Friday, March 26, 2010

Babies aboard everywhere

A few different blogs of sailing families that I follow are expecting children soon.  One family, SV Sereia, has put up their sailing for awhile and are returning home to have the baby.  Another, BoatBaby, is still living aboard on the East coast with her five year old son, and plans to continue life as usual.  I hope that they will all continue to share their lives with me through blogging because we don't actually know anyone (in our non-virtual life) that have babies aboard, and it is nice to not feel quite so alone. 

People seem to react to us when we tell them where we live with some kind of shock and horror.  Boatbay recently posted some FAQ of her own that inspired my own posting.  Thanks!

What's it like having a baby on a boat?
Well, it is small, and we don't really have any hot water.

How do you take a shower?
We walk up to the shower house and take her stroller into the handicap stall, or I go to the gym where there is child care.  I never have to clean a shower stall anymore, which is good, because I hardly ever did that in the first place, and it was expensive to have a cleaner come every week when we lived in an apartment.

Do you plan to travel on your boat?
Yes!  We have plans once Yemaya is older and the finances are in order.  They involve Mexico and beyond depending on how much fun we end up having and how long the money lasts.

What are you going to do when she can walk/crawl?
Well, it depends.  It is about a 10 minute walk up our dock.  Right now she travels that distance in her stroller (which I am also enjoying as a dock cart).  There is really no reason that she can't continue to ride in the stroller until she is able to be trustworthy enough and a decent enough swimmer that I am not terrified that she will fall in the water.  Of course, our daughter is already demonstrating some temperament traits that leave me to believe she will want to do everything on her own, so ridding in the stroller might not go down well.  We will just hope that the birds continue to be a nice distraction along the dock, enough to distract her from her own desire for independence that is.

Don't you worry about her falling over board?
Yes, and no.  Of course I worry about it, but I'm not worried about it.  We will see what we do, but just as you would not let your toddler play in the front yard near a street unattended, I don't plan to plop her up on deck and then do something else.  It always makes me want to ask don't you worry about your toddler darting into the street?  It is so dangerous to live in a house.

Things that people never ask, but they should.
How many pairs of pants do you have?  How many books fit on your book shelf?  How do you and your husband deal with each others messes from projects?  What happens when you need some space from each other?  How many people can brush their teeth at once?  How often do you accidentally kick or step on someone else?  What do you keep in your dock box?  Why is your car always full of stuff?  To me these are the more interesting questions about boat life, the ones that I actually ask myself on a regular basis, and tell you a lot more about life on a boat then, "Where do you shower?"


  1. Fabulous FAQ i must say. You brought up some great issues that I don't have the mental energy to address to non-boat familes yet... like the falling over board and walking up adn down the dock thing. For what it's worth, we never used a stroller, but had Zach in an Ergo carrier until walking (he walked late, which was GOOD! 18 months!) The at walking it was life jacket and a very attentive adult as we made the trip up and down the dock. He was a naturally catious kid and figured out the boundaries fairly quick.

  2. I *love* the falling overboard question. I usually put on my best "horrified parent" face, and then say "Ohmygosh, land houses! Power plugs they can electrocute themselves with, bookshelves and televisions they can pull over on themselves, bathtubs and toilets to drown in, cabinets they can open, trees that can fall on them, cars racing by on the road outside, stray animals, power lines... living in houses is *scary*. I *only* have to worry about falling overboard, and that's what PFDs are for." Usually makes em think, at least a little.

    I absolutely agree with boatbaby... I have three children, the youngest of whom (born *on* the boat) is about to turn 2, and I've never owned a stroller. Ever. Ergo-style carriers (I actually like the beco better) are the way to go, and take up far less space aboard.

  3. Laureen you crack me up. We are cut from the same cloth girl. I never knew about Beco! They are gorgoues! Back when zach was a babe you had 3 options - a maya wrap, an ergo in one color, or a kangaroo kornner sling (which we loved in the infant days). There are SO many carriers now. I better hide my credit card. :)

  4. So funny! The turnaround question of overboard vs. into the street is also really good, and as a non-parent, I say, toddlers are just plain scary and should be on bungee cords attached to a parent who can therefore get distracted by non-parents like me engaging them in non-baby related conversations and glasses of wine.
    I particularly like your the list of questions people never ask. How DO you and your dear hubby manage to do projects at once? The mind reels.

  5. Lauren and Boatbaby, thanks for the thoughts about carriers. I'm just not ready to give up my stroller/dock cart. My husband likes to carry her down the dock (he likes the bjorn), but I love to push her, the laundry, and groceries. I don't think the stroller will come cruising, but for now it enjoys a nice home parked on the dock. I'm loving a sling a friend brought me from Africa right now for quick errands. It is faster to get her in and out at this age, but it was no as easy when she was little and floppy.

  6. As Yemaya's papa, I can definitely say that MANY worries go through my mind. Last night, for example, I dreamed that we had dropped her off at the wrong doctor's office for vacinations, and couldn't find her. Completely ridiculous premise for a nightmare, but I still woke up in a cold sweat!!!

    So, yes, I will always carry a little worry in the back of my mind when she is near water. But at the same time, I realize rationally that the most dangerous activity we do as a family is driving in a car.

    - Ari

  7. As Yemaya's grandpa, I worry more about the little kerosine heater than the water.

  8. We lived aboard with Maia until she was 14 mos then moved aboard our next boat when she was 7. From that perspective I can say you'll find things to worry about no matter where you live:)
    Maia did fall overboard when she was 3, but because you end up being pretty aware of where your kids are when you're on a boat, it was a quick recovery.

    There are loads of kids on boats. Of the 200 or so boats heading to the South Pacific 17 of them have kids aboard. No babies are crossing (the youngest kids we know of are 6-year olds) but there are also six families currently in La Cruz with kids in the 1.5-5yr old range. And many of those kids have been aboard since babyhood.

  9. As Boat Mama's sister (and designer of her lovely masthead on this site) I just wanted to thank all of the other boat family bloggers. It helps to hear about everyone else's experiences. Though it was a little scary to read about Sereia's tip overs. :) I am glad they are taking some time to be safe on land.

    More than safety, I wonder about things like: where do you go when you need a break? Where do the kids go for time out? I find it hard enough to be in a large house all day with my 2 year-old. I can't imagine being in such close quarters.

    Thanks again. I am so happy that my sister is part of such a great virtual community.

  10. Kate -
    As for Sereia taking time to be "safe on land"... that's the whole point. Land is no safer than aboard the boat.

    The scary things that happened with them have little to do with raising a family aboard and everything to do with the cruising grounds they were in and the passages they chose. Baby or not, those are famously rough waters and they decided to roll the dice.

    For us, if I need a break, I go outside. And even though it's a boat, we have separate spaces, just really small ones :) I find that most boat families are able to do this because they do so enjoy each other's company and don't often need a break. Even though we have a large boat, we all like being in the same room most of the time when we're indoors.

    As for time outs, well, we don't do time outs. Zach doesn't even know what they are. So that's not an issue. When he's doing something that's not ok, we talk about it. I stay with him so he knows that my love for him is unconditional and that even when he makes bad choices, his mama is still the rock he can turn to.

    It's just a different way to live. And it's not for everyone. I truly can't imagine raising a family in a house. Seems very overhwhelming to me. It doesn't make one or the other good or bad, just different strokes for diffeernt folks.

  11. p.s. we need a forum to chat about all of these things :) Actually a friend just started one...

  12. Heya!

    Diane, little Siobhan on s/v Totem, who are doing the Pacific crossing starting today-ish, is five, I believe. =)

    The Sereia thing? While I think Antonia and Peter totally rock, and I cannot wait to get my hands on her book when she finishes it, there is no way I'd sail that ocean voluntarily, babies or not. It's rough, it's cold, and it is hugely unforgiving. We have a dear friend whose adult son is a competitive sailor in NZ, and when it comes time for us to head down there, we're borrowing him as crew and native guide, and that's just for the very northernmost part of NZ on our way to Aus. Call me chicken, but that's my personal risk tolerance and comfort level.

    As for time outs, I'm with Cindy (Boatbaby). When my kids are acting up, they need me there, dealing with the issue, not banishing them from my presence. That's a choice. It's also a neat benefit of boat life; issues get dealt with right now right away, and nothing ever pops up where you say "how did this happen...?"

    As for time to myself... even when we had a house on land, we noticed that we all tended to pile up in one room together anyway. Being on a boat just meant we spent more time piled up together and less time maintaining space and stuff that we didn't actually need or use. Having said that, my son Rowan, who's about to turn 8, and I, have the highest need for quiet and personal space, and when we need a break, we say so, and head to our rooms. I also have fine-tuned the art of boatwork as zen meditation (after the dishes, the dishes), and it's amazing how much mental space can be got just within your own attitude.

  13. Heh. I like "Why do you keep so much stuff in your car." My car has a 50 pound bag of duck chow in it right now and all the laundry!