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Don’t you crave more privacy on the boat?

By The Ithaka - Published November 24, 1999 - Viewed 982 times

Don’t you crave more privacy on the boat?

“How do you guys manage to live with each other, day in and day out, in such a small space, without killing each other?” asks Hillary S. “Don’t you ever crave a little privacy?”

From Bernadette :   In our old lives, we each went off to work every day, had our own unique experiences, and returned home to see one another for dinner. Sure, we had weekends together, where we did a few errands and projects – often alone – then went to the movies together, met friends in restaurants or at each others’ homes. And every few months we’d take a vacation. Well, on a cruising boat, all those bets are off. It’s 24-7, and that can be an overwhelming amount of togetherness all at once, especially when combined with the pressures of the first live-aboard year, when you’re learning all about the boat and about cruising. Sometimes the fur flies, and it’s often just over a careless word, or, as one of our cruising friends describes it, too much “face time” with your loved one. Jerry Seinfeld once said, “It’s only since I got married that I learned that I had ‘a tone.’”  Well, if you really want to learn about the importance of tone, move aboard a cruising boat!

Real privacy is hard to achieve on a boat, plus privacy seems to mean different things to men than it does to women. The female of the species, by and large, craves more private time to attend to ourselves, while the fellows seem able to release their hold on old decorums fairly easily. I remember once, out on Glover’s Reef, Belize, I snorkeled through what must have been a world convention of microscopic jellyfish spores, called Pico-Pico in Belize by the local fishermen. The result was a full-body rash and constellation of welts that made me crazed with itching for five days. To make matters worse, our friend Paul was visiting from the States for 10 days, making our compact 39-footer feel about 10 feet smaller.

One evening, while I was in the full bloom of Pico Pico, Paul and Douglas sat in the cockpit chatting after dinner, and I took the opportunity for some rare moments of privacy and a little space and ducked below into the main saloon to strip down to my underpants, itch, wash my skin, and daub the white greasy cortisone ointment on my spots for some temporary relief. Douglas came below to refill his drink and, trying to be helpful, picked up the ointment and began patting it onto my arm, while I worked on my legs.

 “Thanks, honey,” I said as nicely as I could, “but, really, I got it. Go on back up with Paul for awhile, OK?”

Too late. Just then, Paul came below. “Take a look at this,” Douglas said to him, switching on the overhead light so that they could better see my back.

“Ouch,” said Paul, examining my rash of welts. “That’s hideous.”

“Hey, guys!” I cried, grabbing my shirt and groping to shut off the flood light. “Do you mind? I’m feeling like a lab chimp here.”

They looked at me quizzically, shrugged at each other, and climbed back into the cockpit, finally leaving me and my spots in peace. Such are the small dramas of privacy on a 39-foot boat, enacted every day, in different iterations, until there are very few secrets left between you and your partner (and your guests). It’s just something you have to get used to.

One thing I like to do, to get some private time, is go off by myself once in awhile. I’ll take the dinghy ashore to the vegetable market, if we’re near a town. Or I’ll take the kayak for a ride to the beach, or go ashore for a walk. If Douglas wants to go ashore, instead of going together all the time, as we usually do, occasionally I’ll stay on board and just be quietly alone with whatever project I’ve got going on. These are small moments, that we keep all to ourselves, but they serve us well as we negotiate the delicate dance of full-time liveaboard cruising.

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