Solitary pilots plying the canals of England are a rarity. The locks and drawbridges typically command the attention and efforts of at least two who are able bodied. We have observed that cruising couples seem to fall into a routine of cooperation, one manning the narrowboat and the other the onshore equipment. They are not gender specific roles. The mold set very early for us. Christine deferred the vessel to my skills even though the physical requirements of the lock gates and paddle gears are not insignificant. Her emotional comfort superseded her physical comfort.

In matters of seamanship it is customary for one person to be designated the skipper. This is not just mindless autocracy, but rather is a matter of safety that can even be lifesaving in an emergency. Committees may be well suited for contemplative decisions, but urgency requires immediacy. For on-shore relationships to survive off-shore protocols there must be respect and cooperation that flows in both directions. I can not imagine a dysfunctional partnership surviving long aboard any vessel.

The most successful relationships are not driven by gender stereotyping but rather by frank acknowledgment of the strengths that each partner brings to the union. If the husband has the patience and energy to manage home and children while the wife has the marketable skills to better command financial security, then logic should determine their roles. The partners and the children are the beneficiaries. Sadly, that runs contrary to long established social norms.

27 years ago Christine approached me with the idea of starting her own business. It required a significant financial investment, she would be giving up her regular paycheck, and we had 3 children ages 10 through 13 at home. She asked for my trust and confidence in her ability. She received both along with a good measure of encouragement and support. There were challenges through the years, but her’s was the hand on that tiller. Success followed her as it often does with capable and resilient people. Perhaps my most valuable contributions were not getting in her way and suppressing any tendency that I might have had toward being misdirected by ego. We, our children, and our grandchildren became the beneficiaries of those choices that we made.

Undertaking a “Canal Boat Holiday” has presented me with a metaphor for marriage. Canal boating is not for every couple, and neither is marriage. Ironically, I doubt that many people undertake the purchase or charter of a narrowboat without first critically examining their suitability for the venture. I have learned over my decades as a lawyer and mediator that folks often leap into marriage without giving the consequences a second thought. If canal boating doesn’t work out all one needs to do is exit the vessel. It is not so simple with a marriage.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. This bit of irreverent wisdom came to me recently from a friend: A man takes a wife believing she will never change, which she does. A woman takes a husband In the belief that he will change, but of course he doesn’t.

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