My Wife Is a Ninja

Ok, so maybe she’s not a covert assassin or an anthropomorphic crime-fighting turtle, but nonetheless, my wife is a ninja in her own right, a boat ninja. One of the treasured values of these traditional shinobis of feudal Japan was the indescribable sixth sense of heightened awareness. Somehow, possibly through repeated consumption of ramen at Pai Men Miyake or sushi lunches at Sapporo, she has inherited this ancient Japanese sense and applied it to life on a boat.

How else could it be that she can awake from a deep slumber to close the hatches mere seconds before an early morning downpour? Or to tell me to check the fuel tank as the heater burns the last drop of diesel just after midnight? I can’t tell you how many times she has had a hunch about the boat that proved to be true.

Skye checking sail trim while at the helm.

It’s all part of living on a boat. As the days go by we learn what sounds are normal, how to know the furnace has lost it’s prime, or when we will run out of fresh water. A heightened sense of awareness is important in a home that is constantly moving, suspended upon the bay at the whim of the weather and tides. We tune in to the vibrations around us and eventually learn to detect change with the slightest change in frequency. We don’t get it right every time, but we do more often than not.

Is it possible that the body can become so sensitive to change that the subconscious will continue to monitor your surroundings even in your sleep? How else would she have woken, hours before her alarm, and felt the urge to close the hatches and ports?

Skye took this photo just before the rain started.

Maybe it was the change in atmospheric pressure, or the cool breeze blowing in. Whatever the physics behind the skill may be, I maintain that she is simply a boat ninja. That’s part of the mythical allure, we don’t know exactly how they do it.

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Beyond this fabled sixth sense is the ninja’s nimble and calculated movements. When ashore I would not necessarily akin my wife’s movements to those of a stealthy warrior. On a sailboat rolling through an angry ocean, however, her movements are calculated and definitive. Swooping down the companionway, gliding along the decks, or steering Polynya down the face of a wave, a technical precision takes over at sea. Much like the shinobis of yesteryear, she is acutely aware of her surroundings, immersed in the elements and efficient.

I don’t know if she is secretly training while I am away at work, or has a sailing sensei guiding her along the path of the noble mariner, but I do know that the boat brings her to life. In a perfect world this is where I would embed a video montage of her lifetime of training leading up to this point, but unfortunately, I don’t have one. Instead, you’ll have to imagine the progression from white belt to black belt in a series of failures, triumphs, blood, sweat and tears.


We may not all have the innate sense of a true ninja, but we do learn something new with every moment spent aboard. As passionate and dedicated sailors we can all strive to improve by listening to our senses and attempting to interpret the vibrations of the surrounding environment. Situational awareness just may be the missing skill that can elevate our inherent abilities to that of a true boat ninja.

Matt Garand

About Matt Garand

Lifelong Mainer, and professional mariner, Matt Garand is the creator of A Life Aboard, a look at year-round living on a sailboat in Maine. Matt and his wife, Skye, live aboard in South Portland and use every available chance to throw off the lines and explore the coast.