More Dream, Less Drama

The notion of a “cruising couple” conjures up a pair of stereotypes. In one, a pair of kindred souls broad-reaches off into a sunset of wedded bliss. In another, a thunderhead pours down as two people butt heads, break boats and abandon ship.

Jeff Grossman and Jean Levine, founders of Two Can Sail, have seen both extremes during the more than 20 years they’ve been coaching cruising couples through seminars and onboard instruction. In 2010, the Florida-based team joined up with the American Sailing Association (ASA) to bring their message to a number of boat shows. SAIL caught up with Jeff and Jean during a sold-out seminar in Annapolis to find out how they “take the drama out of the dream.”

Could you explain what your motto, “Take the drama out of the dream,” means?
We have seen so many voyages on parallel, often identical boats, end with opposite outcomes: one filled with drama, the other a dream trip. The former often ends with one person fleeing for the hills and dashing the dreams of cruising. Our goal is to help identify the sources of the drama and offer ways to avoid them.

What’s your take on a “pink and blue” separation of tasks on board?
We don’t allocate tasks based on gender, but rather by who has more of an inclination to take them on. We show couples how to parse out chores in a way that best suits their skills and interest. On our boat, for instance, Jean is more concerned with the head, so she’s the ship’s plumber. Jeff doesn’t cook, but he handles the dishes and the diesel—usually not at the same time.

What’s unique about a couple, as opposed to a family, cruising together?
With only two people aboard, it’s shorthanded sailing. Both people need to be competent in every aspect of the boat and capable of dealing with emergencies. At the same time, they aren’t just crewmates, they’re life-mates, so relationship issues need to be managed in a way that keeps everyone safe.

What is the most important bit of advice for a couple embarking on a long cruise together?
Patience. Many of our couples are fresh out of hectic careers where they are accustomed to having every minute planned. Cruising is quite the opposite. Rushing to buy a boat and take off without learning how to sail and maintain it leads to all sorts of drama. You need patience to wait for proper weather windows, patience to deal with customs officials, patience to handle inevitable boat projects and, of course, patience to cruise with each other.

What’s the inspiration behind your couples seminars?
While cruising on our boat we met couples that knew how to sail, but had limited navigation skills, no night sailing or no passage-making experience. They didn’t know what skills they needed to cruise safely, and it led them to make decisions that were often dangerous.

What do your seminars cover?
We like to bring the seminar alive. During the couples panel, three or four cruising couples talk about their experiences, how they began sailing together, and how they share the challenges and joys of cruising. We play audience participation games that highlight couples’ communications. Also, at least four times a day, we challenge each couple to sit somewhere different. This simulates the cruising effect of constantly getting used to new surroundings, and meeting new cruising couples along the way.

Who do you target with your seminars?
We target the gap between beginner and seasoned salt. There is an infinite amount of sailing knowledge, so there’s always more to learn, regardless of skill level. We teach beginners what it takes to pursue the cruising lifestyle, those with basic experience how to improve their cruising, and those who own their boat how to transition to full-time cruising.

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