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THE VIEW FROM THE MARINA: Couples Counseling Afloat, A New Course?

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Vic and I have been thinking about renaming the Basic Powerboating course at Florida Sailing & Cruising School. We’re considering something like Marriage Counseling for Boaters 101 or maybe Couples Counseling Afloat.


We have come to this opinion over time as we have noted that students in this popular course often bring up the issue of poor communications between the skipper and the crew.

The Basic Powerboating course – there’s one scheduled almost every month – is a three-day course here at our headquarters at Marinatown Marina in North Ft. Myers. It combines classroom and on the vessel instruction, including hands-on practice. The instructors tell me some students seem to pay especially close attention to the discussion about knot and line-handling and they would not be surprised if someone were to ask how to tie the hangman’s knot.

We do not teach the hangman’s knot. The cost of the Basic Powerboating course is not enough to cover extra legal fees to defend against a charge of accessory to murder.

One student said that if that, “…if that jerk at the wheel didn’t lower his/her voice, he/she was going to rope his/her neck, not the piling…” As you’ll note, I’m not naming names, pointing fingers or even suggesting whether the jerk is a man or a woman. Feel free to draw your own mental pictures.

On the other end of the scale our instructors hear comments like this one. “Boy, I can’t wait to tell my Fred. He’s been doing it all wrong.” Fortunately, most of the comments we hear more closely echo Fred’s wife.

Skippers who shout abuse from on high are really few and far between, in my experience. For those, instead of a boating course, an anger management course or three might be in order.

Nevertheless, all skippers should periodically ask themselves how they would measure up against the high standard of being a good skipper. According to Charles F. Chapman in Piloting, a good skipper knows his job so well he or she doesn’t have to think about the details of doing it. A good skipper thinks ahead, is vigilant and knows the capabilities of the crew.


Skipper, if you measure up, good for you. But, either way, in the interest of smoother communications on the vessel, we invite you to join your First Mate and other members of the crew and attend our Basic Powerboating course. You’ll all become better boaters and better on-board communicators.

It may turn out, however, that the proper diagnosis for some situations may require stronger medicine. Perhaps a little collaboration with Dr. Phil or somebody like that would be the right prescription, enabling us to tackle head-on this issue of marital communications on the boat. Shucks that could even be a new cable TV program.

Our working title for the new, advanced course is Courteous Couples Cruising. The goal would be for students to learn what is required of the Skipper and First Mate to communicate courteously and effectively with each other. Skippers and First Mates need to communicate effectively for the sake of safety. Skippers and First Mates need to communicate courteously for the sake of having fun together on the boat. That’s what it’s all about, right?

I’ll bet we could charge a lot for that course.

Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters and Florida Sailing and Cruising School, a live aboard yacht school. She can be contacted at, phone: 1-800-262-7939 or by visiting: