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Sea Savvy - Romance Afloat

Is it easyif you’re queasy?

Is it easyif you’re queasy?

I believe there are more boats out here with “Wet Dream” painted on the transom than any other name. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they know they can do better than that on a boat?

For some reason some people think you can’t do certain things on a boat. For example, when people find out that my wife and I have lived aboard since 1979, many ask incredulously, “Uhh, and do you cook on the boat?” Then they ask, “Well you don’t sleep there every night do you?” It makes me wonder: What else do they think you can’t do on a boat?

Soundings has a longstanding reputation for keeping the boating public well-informed, so maybe this is why editor Bill Sisson asked me to write about this subject. (He used the word “romance,” but I think you and I know what he’s really talking about.) But I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t ask someone else, since he asked me just a few months ago to write about aging on a boat. I guess he figures the less you know about something the more you’re likely to run your mouth about it, which is why this is going to be a long article.

Before tackling the assignment I candidly told Bill that I wouldn’t be writing from personal experience. Looking for better, more objective information than any possible personal intimacy with the subject, I turned to history. Experts in the field gleefully cite, as irrefutable proof that sex on board is feasible, the fact that there were three babies born on the Mayflower. They chuckle at the thought of the staunch Pilgrims managing to do whatever they did in a cramped boat with absolutely no privacy. But they’re forgetting that the ship sailed Sept. 6, 1620, and got here Nov. 11, 1620. Sure, the Pilgrims stayed aboard a little longer while they built shelters ashore, but even with my limited understanding of math and other matters relevant to the issue I can figure out that this doesn’t prove that anything interesting occurred except the actual births.

Of course, we can also consider Noah’s ark. You assume Noah must have known something about sex on a boat since he took two of everything, but you’ve gotta remember that they were frantically looking for that mountain the whole time they were out there.

Obviously, better information is required, and I’ve found that it’s readily available. All you’ve got to do is look around and then remember that old saying: “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” I think that if you really want to prove that sex occurs on boats you can start (and stop) your looking in South Florida, the capital of bimbo barges. And from some of the bimbos I’ve seen, there’s sure to be fire.

I’ll never forget the experience I had while tied up at a dock in Fort Lauderdale. My stern was slightly protruding from between the outside pilings of the slip, and my large aluminum dinghy was suspended from the stern and hanging out over and well above the water. I was hard at work at my computer trying to write an article for some magazine one afternoon (I forget what that editor wanted to know about) when I suddenly heard a roar and a metallic crash that sounded like a plane had landed on my dinghy. Fearing the worst, I rushed to the deck to see what was the matter.

There, tangled in my dinghy, was the very expensive radar arch of a very expensive, very large megayacht tender that probably cost more than my whole boat. Miraculously, the megayacht tender was still attached to its arch and trapped underneath my ugly aluminum dinghy. Two very stunned occupants were in the tender, trying to figure out what had happened. It didn’t take long.

One of the occupants sported what I assumed to be a remarkable “two-fer” job. What she wasn’t sporting was a top. Two-fer jobs are common in South Florida, as you can deduce from the advertisements for inexpensive breast implants that, judging from some of the results I’ve seen, must be two for the price of one. The numerous ladies in the bimbo barges who have obviously availed themselves of the service are staggering.

Anyway, this lady’s two-fer job was so attractive to the skipper of the tender that he had obviously been doing something other than looking where he was going — or, I should say, looking where his boat was going. While he was otherwise engaged, the tender had run right up under my dinghy, its radar arch crashing in a most distracting manner, deflating the excitement of the moment and everything else except, thankfully, the tubes of the RIB megayacht tender and the lady’s two-fers. Now that’s what I call “smoke.”

But the clues I’ve noticed haven’t come just from tenders. I can’t help but be impressed by what must go on below deck on those go-fast boats. Actually, I’ve also been impressed by what goes on above deck on some of those go-fasts. I once saw a “gentleman” behind the wheel of one, roaring down the waterway, apparently utilizing a pair of two-fers as ear muffs to drown out all the noise. Never mind that the rest of the nude body to which they were attached was between him and the wheel and totally obscuring his vision.

Go-fasts clearly are built for lovely ladies and guys with gold chains. I don’t care what anybody says; I know what the guys with the chains have in mind about the ladies. But I can’t imagine (and don’t want to try) what the ladies have in mind about some of those guys. I think it would have to have something to do with the chains. I’m sure you’re wondering what gold chains have to do with sex. So am I. And when I can afford to buy one (after I get paid for writing this story) I’m going to get one and find out.

We non-go-fast boat owners have got to admit that those folks have started an impressive trend. The go-fast bears a striking resemblance to a phallic symbol. Some of them look more like they were designed by Hugh Hefner than any marine architect. And the size of these things keeps creeping up. These days, there are 100-plus-foot megayachts that look like phallic symbols. I would imagine that to drive one of those things you’d have to have gold links around your neck the size of the Queen Mary’s anchor chain. But what does that mean with regard to romantic activities? What are these people thinking about? I mean there is a limit somewhere, I’d think. Could it be that these guys are after three-fers?

Have you ever been on one of those boats? Let me tell you, most of them are really built for a purpose. On my boat I worry about whether I have enough water to take a shower. On these boats they worry about whether the total number and location of shower heads in each shower is enough to make you forget why you got into the shower in the first place. On most boats you have to worry about foot fetishes in the V-berth. On these boats you have to worry about whether the king-size bed will dump you out the picture window at an inopportune moment should the stabilizers stop working because of the extra stress they’re undergoing at that moment. And there are more televisions on any one of these boats than I’ve had in a lifetime of boats. There are even televisions at the helm station so that the skipper can see what’s coming from astern. When these people talk about rear-view mirrors, they’re talking about mirrors on the overheads in the staterooms.

But what about the rest of us — uh, I mean the rest of you? It’s been my observation over the years that, yes, the rest do manage to manage, even though it’s often under circumstances that are far less desirable — sometimes even adverse. One of those circumstances, given the fact that boats are what they are and that most of us aren’t rich, is lack of space and privacy. One couple solved these problems remarkably well.

There was a reported romantic interlude in the Bahamas many years back that stretched the bounds of both imagination and creativity. A certain couple decided during a party on a small island that they’d seize the moment and make a brief trip across the harbor in a small inflatable to gain a moment of privacy. In their ardor they assumed that they could row across with no problem. Whether it was that very ardor or the lack thereof, they couldn’t make the other beach and got swept away in the black night, far out to sea. They spent the following three days floating around until search parties finally found them. It was never clearly revealed whether they were still enjoying their privacy at the time. The creativity stretched was the story they must have come up with; the imagination stretched was that of their respective spouses, who had been left on the island the night of the party.

Another adverse circumstance is the propensity of many couples to yell at each other at the slightest excuse. Like docking, undocking, anchoring, pulling up the anchor, launching the dinghy, retrieving it, hitting the buoy, trying to decide whether to tell the Coasties when you hit the buoy, not hitting the buoy but hitting the shoal because you didn’t hit the buoy because you were so far off to the wrong side … you get the picture. So with all the yelling, how do couples settle down enough to be friendly?

One answer is that some don’t. Another answer is that somebody has to start being very nice to appease for recent transgressions and somebody else has to be very forgetful — or very horny. Another answer is that some don’t yell in the first place because they don’t want to be out in the cold in the last place. And then there was the couple who bragged that they made it all the way down the Intracoastal Waterway without yelling once. Unfortunately, they hadn’t been romantic once either; they were on separate boats.

Boatbuilders have come up with all sorts of ideas to help solve the problem. First, there was the famous “insert.” When I started seeing this in advertisements years ago I found myself wondering what on earth they were talking about. Finally I got the chance to get on a new sailboat and saw one. It’s the cushion you insert in the V-berth so there’s room to get together. Then they tackled the V-berth foot fetish issue. They did this by making bigger anchor lockers. I know what you’re thinking. No, it’s not like that. It had nothing to do with chains and bondage. It’s just that a bigger anchor locker resulted in the V-berths being farther aft, where they could be wider.

They also started putting plush carpeting all over the interior of hulls. I suppose this was to enhance the romantic atmosphere and provide cushioning from any resultant thrashing about. But usually that plush-carpet liner proved to be fertile ground for the amorous adventures of all sorts of bugs, fungus and obviously sexually active molds. Now, we seldom see carpet-lined interiors I suppose because of the well-recognized truism that even the most passionate squeeze can be ruined by the most common sneeze.

Sex sells, and the boat marketing campaigns picked up on that very early. The old “romance of the sea” concept morphed into the advertising promotion that “romance is better at sea.” Most ads go pretty far to get that point across. The use of wide-angle photography is a great example. With the right camera and lens, the advertisers could make a stateroom cave look like a suite at the Hyatt. And then there are all the pictures of ladies showering on the swim platform. Why do you think they do that? Have you ever seen a single shower picture where the lady was actually dirty in the first place? And the people in the ads are clearly chosen to promote a certain impression. Think about it: Did you ever see a boat ad with ugly people in it?

Pretty people lounging in bathing suits on swim platforms and various other areas are supposed to lead to thoughts of you-know-what (makeup?). But I think the advertisers owe us more. They should be more realistic. I’d like to see these ads address certain very relevant questions. Is it easy if you’re queasy? Does rolling on the waves lead to barfing in the sheets? Does moonlight on the water mean spotlights from tugboats? Does skinny-dipping off the swim platform lead to sea nettles in the nether regions?

When all is said and done, however, we must conclude that, despite the adversities, “romance” clearly does occur on boats. Some boats are far better- suited, so different boaters approach it with different solutions. But the seafaring community definitely approaches it — and then some.

I don’t know if this article has been helpful to you — I imagine you already knew all this — but hopefully it’s been at least encouraging. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to address all the issues. Like those of my editor. No wonder he has questions. I mean, he has an 18-foot Boston Whaler. What is the solution for that, go fishing?

Tom Neale is technical editor for Soundings and lives aboard a Gulfstar 53 motorsailer. You can buy his book, “All in the Same Boat,” at .