of love but somehow, I forgot it. My fears are my imagination running wild with what could go wrong rather than focusing on it going right. This is great practice for me as I coach others through this all the time with great success but when the demons turn up it is easy to forget the basics and get things out of perspective.
Living on a sailboat is a constant changing environment, thorough planning ahead and honest calm communication help keep my fears at bay. For example, we will discuss the plan and I repeat the plan in my own words to ensure I have interpreted correctly what was said. We will consider alternatives and what ifs, that way we are better equipped to change the plan quickly should the need arise. We have our roles on the boat and have yet to swap them around but I know that we both need to be able to turn our hand to every task as we are a team of two and what happens if we are a man down, so to speak.
Relationships mature, change and so does the learning. Be kind to each other, review your goals often and ensure you are both going in the same direction, most of all understand each other’s why!
Take care of each other, until the next time.
Tanya Moxon, a lady with a deep-seated fear of the sea but here she is pushing back on conventional life and enjoying a full-time life upon the open seas. Tanya is the founder of Fearless Feat Ltd, a leadership coaching company who supports others to perform at their best.