Confessions of a Reluctant Spouse
By: Cindy Shue
Last October (09) my husband Alex and I attended the AGLCA Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Alabama. The rendezvous was sold out and we were surrounded by seasoned veterans as well as newbies to the boating world. We'd traveled over 2000 miles to get here so we weren't completely wet behind the ears.
During the kickoff ceremonies, I felt part of a bonafide brotherhood. The speakers were enthusiastic and most everyone gushed about the glories of Looping. Sprinkled into these testimonials were the occasional references to the "reluctant spouse", that dreaded stick-in-the-mud who drags down the happy captain. No one in this room was 'fessing up to being a reluctant spouse and certainly not me. But there you have it---my dirty little secret. I had been a reluctant spouse.
Back tracking a bit, we'd always been boaters----fishermen, day trippers with the kids, graduating to overnighters. In 2001 we bought a 31' SeaRay, named it Tug Hill Tug, and began our cruising vacations in ernest. We spent every free moment on board and logged many miles around our home waters of the St. Lawrence River. Summer vacations were trips up the Canadian canals, either the Rideau or the Trent-Severn. Off we'd go in our floating camper.
We began mulling the idea of Looping early on during this period but it always seemed in the distant future. We flip flopped many times about when we'd retire and make it happen. It was during this period that Alex became obsessed with finding us a trawler to do the Loop. We went to umpteen boat shows, answered dozens of ads and made plenty of road trips to view the goods.
During the fall of '08, Alex told me he'd like to retire on his 62nd birthday---May 30, 2009---and begin the Loop. We hadn't found the perfect trawler yet and we'd flip flopped before so I guess his announcement didn't register on my radar. When his assistant called me to plan Alex's retirement party, that got my attention! Even so, I couldn't bring myself to give my own notice at work. It was another four months before I blurted out to my boss, "I'm leaving."
We'd be making the trip on our 31' SeaRay rather than spend any more time boat shopping. Alex's mission now was immersing himself in charts, magazines and books, anything he could find with Loop information. I was innundated with comments and congratulations from family and friends about our awesome retirement plans. I'd smile and nod but inside I felt like the bride who had planned an elaborate wedding only to have serious second thoughts about the groom. Cold feet, be damned! The wedding must go on!!
There were powerful reasons to retire now and begin the trip. My Dad died at age 59, the same age I am now, and in a weird coincidence, Alex was diagnosed with cancer at age 59. (He had surgery and remains cancer free to this day.) The loop was a dream for Alex and I wanted to give him that dream.
My last day of work was June 10, 2009. On the morning of the 11th, I didn't even get a second cup of coffee before Alex was saying, "Chop! Chop! Let's roll it!". The rest is a blur.
I think I was in shock for a long time. I wasn't crying myself to sleep every night. I was more like a zombie, going through the motions. We began the trip going up the Trent-Severn and those familiar waters were a huge comfort. The scenic beauty of Georgian Bay blunted my homesickness. Lake Michigan was a pleasant surprise with its hundreds of miles of sandy beaches. Being a country girl, I was reluctant to stay in Chicago, and yet, Chicago turned out to be one of our trip highlights so far.
The river systems between Chicago and Mobile are a busy thoroughfare in the autumn, funneling boats heading south for the winter. It was here that we cemented solid friendships. I was never bored, instead finding myself lamenting that the days were flying by!
So there we were at Joe Wheeler when someone asked me, "Would you do the Loop again?" and I heard myself say, "Well, I wouldn't rule it out." My husband's mouth gaped open like I had just spoken in tongues. I don't know when it happened. I had morphed from the reluctant spouse to the Looper adventuress! And no one was more surprised than I was!
I wanted to share my story in the hope that it might calm someone else's fears or doubts. I still get homesick from time to time but Reluctant Spouse Syndrome need not be fatal. Have lots of cell minutes on hand as needed and apply ample doses of friendly people, fresh air, sunsets and wine. You'll find yourself savoring the Loop as the golden opportunity that it is.