The Space Ship


Lisa and I sold our family home in 2005 and have been living on our boat full time (mostly) since that spring. It has not always been as easy as it is today. We’ve learned through trial and error, as well as experience, how to provide each other with our own personal space while also making sure we create some time away from one another. The benefit of our diligent work resulted in making Kismet seem larger than she really is.

Like most couples, before retirement we worked all week during boating season, while immersing ourselves into our boating hobby on the weekends. We’d also plan several long weekends and our summer vacation around boating, as time to explore the Great Lakes waters. Because of our working/boating lifestyle we had plenty of personal space, time away from each other, once we stepped off of the boat. We each had our careers, Lisa in graphic design and I in the financial services industry. Our home also provided the needed roominess, which provided a sanctuary from one another, whether we recognized it at the time, or not.

While anchored out I’d often dinghy ashore to explore the surrounding area. This secluded spot is at Crocker Island in Canada’s North Channel

Prior to 2005, before retirement, 40 percent of our time was spent away from each other at work or personal interests outside of the home. Lisa and I spent 60 percent of our time together enjoying each other’s company, however half of that time was spent sleeping. So when you boil it down we actually only spent 30 percent of our waking hours together. We had plenty of personal space and we loved our time together.

Before we departed Charlevoix, in September of 2005, on our first Great Loop adventure, this personal time was completely monopolized with preparing our house to put up for sale, preparing for the Loop (more on that in a later log), selling and moving out of the house, plus phasing out of my career into retirement. We never gave much thought to being together on a boat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At least I didn’t. However Lisa probably agonized over this for some time, as I can be a little smothering – I think, in a good way.

Lisa had retired a couple of years prior to me, had developed her own daily routine that did not include my input or me. She managed just fine without me. I’m sure she had a few pangs of doubt about suddenly having me around 100 percent of the time, with all my thoughts and directives about how things (which managed to get done before my retirement) could maybe get done better, faster, more cost effectively. Lisa often still says, “Now that Jim has left his job as manager of his office, I’m the next closest thing on target!”

While in Waterford, New York, at the start of the Erie Canal, I’m returning from an outing that had provided Lisa and me some personal space.

After this flurry of pre-Loop activity, Lisa and I went directly to final Loop preparations and didn’t have the luxury of any down time before we started to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with each other. Because of the excitement of starting a new adventure and visiting new ports of call, it felt like we were in the honeymoon phase of our Great Loop.

We’re a couple quite devoted to one another, and have only rare disputes. So, when the boat seemed like it was starting to shrink, when the oxygen level seemed like it was depleting and we were becoming lightheaded with space anxiety, we became alarmed. A red flag went up, the one that signified that we had a problem to solve.

Not only had Lisa and I become a brand new out of the box, newly minted 24/7 couple, we now found ourselves on a boat with few places where we could find solitude. All of a sudden my quirkiness for being overly neat and tidy was starting to bother Lisa. Truth be told, it probably always did a little. It’s difficult keeping a boat orderly all the time. Lisa’s tendency to start one project, leave it sit to start another one was likewise starting to gnaw at me, Mr. Neat-And-Tidy.

Lisa and I had to wait in Carrabelle, Florida, for several days for a good weather opening before crossing the Gulf to Tarpon Springs. We took advantage of the time to make a much-needed run to the Laundromat.

We all have our own idiosyncrasies that go unnoticed when you really only spend 30 percent of your waking hours together. Not counting sleeping we were instantly spending 75-percent face time together. That was twice as much time to potentially annoy one another. What’s that old proverb, that we must be careful of too much of a good thing? Hmm.

Lisa has always been very good at addressing situations head on, without delay, and our shrinking-boat dilemma was no exception. Less then 10 days into our Loop trip, Lisa said, “We need to talk” -- words every guy loves to hear.

During our sit-down conversation we agreed that we needed to find a way to provide each other some personal space on a daily basis. In reality this is very healthy for any relationship,. However providing personal space can be difficult in a 600-square-foot floating home, especially on travel days when we had no shore access. Our challenge was set, we needed to find ways for both of us to regain some individual time and space.

Lisa and I each read a large number of books while Looping. We found reading to be very relaxing and the most enjoyable while anchored. Reading also provided some personal time.

We set some ground rules to help make both our lives more pleasant. The residual benefit of more personal time resulted in making our boat seem larger. We were able to find more to talk about, since we’d spent some time apart, and were gaining separate experiences that we could now share.

Prior to our space problem, when at the dock, Lisa and I used the marina shower facilities (our own shower was being used for storage). Our daily routine was to go up to the bathhouse at the same time. It was a slight change but we agreed to make the shower journey independent of one another therefore creating a two-hour window of alone time for each of us.

Also helpful for us was defining boat chores. We realized during our discussion that most of Lisa’s daily chores were inside and mine were outside of the boat or in the engine room. It was beneficial for a harmonious relationship for us to let each other manage our own chores. This was very difficult for me as I have a tendency to “manage” Lisa, but in the end we were successful.

Lisa and I anchored out 35 percent of the time, here in the North Channel of Canada. If we hadn’t resolved our shrinking-boat situation, these types of anchorages wouldn’t have been as pleasurable.

The further we traveled the more people we met who were also on the Loop. Often times when we’d get to port the guys would get together and discuss anchorages, navigation hazards, routes, and weather. If the marina where we were staying had loaner cars, the guys would often make runs to the local marine store for the much-needed toilet paper, charts, or engine oil. These types of meetings and errands built friendships, provided Looper camaraderie and for Lisa and me it gave us a little more personal space.

As we met more Loopers we found we were not alone in our 24/7 tension-filled travels. I recall locking through several locks with another boating couple. As we’d come into a lock and secure our lines, the fun would start,. The other boat was always in front of us so Lisa and I had a good front-row seat to witness their antics.

I’m off exploring, as I love to do whenever I can. This time just happens to be without Lisa, however most of the time we’re sightseeing together.

It would start when the woman would yell at her husband to pull the line in on the bow (she was trying to keep the like-new fenders from touching the lock walls). As soon as this happened the stern would kick out away from the lock wall. He’d yell at her to pull in the stern line and then the bow would go out. Around the second volley of line pulling, she’d start going ballistic with the poor guy for doing what she was asking him to do. This went on for about five locks, and although they were clearly not having a good time, Lisa and I found some humor in their troubles. I guess by this time in the trip we’d learned to relax.

Humor was also helpful to relieve or prevent tension in our new 24/7 boating world. We met a couple who told us about one of their rules of engagement for boating that we found humorous. They told us that they had to have a boat with wood doors. Puzzled, we asked why. They said they had to have wood doors on their boat so that when one of them got mad at the other they’d have something to slam shut.

During their first year of boating full-time, they said, the door was slammed hard three times. During the second year it slammed gently only twice. The third year was quiet. Their message was that over time they learned to adjust so they could survive and thrive in such a small space and not take everything so seriously. They tried to see the humor in what they were experiencing and we learned from them.

After 5,900 miles of Great Loop travel, learning how to share our boat and provide each other personal space became second nature. Here we are at Mackinaw Island, one of favorite ports and just two days from Loop completion.

Once we had all our new strategies in place and began to implement them, we found we were not getting on each other’s nerves quite as often. By my working a little more diligently at not trying to manage Lisa, and relaxing on my neat-and-tidy fetish, by Lisa keeping her projects more organized along with each of us working at providing the other some private time, our trip was becoming more enjoyable. We returned to our happy, caring selves.

Our new routine of providing personal space worked out so well during the balance of our 2005-06 Loop that we recently decided to venture out for a two-year Loop adventure. Life really has gotten easier on our boat for Lisa and me, but it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t provided some space for each other the first time around