What I Should Know…Now that I Live Full Time on a Sailboat

IMG_2445 jenniferbariniger

I’m finding out the hard way that I may be a fair-weather sailor girl. Although we have been doing this for many years on a part time basis, and I thought I knew a lot, I am finding out I don’t know near what I really need to know.

I believe in my heart that I can do everything the Captain can do, because at home that is pretty much true, and if not, I push through until I figure it out or come up with an acceptable work around. I can replace parts in dryers and stoves, I can change the oil and spark plugs in the car, use power tools, hang ceiling fans, trouble shoot the swimming pool equipment, and even drive to Pennsylvania, all by myself. But this kind of trial and error doesn’t seem to be working as well out here on the water.

We fall into roles of the things we generally do, household things are mine, and boat maintenance things are his. Cooking below is me, grilling is him. Cleaning the bottom, doing the laundry, shopping, repairs, and so on, all have basic owners. This has always worked on our short stints, but, as we work through our transition from part time to full time living-aboard, what we did for short periods of time is probably unfair going forward. Not to mention the list of things that I don’t always want to wait on the Captain to take care of for me is growing.

For example, I had to get my dinghy license when we first arrived. I always get a funny look when I say this, because everyone is afraid they missed a new law. In our world, “dinghy license” was the Captain’s blessing that I can handle the dinghy before I go off by myself. I was feeling trapped on the boat, now that we were no longer at a dock. When I complained about this, he took me out and pretty much made me pass a test, so I didn’t hurt myself, others or the boat. I have been driving the dingy every day for a month and a half and feel pretty comfortable and a lot less trapped.

Other examples of things I need to know aren’t quite that pretty, like the time I pushed the inverter button to use the microwave, while the generator was running. And yes, we have a system that doesn’t have a fault override for this mistake. I received 101 in electrical systems that sleepless night, until we were able to contact the manufacturer in the morning and find out if it was fixable. Fortunately, it was.

In my defense, I asked if there was anything in my world that would possibly lead me to believe that such a mistake could break an expensive piece of equipment. And the answer is no, but this is where I feel at a disadvantage to the Captain’s years of growing up in a sailing family and his mechanical/electrical skills, from 35 years with an electric utility.

Aside from going off to sailing, boat mechanic and captains license schools, how will I ever get all the knowledge I need? I have been giving this question a lot of thought, ever since the morning I drew myself a diagram of how the head piping and valves worked, because I was afraid I might accidently pump overboard when it needs to go to the holding tank.

Here are my categories of things I need to know:

  • Safety related.
  • Emergency response related.
  • Generally sharing the load.
  • I need to know how to do this. (If something happened to the Captain out at sea and I needed to get the boat back without the Coast Guard or Sea Tow.)
  • I want to know how to do this. (Because, I love sailing and living aboard, and I would like to know how to do it better.)

Here are my categories of things I don’t need (or don’t want) to know:

  • I can hire someone to do this
  • This is something the Captain does but isn’t necessary for everyone to do.

I don’t have all the categories or a list of all the things I need to know yet, but while we are in our second stage of transition, before we head off on the next leg or our adventure, I need to get more proactive about what I need to get up to speed with and not wait for it to be a crises of mistake.

I also know my main source of education will be my Captain, but I am asking these questions, and putting together my list, because sometimes when you know how to do things well, it doesn’t mean that you have a well laid out plan for transferring that knowledge.

If you have more experience at this than I do, or if you have any really good resources to help me in this endeavor, please comment below and help me along.

4 thoughts on “What I Should Know…Now that I Live Full Time on a Sailboat

  1. Jennifer: I have no advice and can only commiserate. I so feel your pain! All things boat-related are second nature to Steve. How he knows all this stuff is beyond me. I, too, had to draw a head diagram. It’s on a pink index card taped to the holding tank.

    Steve says I’ve learned a lot but I think he’s just being nice.

    S/V FNR

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marci, I’m pretty sure I’ll not get to his level, but I’m going to work hard at getting more comfortable! And I’m sure you are learning much more than you think. Thank you so much for keeping up with us and our blog, I really appreciate it. Have you made Marineland yet?


      • You’re welcome! Enjoying the blog!! We were in Marineland last weekend cleaning up FNR. Eric let us leave our truck there. Very nice place!! We began moving south on Tuesday. We’re in Melbourne for a couple of day waiting for the rain to pass. Had wanted to spend a couple of days on a ball in Vero but it looks like the winds are going to be picking up and Steve’s not real keen on rafting with 2 or 3 other boats. We may skip Vero this time and go straight to Stuart.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very glad to hear you liked Marineland. Eric and the guys were wonderful, we really enjoyed our time there. Stuart (Jensen Beach) is our home base, you will love it there too. We have always bypassed Vero over the rafting issue and no-anchor zone. The Ft. Pierce Municipal Marina was always a nice stay. There is a farmers market right there on Saturday mornings and the downtown area has several nice restaurants and fun shops. (You can walk the high rise bridge for your morning work out too!) It’s a pretty good haul from Melbourne to the Stuart anchorage, we have stopped in Ft. Pierce or at the Jensen Causeway, but the causeway is only anchoring and I wouldn’t suggest that if the winds are as heavy as they have been, not much protection. Have a safe trip South, let me know if I can give you any Stuart help, it’s been home almost all our lives!


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