Communication – the key to any good marriage

Imagine the following scenario…

I’m driving the boat up from the flybridge towards a mooring buoy. Robert’s down on the deck getting ready to hook the rope that’s attached to the buoy and secure it to our boat. When we get closer and due to the size of the boat, I lose sight of the buoy. Robert has to direct me. He’s keeping his eye on it and giving me directions. I say “Pardon, what did you say?” He repeats his direction. I say “What, I can’t hear you. You need to face me when you talk.” (It’s true that too much loud music in my younger years has impacted my hearing.) He turns to face me, but of course loses sight of the buoy. Voices are raised in order to hear each other. But whenever this happens, it feels like there’s frustration or anger between us – basically the situation becomes tenser because communication is difficult.

So we decided to try hand signals…

We agreed on the signals to use for forward, reverse, slow, stop. Robert starts pointing to the buoy, directing me with hand signals, but when he starts leaning over the side of the boat, as is required to keep sight of the buoy, I actually haven’t got a clue on which signal he’s using from where I’m standing. After some further verbal directions, we go back to the same pattern of raised voices. Hand signals didn’t really work for us.

So we bought some walkie-talkies…

I say “how close are we to the buoy, OVER.” He replies with something I don’t hear properly, as a crackling noise makes it hard for me to understand him. I say “what did you say, I can’t understand you, there’s too much background noise, OVER.” He repeats something, but again background noise and poor quality signal are an issue. I say “I can’t hear you, OUT.” Then there were the added difficulties of holding a walkie-talkie and driving the boat, or picking up the mooring. And of course our walkie-talkies were simplex meaning only one of us could talk at one time. Many situations really require us to have a conversation, talk or act quickly. Walkie-talkies didn’t really work for us.

“Over” used at the end of a transmission. It tells the receiver that the transmitter has finished that section of their broadcast and is expecting and will await a response. 

“Out” means that the transmitter has finished speaking and is not expecting to hear any more from the receiver.

Therefore, it’s incorrect that one says “Over and Out” in the same communication, although this is a common mistake in TV/media.

And that’s just picking up a mooring! It’s even more critical to communicate effectively when reversing our boat into the berth with nice boats either side and only inches to spare. Commands – like 12 feet, 6 feet (being the distance from the jetty) – are hard to hear and naturally, this leads to us raising our voices. After a great time out on the water, it feels like we are becoming angry and the tension is escalating. It also makes it harder to perform the boating task when you can’t hear the feedback, unsure if you’ve got the boat on a straight line, and so on. There has to be an easier way to communicate effectively. And there was!

We invested in a pair of Eartec Ultralite headsets

Communication improved dramatically when we bought a pair of full-duplex wireless headsets. They’re often referred to as marriage savers, but before using them we didn’t realise how pertinent this nickname actually was!

We compared some different brands including Sena SPH10 and Eartec Ultralite but went with the latter for a few reasons:

  • They have a single earpiece meaning we could also listen out for other sounds that are critical when motoring a boat.
  • The battery is removable and we thought if there were issues with it, we could replace the battery.
  • They operate using wireless technology rather than Bluetooth and we feel is less likely to be affected by obstructions in the line of sight.

By wearing these headsets at critical boating times like mooring, berthing, and if there’s thick fog, we now have a back-and-forth conversation in a normal voice, rather than a yelling match. No tensions, perceived anger or frustration. Our voices are clear, the headsets work from a good distance apart, and they’re comfortable to wear. Communication is so much better.

The only question now is who’s going to wear the ‘Master’ set and why isn’t the other set named ‘Slave’?

2 Responses

  1. great article and pic of you at the helm of the flybridge!

    I fixed that problem by buying a smaller boat.. lol! x

  2. Thank you. My wife and I had the same issues on my motorcycle. Very informative and the last line gave me a chuckle because I know it would make for an awkward discussion 😉

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