Keeping Romance Alive while Cruising | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Keeping Romance Alive while Cruising

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores2

Thirty years ago this week Paul and I did a bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands with some school friends and decided we were going to get married and fulfill our dream of building a boat and going cruising.

After launching our first boat, Two-Step in 1988, the Classic 37 we built together.

And we are back in the British Virgin Islands this week celebrating this decision! We're here on board our third boat, our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, having sailed 100,000 nautical miles and completed 5 transatlantic crossings over the years that we've spent visiting and documenting our experiences for television in countries in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Scandinavia as well as South and North America. So much to celebrate!

"But how can you two spend so much time in a small space and still get along?!" we are often asked.

The secret? Romance!

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores4
September 21, 2014, we celebrated 25 years of international cruising together

I thought that since it is Valentine's Day today, the topic of how to keep romance alive while cruising might be an interesting one. It is a topic that isn't discussed very much since when you start planning a cruise you tend to get deep into studies of safety and survival. As instructors and course designers for the Extended Cruising course (initially the Offshore Cruising course) of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, Canada's largest boating safety and navigation training institution, Paul and I know and respect the importance of building skills to prevent accidents on the water and gaining knowledge to deal with emergencies at sea should they arise.

However, from our observations, the thing that destroys people's dreams of sailing off into the sunset more than improper safety procedures is that, as they get into the execution of their cruising plans, they forget about the Romance with which the dream is usually born - thoughts of sailing off into the sunset with a loved one across turquoise seas with no schedule, of candlelit dinners together in the cockpit anchored in an idyllic bay watching the sun set, feeling warm trade wind breezes on their faces, the excitement of arriving at a new exotic port after a well-executed passage together, walking hand in hand along deserted golden sand beaches…

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores5
A beach to ourselves at Atwood Harbour, Aklins Island, Bahamas

Instead they get mired in lists of equipment, gear and provisions that focus on getting through storms at sea. (Lists that don't include packing sexy lingerie so you can play out your fantasies with the one you love on an adventure of a lifetime!) Freedom is the goal but when they get out there they can't give up scheduling every minute, they stick to plans that don't go with the flow or even suit the weather and just make things miserable for themselves and their crew. Where's the romance in that?

Romance gets you through a lot of bad times and, I have to say, along with all the amazing wonderful enriching experiences there will be challenging times in the cruising lifestyle. You are more affected by weather and cultural differences and language barriers and equipment breakdowns and you don't know where to get things since you're always in new places and you don't have your car to make things easy and something as simple as laundry can take the whole day plus a host of other issues you don't even think about at home.

But a Romantic attitude can minimize troubles and prevent things from coming between you and your mate.

Planning for Romance starts with showing super consideration for another person - remembering to always say thank you for the nice things they do for you, slowing down if they are feeling rushed or insecure (cruising is a whole new lifestyle after all), respecting their fears even if unfounded and finding ways to make them feel comfortable, safe and loved. Never putting them down or making fun of them in public, especially with new people you're meeting as you travel. Making nice gestures such as letting them sleep a little longer when they're off-watch and the weather is crummy. Going out of your way to find foods they like in foreign ports and cooking their favourite meals or taking them out to dinner now and then.

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores6
Dinner out and dancing to the steel band at Deadman's Beach Bar, British Virgin Islands

Not asking them to work at the chart table or down in the galley when the boat is pitching uncomfortably. Turning back to port even if "everyone else is going" when your mate isn't happy with the conditions. Giving them "alone time" when they need it which is more often when you're living in a small space such as a boat. Tolerating their friends who are necessary to their happiness. Creating a budget that allows them to call home often to stay in touch with family and friends if that's important to them.

Romance seems to go hand and hand with a sense of adventure and making things fun and exciting. Paul and I have a lot of fun together! And we are constantly finding ways to have a good time together and looking at situations to make them fun. When one of us gets upset about something we try to defuse the situation with humour. Life is too short to hold a grudge or stew in anger. And when you're cruising there are so many exciting beautiful things to share together each and every day that you don't want to waste a minute being angry with one another. Keeping that in perspective really makes a difference.

So if you're planning a cruise or are in the midst of one that you're losing your enthusiasm for, think of ways you can add a sense of romance and adventure. Plan celebrations that show your loved one you appreciate him/her and the new things that cruising is bringing to your lives. Surprise them by fulfilling a few of their fantasies!

How about you? What are your favourite ways to make things Romantic and keep things Fun with your Sweetheart? I urge you to start thinking of things and becoming more Romantic today. It does make life delightful…

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores3

Happy Valentine's Day!

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