'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

“Yelling” – the A to Z Challenge


A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib


(Today’s topic is yelling, and why it’s a really bad idea aboard a cruising boat. It’s kind of a heavy, not funny post, but I hope you’ll bear with me. I think it’s important.)


There is only one acceptable reason for yelling on a boat.

Because someone can’t hear you over the ambient noise.

Really, it is that simple. And you may notice that I said “…for yelling on a boat”, not “…for yelling at someone on a boat.”  That’s because there is NO reason – no justification possible – for yelling AT someone on a boat.  Boats aren’t big enough to safely contain and then dissipate that kind of energy.

But does it happen?  Of course it does.  Things get tense and difficult and scary, and voices rise in pitch and volume until the folks aboard are, in fact, yelling.  And everyone else in the anchorage can hear every regrettable word that’s said, and make their judgements based on that miniscule slice of personal interaction between crewmates.

I can’t think of a single cruising how-to book I’ve seen that doesn’t include at least a paragraph on the subject of communication aboard and relationships aboard, and many have a whole chapter. Some even go into the details of deciding if you should allow yourself to be alone on a boat with this guy or gal. There’s a thriving business being created – complete with Facebook page (Sailing into Happily Ever After-for Couples) – to help people learn how to get along well enough to go cruising.
Don’t laugh.  According to my own, painstakingly intense 3 minutes of research, “He/She turns into an evil Captain Bligh the minute we step on board!” accounts for a regrettably large number of well-equipped cruising boats AND wedding rings for sale on the used market.

And don’t even begin to think; “It’s all this stress on land that makes him yell. Once we get away on our cruise, he’ll be a changed man…”

No, he won’t. And you (I’m speaking to the ladies now) will be stuck on a boat with him, miles from anyone and anywhere, wondering what the hell you’re going to do now.

You’ll have noticed that suddenly I switched to the masculine pronoun to describe the yeller, and of course there’s a reason for that: It’s usually him.  She may yell back, or she may not, but the vast majority of yellers are male.
I’m not sure why that is – why men as a group (and hey, I’m a man too) are so poorly trained in the ways of human behavior that they think yelling at someone is going to make them eager to help out and delighted to spend time with the guy who’s acting like an enraged rhino.  Pretty stupid. And counter-productive.

So here’s the take-away I hope you take away:
First, an unhappy, semi-functional relationship on land is going to become a miserable, non-functional and possibly dangerous relationship away from it. Fix (or replace) the relationship, THEN go cruising.

Second, Yelling at someone as a way of doing anything besides overcoming ambient noise is unacceptable behavior. The yeller has to learn how to control the emotion of the moment if they are to communicate effectively.

Finally, Captain Bligh has no place on any cruising boat. None. They don’t build boats that big.

Couple, Older

Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house. we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

15 thoughts on ““Yelling” – the A to Z Challenge

  1. The only time Ive heard yelling on boats was when the captain needed us to do something that moment. Best place to yell otherwise is underwater at the fish. I agree boats arent big enough for Captain Bligh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emergency trumps good manners! As long as the reason is valid… On the other hand, urgent commands given in a normal speaking voice are often easier to understand and follow quickly than orders shouted in desperate straits. A good captain should be able to avoid getting to a desperate extreme where yelling becomes necessary to communicate most of the time. IMO 🙂 But yes, it does happen.


  2. Excellent article and brilliantly on point but I’m going to take issue with your Captain Bligh reference and recommend the well-researched book by Caroline Alexander called “The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty”. It’s worth reading if you haven’t already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Caught me in a moment of poetic license! Yes, the true story is well worth the read. I admit I took the stereotype “Capt. Blight” that’s the epitome of ego-driven bad commander, and used it to shorten my story. But you knew just the character I was trying to invoke, right?
      Here’s to the good Captain, and to fewer of his evil twin. 😉


      • Too funny! I was just thinking, poor misunderstood Captain Bligh, he took 18 men 3500 miles in a 23 ft boat – not many captains could pull off that feat, even with GPS and a water maker. But yes, I have seen many Captain Yellers at sea and always feel sorry for their wives. Not good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • But think about what landed him in that predicament – crew running low and rationing water, and he’s keeping a secret stash to water his garden? I can see their being just a little testy about that!


  3. Great points Keith (as always). This is a really important topic and one that’s best addressed upfront before you head out cruising.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m reminded of the quote to the effect of “the superior skipper uses hiz
    s superior judgement to avoid situations requiring hissuperior skill.” Nice post, and one that has more impact since it comes from the (male) skipper himself.


  5. Great post.. but I grew up in a house where Mom did ALL of the yelling. I never heard my dad raise his voice. When I got into relationships, I began noticing that I was a yeller too and had to unlearn my mother’s behaviors. It was great to read this from a male perspective 🙂


    • Oh yes, the roles definitely reverse sometimes. The only yelling I remember growing up was my mother too. Interestingly I came to emulate my dad, though it wasn’t a conscious choice. Hmm… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s great that you emulated your dad.. it took me years to get over that screaming stuff..


      • Well… Instead I learned to be the “strong, silent type” – which was pretty disastrous to both my first marriage and fatherhood. These days I seek the middle ground of speaking quietly, but always speaking up!


  6. I see you don’t use any exclamation points in this post… 🙂 You are a very controlled man. Hand signals are the way to go when anchoring, unless you want to provide extra entertainment to the anchorage. My experience is that yelling comes from frustration, which comes from annoyance, either at the boat, at the weather or at the insufficient internet needed to run a business. Luckily, we often anchored in very quiet anchorages… 🙂

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    Liked by 1 person

    • From frustration, certainly, and annoyance. But I think reaches a new level when it comes from fear or old hurts or anger… And of course anger is often really a cover for fear. And where do those emotions come from? Ask Melissa, there’s deep psychology at work there!

      Liked by 1 person

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