“Ella es mi novia. Bonita no?” (She is my girlfriend. Pretty, no?) I said, gesturing with my right thumb over my shoulder in the direction of the boat. I was working on the Mercury 9.9 outboard in my dinghy behind Blue Monday and speaking to Val de Mar who was standing on the dock, he one of the young workers at Catamaran Marina and son of the venerable Francisco, the man who practically built the place. Val is about 20 and walks about with a persistent grin that lets you know he’s always in on the joke, his attitude and laid-back manner infectious. He was telling me of his recent breakup with his girlfriend (the big grin unwavering) and I in turn shared about my troubles with my last flesh-and-bone type of girlfriend, now also an ex. Val said that one can change girlfriends as easily as changing shirts, which made me wonder what he meant by girlfriend exactly and whether he was, for his next, seeking a synthetic, wrinkle-free or organic-blend type. Thinking of why I was struggling with my metaphorical shirt change, I made the comment about the boat being my primary girlfriend. Though she is just fibreglass, aluminium, wood and stainless steel, I love her and the other women in my life don’t get along with her at all, so she must be a girlfriend of a sort.
The problem, as I see it, is that most women don’t really like living on boats. The first of my boat-living ex-girlfriends said, “It is like camping, only worse.” My last girlfriend was even less delicate, “Tu maldito barco!” she said. (Your damn boat!) There are exceptions of course, and I meet them all the time in the marinas and anchorages of my travels: The feminine half of the cruising couples—the de-facto standard in the cruising lifestyle—usually in their 50s or 60s, retired, seemingly gloriously healthy and happy. These are active, fit, highly-social super-couples often appearing and acting much younger than their ages. These couples are my heroes, captain and crew, admiral and captain, or dual crew, however they decide to rank themselves, I’m glad to have them in my life, but honestly don’t know where the women came from. Perhaps it is because they are mature, past child bearing years, financially stable and often retired. The women I meet, on the other hand, are still hell-bent on houses, cars, careers, marriage and, babies, babies and more babies. Nest constructors, they have little regard for my brand of leisurely pursuits. Even when their plans for children are non-specific and well off in the future, their careers accommodating or even shelved, and they state that travel and adventure is very important to them, their commitment to sailing seems to be just one element of many, constrained to a few weeks of the year in an otherwise normal life.
So here I am adrift, crew-less, and clueless as to how to change. There is a price to pay for pursuing what you want in life, and though I already knew it involved living without a lot of money, comforts, security, or a fat pension in the future, these things pale in comparison to something I never realized I would have to give up: A stable relationship. It is to the point where now I’m pretty certain that I will be alone for the foreseeable future. It seems I have so little to offer in terms of a conventional life that I cannot keep a straight face when talking to a woman today. I go to say, “Hey you want to..?”
Hang out, fall in love, have an unbelievable summer together and then an ugly torrid heart-wrenching breakup in the fall when I leave?
“…uh that’s ok. Never mind. It was nothing.”
I'm not seeking pity. I chose this. I just never read the fine print.