Breaking Down and Breaking Through

Many people are probably surprised to hear that after being together alone on a 35 ft sailboat since October 21, 2020, Robert still hasn’t thrown me over! AND, I haven’t thrown him over either! Many are also surprised that our 1986 boat hadn’t had any major problems. Both our relationship and the boat was going strong…At least until the last few weeks..

First the relationship…I think many of us have learned through our experiences with Covid that after too much “together time”, the personality quirks that we all have can become quite bothersome. No matter how much we love each other, those parts of each other that are sooo different, can sometimes be seen as “wrong” rather than just different. We can easily make up that we are each “fixed” in a given personality style and start collecting evidence to prove we are right.

My favorite personality “categorizer” is one I learned in leadership training. It can be found here:

The idea is that we ALL have a “home base” that we tend to go to when we’re in stressful situation but not that we’re “fixed” or stuck in any specific personality style. We can all learn new skills and new behaviors and develop new personality characteristics. We’re fluid individuals and it’s important that we don’t create “boxes” for each other that can keep growth from happening.

Robert and my home bases seem to be on the opposite 4 quadrants that we retreat to when under stress. When we remember to recognize and respect our differences, we can see that together, we make a terrific team! My “home base” straddles the controller/promotor sides of the quadrant. Robert tends to stick pretty squarely in the analytical quadrant but has some supporter tendencies also. It’s so important to acknowledge that none of these styles is better or worse than any other. They each have their strengths AND their weaknesses, just like every human being on the planet. Without controlling type leaders, not much would get done! Without the promotors, life would be much less fun. When a problem comes up, an analytical leader is just what is needed to work it through, and supporters are great at keeping people connected and feeling loved. There are many different ways to handle problems and many different ways that people think about events and priorities. When we can remember and respect that about each other, we get along much better.

One thing that helps me, when I remember to use it, is that when I start being bothered by the “way of being” or behavior of Robert, or another person, I stop and think about when and how I engage in that exact same behavior. I must be familiar with it if I recognize it. When I can see that trait in myself, I can understand it a little better. The other important thing for me is to communicate about it. If I can learn and understand WHY the person in front of me is behaving the way they are, it’s easier to respect it.

So, our relationship has had some breakdowns…And breakthroughs. We’ve learned more about each other and have developed a respect for the differences we have. One thing is for sure…There’s a common commitment to work out our breakdowns in a way that works for both of us.

The boat has also gone through some breakdowns. For the first 6 months things when pretty smoothly, We empathized with friends who had parts break, systems fail, and one who even damaged their boat when dragging into rocks! We knew it was just a matter of time before SOMETHING happened. We’d head that a large part of cruising was fixing boats in exotic places! Robert had prepared for most eventualities, carrying one or two extras of many parts and tools to fix whatever was needed. He learned the systems inside and out and was prepared but we hadn’t yet had to use any of it. Then all in one day we had 3 things breakdown. I made up that it was because Solveig didn’t want to leave this beautiful place any more than I did!

First, while were putting up the mainsail, one of the reefing lines got jammed in the boom and ripped the sail. It was a pretty old sail with lots of patches on it. We rarely used it because it’s a pain to use. We have to raise it from the deck because it’s so hard to get up. We have a complex cover for it that has to be taken off and the sail needs to be flaked and covered again at the end of the day. All in all, it’s often more work than it seems to be worth. Solveig sails nicely on the 150 Genoa so we usually just sail that. The breakthrough was that we called a placed referred by a friend and will be getting a brand new sail AND a stack pack which increases the likelihood that we’ll use the main in the future. It will glide nicely up it’s track, and flake itself into the stack pack when we drop it. No more need for the cumbersome cover!

The next thing that happened, on the very same day, was that all of a sudden a different sound was coming from the back of the boat and the engine temperature was rising rapidly. We immediately stopped the engine and sailed on the Genoa alone as Robert tried to figure out what was wrong. The first thing he checked was the raw water impeller. The blades looked perfect. The next thing he looked for was a blockage of the water coming into the boat to cool the engine. The strainer lid was stuck so tightly that he couldn’t remove it so he took the whole thing apart. Meanwhile, I’m sailing and calling out how close we are to the Highbourne Cay cut. 1 nautical mile, ½ a nautical mile… He had me turn on the engine and we found that bypassing the strainer STILL resulted in no water coming through the engine. We decided at that time that the best course of action was to go through the cut on sail power and find a place to anchor as quickly as possible. We pulled in the Genoa so it wasn’t so huge and to slow us down a bit and as soon as the anchor was dropped, dropped the sail too in order to stop the boat. We did it! We safely made it to anchor without a motor! Once we were safe, it was easier to problem solve. As Robert tried different things, I briefly started the engine to see the effects. He figured out that while the impeller looked good, it was stripped on the inside and was no longer spinning. He also discovered some unneeded parts of the strainer, and resolved to get a new one that could more easily be cleaned out, as soon as we get home. So, the breakthrough was learning new skills and expanding our knowledge base.

We had planned on celebrating our anniversary with dinner at the Highbourne Cay Marina and finally got the engine started and got in. They put us in a tight spot between two huge mega yachts and had a beautiful view of their anchor. When we plugged in, we had no power. And it was hot. Our neighbor yachts blocked every bit of breeze.

Robert went to problem solving again. The battery charger had power but none of the outlets worked so it had to be inside the boat. We pushed the trip breaker buttons on all the fixtures and nothing changed. Finally, just as Robert was about to tear everything out and check all the wiring, he realized the GFCI reset button just wasn’t pushed in hard enough. Easy fix. Whew! The Breakthrough was a reminder of Occam’s Razor- The simplest solution is most likely correct.

The restaurant was closed, and we were exhausted so we ate on the boat and went to sleep. We left early the next morning and had a beautiful sail on our Anniversary and a lovely dinner pool side at Palm Cay Marina. We hung out for 3 days, got some boat projects done, ate great meals that I didn’t have to cook, drank frozen concoctions and spent a whole day reading and relaxing at the pool. That’s MY kind of breakthrough!

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