The cruising life tests every relationship. “One year of matrimonial bliss on the sea is like seven on land” is an adage that rings especially true after weeks on the water, cramped in a cabin with no one but your significant other to hear your complaints.
Unlike living in a house, where it’s easy to step out for a walk when you find your spouse grating, living at anchor means the only options are to commandeer the tender or jump in the ocean and swim with sharks. Frankly, those can be better alternatives than staying aboard when your husband has yet again forgotten to close the door of the head while taking his morning constitutional. Marriage: It’s full of romance.
Luckily, my husband and I are a lot alike. In fairness to him, I also forget to close the door of the head. But our similarities go beyond our bad habits. For starters, we’re the same Myers-Briggs personality type, meaning we see the world through the same glasses—in our case, foggy, rose-tinted Coke bottles.
Myers-Briggs is a popular test that determines whether you’re more introverted (I) or extroverted (E); intuitive (N) or sensing (S); feeling (F) or thinking (T); or perceiving (P) or judging (J). Your either/or for each category combines into a four-letter code indicating which of the 16 personality types you’re most like. Based on a theory by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, and developed by two Americans (mother-and-daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers), the test has been criticized as pseudoscience, though many who take it find their results scarily accurate. It can shed light into what makes your partner tick. It can even help you better understand yourself. I, for one, became much gentler with myself when I realized my deficiencies were merely the result of my personality flaws.
As INFPs, my husband and I are introverted, big-picture thinkers bored by details. We’re motivated by emotions over logic, and we prefer to act spontaneously and go with the flow instead of fleshing out specifics and sticking to a plan. As travel companions, this can have devastating consequences. We dream of exotic voyages, but neither of us care to carve out particulars. We act on whims, skew to the impractical, and spend a lot of time in our heads even when we’re out exploring the world.
With such impulsive tendencies and vivid imaginations, there’s little wonder why we abandoned our corporate lives for cruising without any concrete map of our destinations, timelines or regard for what’s next. With a vessel that can brave choppy waves and mighty winds—our Nordhavn 40—and a passive business income that allows us to roam, ours is an approach to boating we’re thankful to be able to take.
Our laissez-faire itinerary can leave others perplexed, especially when we’re unable to answer simple questions like, “Where are you going?” and “How long are you going for?” They gape when my husband reveals that he bought our motoryacht without first telling me—his live-in girlfriend at the time.
Fortunately, my inner INFP readily adapted to his marine passions. Fueled by romantic visions of the sea, I left my job and we tied the knot, saying “I do” on our bow before untying our lines for a cruising adventure. Exactly what that adventure would be, we weren’t sure, but we promised to figure it out together.
While two free-spirited INFPs make good mates, I can easily see how we’d benefit from having an ESTJ—our exact opposite Myers-Briggs personality type—on our crew, albeit we’d likely drive him nuts. ESTJs are extroverted, detail-oriented, logical planners. They’d have no problem making small talk at the dock to figure out good places to eat in foreign ports. They’d construct spreadsheets to organize stores of provisions and call signs for marinas. Tasks like these thrill an ESTJ, while just thinking about them makes me cringe.
Maybe with an ESTJ aboard, we wouldn’t have failed to achieve our grander ambitions, like our intended honeymoon. Following our wedding ceremony on Lake Superior, our goal was to abscond to the Caribbean via America’s river systems, winding down from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. Procrastinating on our departure date, we faced harrowing autumn winds while crossing the largest freshwater lake in the world. By the time we arrived at the southeast tip of Gitchi-Gami, we found ourselves demoralized with weather-frayed nerves, the infamous gales of November closing in on our stern.
Our come-to-Jesus moment fittingly happened at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, within walking distance of our vessel moored at Whitefish Point State Dock under a blanket of fresh Michigan snow. Coming face-to-face with the lakes’ history of shipwrecks, including that of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, sobered our aspirations.
As though by divine intervention, we ran into a captain at the museum who was taking his research tug to Drummond Island Yacht Haven on Lake Huron for storage. We called the next day and, miraculously, the marina had room for us in a heated garage. It also could accommodate a haul out.
Tails between our legs, we drove back to our home in Calgary, Canada, for a bone-chilling winter. While I had anticipated suntanning at a tropical anchorage, a fruity drink with a mini-umbrella garnish in my hand, I found myself shoveling snow in minus 30 degrees Celsius weather. It’s not what I had in mind for my first year of newlywed “funemployment,” but at least we didn’t sink our ship.
Recently, we found ourselves at risk of another winter spent iced-in on the Great Lakes, as we exited the last lock of the Erie Canal wearing puffy down jackets. We had only three days to spare before the waterway closed for the season. I’d say we cut it too close for comfort, except we’re INFPs and accustomed to flying by the seat of our pants.
There are advantages to our laid-back approach to travel, especially given our choice of boat: a trawler. With an average speed of 7 knots, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. We make the most out of impassable weather and mechanical delays, finding adventure in the mundane. I never thought I’d spend most of my honeymoon voyage tied up to a public dock in Hancock, Michigan, on the Keweenaw Waterway, seeking refuge from 25-foot waves on Lake Superior, but with the town’s majestic autumn landscapes, even my INFP imagination couldn’t have dreamed up a more romantic setting.
Our cruising love story is unpredictable, but it’s one I’m grateful to author.