Any Port in a Storm?

24 September 2009 By Joanne MacKenzie

Back in the day of sailing ships, sailors would go to sea for long periods of time, stopping in ports all over the world. They earned the reputation for having “hearts full of holes” and “a girl in every port.”

Can the same be said of yachties today? Are they modern-day rogues taking advantage of “any port in a storm”?

A deckhand on a 45-metre boat says whom you love just depends on where you tie off for the night. “Random relationships are normal on a boat. We’re always on the move; it’s hard to have a [long-term] relationship. You might have one or two nights or weeks in a given place. Maybe you’ll come back there; maybe you won’t. You go out with your mates and you meet people. You do what you do when you have limited time. Sometimes that means loving and leaving them.”

But male crew aren’t the only pirates of hearts. “I had a fling with a guy on board,” says one chief stew. “The worst thing is, I have a boyfriend, but didn’t feel the least bit guilty. I’ve become more of a bloke than my bloke friends. I could never explain it to my friends at home. You start looking at relationships differently when you work on boats. There are different rules here.”

Is it a case of youthful reckless abandon or an occupational hazard? An electrician in a shipyard says he meets a lot of yacht crew and has gone out with a couple of crewmembers: “It’s not entirely their fault that they become detached from relationships. It’s hard for people on land to take a yachtie relationship seriously, because we’re afraid you’re just going to float away.”

It’s the inevitability of having to say goodbye to someone you get attached to that keeps another stewardess from starting a serious relationship with someone on land. However, she says she really doesn’t miss having a boyfriend. While this stew draws the line at sleeping with her crewmates, she says, “Really, I get everything I need from the boys on board.... Well, maybe not everything, but affection, companionship, dinners out – and without the commitment or other hassles that come with a permanent relationship.”

A first mate says the motto on his boat is like the song lyric: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. He has a girlfriend in Europe, but he also has a “boat girlfriend.” “It doesn’t seem wrong,” he says. “She has a boyfriend. We don’t cross the line. It’s just more convenient...just a casual cuddle between close friends.”

One chef says casual may be fine as long as it’s casual for both of you. She says being the port in the storm for a captain she worked for was a huge mistake. “I started seeing him and should’ve realized it was just a random thing. It went pear-shaped because we were both still on the same boat. Never again.”

When it comes to romantic relationships, do you think different rules apply at sea?