Most of us have been in relationships. Most of us have been, or have thought we were, in love once or twice. Most of us have been around, traveled and had our adventures. But I am starting to think that having a relationship on a boat in the middle of the sea is the most beautiful adventure of all. It’s love in its most tangible form. It’s the ultimate proof that men and women have been made to look, think, act and feel differently for a very specific reason: we complement each other in wonderful ways. Life gets a lot easier when we get together with the right one.
On a boat there is no room for any other thing other than real, brave, honest love. And it only works for water and freedom lovers. Everything else will fall apart. Because it is a 24/7 intense self-exploring and sharing experience, with nearly no distractions, that many times begins on day one. It either is the right person and the right lifestyle for you or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, it is clear from the start. You can ignore the signs but time will still prove it to you no matter how long or how hard you try to make it work. Don’t waste your time, just move on with your life, all people are different and good things come to us only when we are ready for them. All relationships are hard at times of course because humans are complex beings. But when it works it just does and it will fit you like a glove. You’ll be ready and glad to do what it takes and it will be the easiest, smartest choice you’ve ever made.
I’ve been wanting to write about my experience on Splendid and was wondering which of the million things I learn and realize every day might be interesting or helpful for others. Since Alex has been writing about the lifestyle for so long, and so thoroughly, I believe the only point of me using this space would be to bring in the view of the woman, the wife, the female traveler who joins in, with all that entails. Or what I learn from other women I meet; their dreams, hopes, stories and opinions. Things Alex might not see, hear about or be interested in. I’m usually long-winded but it is because I like to explore ideas as deeply as I can when I get inspired by them and that is why I don’t write very often. There will be really long ones I think, but only once in a while. Hope you don’t mind.
I do not intend to write solely about love, of course. But it’s striking to see how many stories there are of heartbreak and loneliness in the sailing community and how one can also see, in similar numbers, the most beautiful, amazing, committed, fun, healthiest couples (mind, body and soul).
On the other hand -elephant in the room alert- I’m only writing this now because I’m Mr. Dorsey’s girlfriend so I feel relationships might be a logical topic to start with. I know there’s everything under the sun, but for obvious reasons (I’ve only been part of this lifestyle for a couple of months) I’m going to make a big generalization today and talk about the things I have actually experienced and discussed with people around me: what happens when a woman moves in with a man sailor. When I get to know more about women sailors or the gay community on the sea, of course I will be writing about them too.
Same as Alex, I believe that one can have a full happy life (and a dreadful horrible one for that matter) either alone or with a partner. I never bought the Cinderella conditioning premise. Free strong-willed women do not need to be rescued. They can be perfectly content on their own. But neither do they need to compete with men or try to become more like them. A strong woman will ask a man for help when she needs it in the same way a strong man will have no problem following a woman’s advice in the matters she is better suited for.
This is the type of connection a boat usually brings about, it’s like time-travel. You spend most of the time together, working as a team. The man goes spear-fishing while his woman swims and snorkels around. He is in charge of tightening the rigging or getting full of grease on the floor of the scorching engine room while the woman chooses clever ways to store things, does the dishes or cleans after her lover once the mechanical problem has been solved and the room seems to have been blown up by a grenade. What’s so wrong about that? Why would you get offended when he goes on the dinghy first and holds out his hand to help you step on it safely?
I guess it takes a strong woman, who knows she could fly a helicopter or play the tuba if she so wished, to happily be the one doing the dishes everyday, looking at the horizon or a dolphin swimming by, without feeling she is being exploited or underestimated. Would you really rather get your hands burnt and cut in the filthy engine room? Or work out and take steroids for some time so that you can actually tighten the rigging properly? Would you rather go out and get a job as a stock broker or a butcher? Men and women are not the same and thank goodness for that.
With no intention to offend anyone of course it seems to me that irate feminists got the whole Cinderella business wrong. Of course you don’t want to clean for your nasty step-mum and sisters waiting to be rescued by some dumb rich prick who will only look at you if you first spend a fortune on clothes and beauty treatments and rent a limo. But what’s so wrong about romance, about enjoying a man’s protection and becoming his most beautiful, cherished possession? Why would you want to be the one riding the horse with the cape, hunting animals and chopping down trees? What’s so wrong about secretly putting some eucalyptus oil in his t-shirt drawer, surprising him with a slice of warm and crunchy banana cake in bed or making his coffee every morning for one, two or five decades?
My first advice for sailors looking for a girlfriend to bring on board is this: do not try to rescue a Cinderella in distress, no matter how pretty and helpless she looks because fairy tales suck. After the honeymoon is over she will want expensive clothes and beauty treatments to feel loved and to hire a maid to feel respected as a woman. Unbalanced relationships very rarely change. This might sound silly and obvious but have the guts to choose a woman you actually admire and want to be around. Or else buy a real doll, you know in the end it will be cheaper and save you from a lot of stress.
All the happy couples I’ve met in the sea are made up of a strong skilled man and a strong self-confident woman. And I mean ALL OF THEM. The cocky arrogant self-admiring insecure men are on their own and the over-produced money or security seeking women do not stay happy for too long in these anchorages. If you’re looking for happiness, you can’t bring a woman to live on your boat because she is pretty, 40 years younger and still looks interested in you or because she looks vulnerable and you want to save her. The pretty young one will most probably soon become the most boring company you’ve ever had and expect to be paid for her services somehow and the weak one will soon feel lonely and want to go back to her old life on the land surrounded by people, noise and entertainment. If you treat women as beautiful objects, they will feel and behave as such. And if you treat them as a project you can fix, they will feel unappreciated and slowly drift away from you. Wanting to help somebody cannot be the reason why you choose a life partner. It is another form of love called compassion which is a very different thing.
It takes courage for anybody to have a real relationship, with someone your own size, who can learn from you as much as you can learn from them. It’s not easy to go for the strong one who can live happily without you and who can see your weaknesses beyond the stories of triumph you even tell yourself. Because first you have to be able to see these flaws you have and accept them. But this will be the only partner who will love you for who you really are and not try to change you. They will find the best way to put up with your weak traits because they have seen them all along and still chosen you, from all people, to spend their lives with.
I know there are sailors who say they are real loners and prefer to be on their own. But I think it is because of their bad experiences. They have stopped believing there is a woman out there for them, who might love them just the way they are and will not ask them to stop sailing, or buy land, or get a job. Read Alex’s last blog from January 9, three days before we met, it is pretty funny. He titled it “2012, I am who I am” and he just wrote about that among other New Year resolutions. He mentioned he had been stopped by the police with the motorcycle and would be taking the bus to the city. I arrived to Panama for the first time in my life the next day, January 10 and went for dinner with two friends. I just told them the same thing: “all I want to do is travel, I am 36 already, time goes by and I don’t want to stop. I still don’t want a house and a dog, it’s really hard for me to find a man that will like me the way I am. I think I’m too complicated to have a relationship. I’ve gotten used to being on my own and I’m OK with that”. My friend Nedelka, a couple of years older than me and still single as well, told me she did not agree. That it was a matter of finding the right person. It’s funny though Alex and I, nearly on the same day, publicly declared we had finally accepted ourselves for who we really were; that we were happy with the path we had chosen, even if it meant we had to be on our own. We met in Sabanitas two days later, on January 12, rode the chicken bus together and tossed the happy loner theory out the window, not without a few friends laughing in our face and making us eat our words. Be true to yourself and wait for the right one.
Have the courage to look for a woman who is similar to you, who looks happy and content, who has fun with you, who likes swimming, travelling, reading, cooking… Someone who will challenge some of the things you believe in and help you become a better man. If she decides to become part of your life, she will choose you and your boat with her eyes wide open. If she tells you she loves the sea, she does. There will be no surprises. She does not need to sell you anything. If she is not happy, she will swim to shore herself.
Now my advice for those women wondering whether you want to take the plunge and move into the boat is the following: you will have to accept that, no matter how much he loves you, a sailor cannot leave his boat for you. You either take both or none. It’s not an easy idea to accept at first and it will feel like an imposition. Don’t be silly and see the whole picture for what it is. He is not being pig-headed, he most probably just can’t live on land anymore without feeling sick or depressed. A sailor’s life has so much freedom and such close contact to nature that they really can’t survive without it.
You have to love the sea, you have to love travelling and having a simple life to even consider getting involved with one of these lovely, sensitive, skilled, free-thinking creatures. If you’re trying to be saved from what you don’t like about yourself or the life around you or if you’re not strong enough to step up to the plate, take a good look at your heart and see whether this is a choice and a man you could actually live with for the rest of your life just save you both the trouble and leave him alone. He won’t change for you. Let’s hope so, anyway.
But if you feel this life might actually be right for you, and you’ve met a man you are interested in, who sees you and loves you for who you are, who is not afraid to be sweet, kind and protective and invites you to try and live in the sea with him, don’t think twice and go for it. As long as you are honest with him and with yourself all the way there is no harm in trying. Who cares how long you last together? If you both put your heart and soul into it and give it a real chance, even if it doesn’t work out you can only grow from the experience and become better people, more aware of who you are and what you want.
I can assure you if it does work out you’ll discover a relaxed, healthy, safe, exciting wonderful life you did not even think was possible. The true, simple, happy ending fairy tales never told us about.
Note: I finished writing this very late last night while Alex was sleeping. Now’s 8.30 am the next day. He came in the room a minute ago and told me: “Good morning my love. I have just made you tea and apple pancakes and I want you to just stay in bed because I’m going to give you a leg massage before breakfast to show you how much I appreciate you living here with me. I want you to know you’re the best girlfriend in the world”.
I swear. Jackpot or what?