Building A Lasting
Love Boat

Edited By Ann Dermody
Published: October/November 2011

Last October we ran an article by Lin Pardey, one half of the boating world's most famous cruising couple, offering advice on how to get your partner to love your boat and boating as much as you do. It elicited a great response among readers, and we've picked some of the best, funniest, and most poignant for your enjoyment below.

For Lin's original article, go to

Photo of couple in a powerboat (rearview)

Where He Wants To Be

I could tell you that my wife Kay's passion for boating lovingly parallels mine as we approach nearly 25 years of marriage, 20 of which have been engaged in some form of sailing on the Great Lakes in Michigan. But in order to do that I would have to ignore the fact that I signed her up for her first sailing lesson on Lake St. Clair when she was eight months pregnant with our firstborn son, Will. I would also have to leave out the fact that I was sailing with my friend Rich a month later (when she was six days overdue with the same firstborn), when she went into active labor. This was at a time when cell phones were a novelty and the size of footballs, and I thought I had taken all the necessary precautions as an attentive husband. I had borrowed a cellphone so my wife could reach me. I called her before we got underway. I left her the phone number of a friend nearby who could race over if needed. And I'd asked the attending physician lots of questions during her last pre-natal visit.

Photo of Ron & Kay Stefanski

The one precaution I overlooked was choosing not to sail at all that day! So it should be no surprise that I disregarded the fact that her doctor that morning was a 28-year-old male who had never experienced birth before (nor had any biological basis in experience) when I asked him if it was okay for me to venture out sailing that day. "Sure, this is her first child, this baby may not be here for awhile," he said.

That was enough of an endorsement for me. My friend Rich and I headed off to the marina, and it never occurred to me that her doctor might be measuring "not for awhile" in minutes rather than days. A few hours later the harbormaster showed up at the boat as we were pulling into the slip and yelled, "Haven't you been answering your cellphone? Your wife called and went into labor." Rich got me home at speeds that nearly exceeded the laws of physics, and I got Kay to the hospital on time.

It should come as no shock to your readers (certainly those of the smarter sex) then, that I thought I was "off the hook" when we arrived, but an even deeper pit formed in my stomach when the nurse said to Kay, "good news, we're ready to go!" in a cheery voice, followed by, "of course, it's too late for drugs, we're going to do this naturally today!"

I would like to believe I am smarter today, but I still consider it a monumental blessing that Kay remains on speaking terms with me, and also happily married 20 years later (so she says). I also think that sailing happily into the sunset, as a couple, is often a triumph of hope over experience.

I can remember the soft grounding we had outside the Metropolitan Beach Marina just as Will was ready to nurse that first summer, and the generosity of strangers that came and pulled us off the sandbar. Whether I remember the high-pitched screaming of a hungry infant or the simple joy of sun-brewed iced tea afterward, watching our newborn fast asleep as we listened to Maynard Ferguson's "Sunday Morning" is a choice my memory allows me make. It is also the choice that defines whether or not we are better off watching life pass us by on the horizon from our cockpit, contemplating the next adventure, or at home watching life from the television. What lingers in my memory is that somehow our marriage survived both toddlers, and my numerous snafus, as an inexperienced helmsman. What Kay has taught me about staying happily married invariably means being a good sport a lot of the time, often despite her better judgment.

Three years ago, on the eve of an economic downturn, Kay said to me, "You know, you need to stop talking about buying a boat (instead of continuing to lease) and just do it."

Months later, anchored in a quiet cove on the south arm of Lake Charlevoix on our 38-foot Beneteau, Tres Joli, I asked her why she wanted to spend our disposable income on a boat rather than countless other things. She said, "I like the way you are on a boat, and that's the guy I enjoy being with the most." What exactly did she like? The fact that I'm far more tidy aboard our boat than I am at home? That I am slightly less absent-minded onboard than ashore? Or that I am far more content doing work, repairs, or just hanging out with our sons and friends aboard Tres Joli than almost anywhere else on the planet?


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