Not that kind of singlehanding... singlehanding a boat. Now, I have to clarify that I am not technically a singlehander yet, insofar as I do not yet run or sail my boat without a more experienced boater aboard to keep me from screwing things up too badly. But I am a single gal living on her boat sola, (well, with two cats and a dog), and planning to be able to singlehand my boat this fall come hell or high water. So, I write this from the perspective of the single liveaboard and Valentine's Day seemed an appropriate day for this post, (although personally I don't wax nostalgic over this Hallmark Holiday).
A little over a month ago I had the realization that I don't think I could be with someone shore-based. It seems unfair, perhaps irrational to discriminate against an entire class of men because they live on land. (Because they are...stable?) But somehow I don't think anyone but another liveaboard could truly understand me. There is something fundamentally different about us liveaboards. We are simply not "wired" the same as everyone else, for better or for worse. Among both coupled and single liveaboards, (but especially among the single ones), I have heard many references to the relief they felt in moving aboard and ending the attempt to fit into society's expectations. So many of us seem to be nonconformists, unconventional, dancing to the beat of a different drum. How do all of us misfit toys find our match? Having loved and lost in my life, being now in the shadow of heartbreak from the floppy-haired sailor guy, I still think my odds of finding my soul mate and sail mate are better with another liveaboard and are better out on the sea than on land, online, or in a local pub.
I half-joke that most of the guy singlehanders out there are socially awkward, broken, and defective and have sailed away from society for that reason. Unfortunately, stereotypes like that arise because there is more than a bit of truth to them. Myself, I have to learn the lesson to stop picking the sad puppy at the pound, the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of men, because as amazing as I may think I am, I cannot fix them. I already have a "project boat," and need to wean myself off taking on "project men," as it never ends well. And perhaps I am a bit broken and defective myself; I readily admit that I am bat-shit crazy.
But I think there are plenty of singlehanders, male and female, who are simply adventurers, philosophers, introspective, fragile yet brave, endlessly curious about the world around us, and who decide to sail away and lounge in the sun, ponder the universe beneath the stars, be rocked to sleep by the sea. As one liveaboard friend said, others either understand those feelings or they don't; you can't explain to someone else your exhilaration at something or the sense of being in the womb sleeping in the forepeak with waves lapping against the hull. The one key personality trait highly correlated to successful long-term romantic relationships is openness to new experiences. The reclusive curmudgeons who live and die, uncompromising, by their ingrained habits will seek each other out. And the adventurers, who want to see new sights, taste new flavors, experience new sensations, they will find each other. I think cruising liveaboards of the latter contingent far outweigh the former and hopefully I will find my fellow adventurer along the way.
Are singlehanders lonely? Perhaps some are; but one can easily be a hermit ashore or heartbreakingly lonely in a crowded room. I have been both. Being alone does not mean one is lonely. We are fundamentally social creatures, and it seems many liveaboards maintain active contact with the world whether through sundowners, telephone, or internet. Online forums are bursting with single sailors, so they must not all be holed up, living as total recluses on the hook. I've heard that singlehanders talk too much when they get the chance because they are starved for conversation. I've heard that singlehanders fall into alcohol abuse. These things may oft be true, but need not be. Plenty of folks ashore, with spouses and children, fall into the same traps. Are there plenty of "loners" among singlehanders? I assume so. They likely became loners because they did not fit into society's mold and learned to entertain themselves, to enjoy their own company. Making space in your life for solitude, for self-reflection, meditation, prayer--whatever form it may take for a particular person--that is very different from being anti-social. And perhaps that is why so many singlehanders are misunderstood.
Will I face more challenges in finding my love at sea? I expect I will. But moving around will let me see more of the world and meet more people. I am comfortable in my own skin and comfortable being single. Do I want to singlehand all my life? No. I do want to find my soul mate. But right now I am skeptical and guarding my heart closely. I would rather buddy boat with a lover for quite some time before I would be willing to share my home or dock my boat awhile and move onto his. I have settled before and will not make that mistake again. I am prone to writing messages to myself on the bathroom mirror with dry-erase marker. They usually say: "Just keep running." "Do not settle!" "Be the lioness, not the gazelle." Finding a sail mate who "gets" me may be a bit of a challenge, but I am strong, and brave, if too tenderhearted. I wish I had a chartplotter for my heart, but eventually I will drag anchor into the man of my dreams. Until then, I'll just be a barefooted mermaid on her boat, setting her own course, and living life to its fullest.
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