This summer while boating I was at the helm carefully guiding Pearl into a busy dock where once we were tied and secure, one of the other boaters who had witnessed my docking came over to chat. He asked if I was the Captain and I explained that no, my husband and I share that special title. He then asked “So who goes down with the ship?” jokingly I like to think but later that night as I pondered his question, I realized whether he meant to or not, he did raise a very important point and meaningful in so many ways!
The phrase “The Captain goes down with the ship” comes from a long Maritime tradition that the person in control of the vessel has to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and the vessel ahead of their own. For us recreational boaters, we don’t have the luxury of a crew and any passengers are usually friends or family. And although it is very rare for a vessel to “go down”, on Georgian Bay there are many boats that have ended up “on the rocks” due to Captain distraction or inexperience.
But even a small ship needs a Captain. That person who happily puts the most hours in at the helm, but also whose job it is to turn the lights on at the start of the trip, fix those lights if they go out mid trip, bathe the boat and keep the spiders at bay, and do all the nasty “bilge” work to keep the operations below deck running smoothly. And the navigating – reviewing the charts, plotting the course into the GPS, checking and double checking to ensure the route is safe and avoids all hazards, and then reviewing the weather and wind forecasts before leaving the dock. The pre and post departure checks, all the deck work securing fenders and lines. No doubt, there is a lot to manage and one small distraction or oversight can spell disaster for the trip. And I haven’t even touched on provisioning yet!
But still I pondered on that question as my husband and I do truly share these responsibilities and I wondered if that was a good idea or not. But we have divided our “Captain’s” duties based on our skill sets so that we both bring to Pearl what we are best at. I handle the navigational effort, the forecasting, and there are a few areas on the bay where I must handle the docking or maneuvering as a certain precision is needed or extra muscle (ie: my husband) is required out on deck for anchoring or tying to shore. And for both the long and short haul trips, we each enjoy being at the helm but I work full time so my husband is happy to drive while I am below in the cabin working. And yes, he also does all those below deck stinky bilge jobs and will brave the elements when needed so I can stay warm and dry at the helm!
And when it comes time to make decisions, sometimes we quarrel over Pearl like she’s a spoiled love child! But only because we both care. And as all parents know, sharing the responsibilities makes for a better team and a happier child. And it has got us through decades of safe boating on the Bay so why mess with a good thing!
So I have decided that yes, for us co-Captaining is the perfect solution. It provides us both with the best experience on the water and helps mitigate the chance of an accident. And if the ship does end up “going down” we are in it together, us and Pearl.