Love in the fo’c’sle
Posted by Tall Ships America on August 14, 2010
“You’ll always be third in line in a sailor’s mind, after the ocean, and any boat that will take him there,” says Arran, a deckhand on Europa.
Arran’s declaration might have been a little dramatic. However, romantic relationships aboard tall ships are characterized by unusual problems. When a smoothly running ship demands professionalism from everyone, strong emotions can be a hindrance.
I spoke to several people besides Arran, sailors aboard Bounty, Niagara, and Pride of Baltimore II. When I asked them if there were any special problems that arose with love in the fo’c’sle, most of them mentioned the contained environment that the relationships have to occur in. “There are officially no relationships aboard Bounty,” said Grant, a deckhand. “This is because breakups can cause a new dynamic between shipmates, when you go from really liking someone to really disliking her. One or both of the parties has to leave the ship.”
Relationships can happen really quickly, and fizzle out even more quickly on a boat. “Normally when you start talking to someone you like, you see them a couple of times a week and then more often if it works out. On a boat, you’re with someone 24/7 whether you want to be or not. You never get a break,” explained Grant. Crew from the Niagara had a more pessimistic view. “A ship is a terrible place to start a relationship, and the worst place to end one,” said one deckhand.
I asked several people if long term relationships can work out on boats. “Sure, there are plenty of captains who are married. Some people get off the boat and get married. It just depends on the people.” Another deckhand said, “If you’re discreet and mature about it, it’ll work. It usually doesn’t.”
Despite the pessimism, I will say that the unsuccessful nature of most boat loves doesn’t really deter sailors from trying. The relationships that last seem to work on land or at sea, as well as through long separations. Perhaps there is hope for these cynical sailors after all.