Recent Baby On Board

  • by strathy

    Guest Post – written by my wife – ‘A’

    We often receive emails from people with specific questions about living on a boat with a baby. So we thought it about time we do a post to answer some of those questions and give you a bit more details about how to live on a boat with a baby.

    Living on a boat with a baby really isn’t all that difficult. It’s really just a matter of what you’re used to. Accommodating the baby’s needs and finding workable solutions to ensure their health and safety is the priority. I think that often we make things more difficult by overthinking the situation. Looking after babies shouldn’t be overly complex. Our experiences taught us that it is doable and just as rewarding caring for a baby onboard as it is on land.

    Here is a bit of a background. Our son (aka The Boy), now 4 years old, was only 9 months old when we moved aboard our Alberg 30′ sailboat. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect at the beginning. Sure we read lots of books and articles about families cruising with young children, but nothing really compares to actually experiencing it yourself. We found a lot of our answers through simply trying it out.

    17 months ago, when we brought our daughter (The Girl) home to live on our 40′ cruiser, she was just 2 days old. We were much more comfortable with the idea then and I don’t think we really had any nervousness about how it would work out.

    Below is some information that will hopefully answer questions for a lot of you out there who are contemplating doing the same thing. I will try to give scenarios to discuss our situation in the smaller 30′ sailboat vs. the larger 40′ cruiser. Our new boat improves our situation in some areas of child care… as you will discover.

    Pregnancy

    Experiencing pregnancy on the 30′ sailboat had it’s challenges – I’m sure that goes without saying. When I was pregnant with The Boy, we were still living in a house in the city. We would take the boat out for a sail now and then. Eventually ‘T’ would have to go on these little trips by himself. You see morning sickness and sea sickness seem pretty closely connected. Suffice it to say we had to have a pail handy and those sea bands really didn’t help me. As time went on, the issue was not morning sickness, but just the general tossing and turning of the boat in the waves while sailing. It was just uncomfortable to be a passenger.

    Later when we discovered we were expecting The Girl (well we didn’t know it was a girl at the time, LOL!), we were living on the 30′ sailboat. At first it really wasn’t any different than living in a “dirt dweller’s” home. The boat was stable enough while at the dock so it didn’t have any effect on the morning sickness. As time wore on, however, it did become more difficult climbing in and out of the boat, down the companionway and of course up into the v-berth. Eventually I slept on the settee to avoid having to climb up into the v-berth.

    During the last month of my pregnancy, we moved onto the boat we are on now – the 40′ River Queen cruiser. The only issue I noticed on this boat was that once we put the frame and plastic up for the winter, it was difficult for me to squeeze that belly down the side of the boat to the doorway to get inside!

    The Boy Napping in V-Berth

    The Boy Napping in V-Berth

    Labour on this boat was probably no different than in any other home. We timed the contractions and then left for the hospital at the appropriate time, leaving my mother to care for The Boy. 2 days later, we brought The Girl home to live on a boat!

    Sleeping Arrangements

    When we were living on the sailboat, since The Boy was still very young (9 months old), we had him sleep in the v-berth with us. ‘T’ made up a lee cloth of sorts that clipped on 4 corners and attached at the v-berth opening. This way we didn’t need to worry about him falling out. It served a dual purpose as well. A play pen. It was a great place to put him for playing if we needed some hands free time or didn’t want him to get into something we were working on – like receipts for doing our taxes, LOL!

    Lee-Cloth Settee Bed

    Lee-Cloth Settee Bed

    As The Boy got older, he kicked us in his sleep a lot, plus he was growing! So, it became time to make him his own bed. ‘T’ fashioned a high lee cloth to attach to one of the settees. He attached it along the underside of the settee, screwed into a piece of wood. When taken out, it clipped on to 3 sides to create a safe little haven for him to sleep in. For practicality reasons, we used this bed for him at night time. During his daytime naps, he still used the v-berth.

    Later, we moved to a larger boat when we discovered we were expecting The Girl. At first The Boy, not quite 3 at the time, slept on a fold out couch in the bedroom which pulled out into a single bed. We would stick a pillow beside him so he wouldn’t roll out and soon discovered that this was no longer necessary. When The Girl came, she slept in a floor bassinette for several months. This worked well until she could climb out of it. Then it was time for something new.

    ‘T’ bought a set of bunk beds from Ikea. Due to space limitations on our boat, he had to not only shorten the length, but the width as well. He built them in to the space we had set aside after removing the pull out couch. The Boy sleeps on the top bunk and The Girl sleeps on the bottom bunk. We have netting that clips all the way around on two sides. (The other two sides are against a wall.) This is where she sleeps for naps and at nighttime as well. We are fortunate that The Boy sleeps through anything as she was not a great sleeper from the beginning.

    Feeding

    Booster Chair for Feeding

    Booster Chair for Feeding

    When we were on the 30′ sailboat, it wasn’t always convenient to set up the table for meals. Our table top was stored above the v-berth. It had a pipe that screwed in to support the table top, underneath one of the settees. When set up it didn’t afford a lot of room for moving around, so we mostly didn’t bother with it. Instead, ‘T’ and I would usually eat from a plate on our laps or along the counter space.

    For The Boy, we used a portable booster seat/feeding chair with tray. We would set it up on the settee and he would be strapped in and fed his meals in that. When not in use, we would store it under the v-berth.

    On the 40′ cruiser, we actually have a kitchen table where we eat at. For The Boy, he now sits on a small wooden toy box from Ikea that doubles as his chair at the table. The Girl sits on her brother’s old feeding chair with tray. It is attached to a chair and pulled up to the table. We just leave it attached when not in use.

    Play Area

    Playing on Deck

    Playing on Deck

    As mentioned above, The Boy would sometimes play up in the v-berth when we lived on the 30′ sailboat. As well, when we had the frame and plastic cover on the boat during the winter months, the outside area of the boat made for a great play area. Especially the cockpit area. We set up a nice carpet on the floor in the cockpit and put his toys out there. He had a great time in that cockpit. It was also large enough that he could ride his little 4 wheeled ‘bus.’ He would also roam around on other areas of the boat. Up at the bow was where we kept his tricycle. There was a small space there for him to play with that.

    During the summer season, when there was no frame on, play areas on the boat were much more limited. He would be more or less confined to either the inside of the boat or the cockpit. We let him play in the cockpit, supervised in the summer. We didn’t have a canopy to cover the cockpit from sunshine so we’d set up a blanket instead and also a little wading pool. Lots of fun. Of course, we often would go out biking and walks to nearby playgrounds and parks as well.

    Inside the boat, we stored his toys in a plastic bin with lid under the v-berth as well as one of the drawers under a settee was reserved for his toys. His books and clothing were stored along with our clothing on shelves in the v-berth. Toys are something that we still battle with. Every once in awhile we have to go through and fill a bag for donation!

    Alberg Cockpit Winter Play Area

    Alberg Cockpit Winter Play Area

    There is a lot more play space on our current boat. The kids can play anywhere inside the boat. As discussed in the section on Feeding above, toys are stored in a toy box which doubles as The Boy’s ‘chair’ at the kitchen table. As well, there are stuffed animals hanging pocket contraption in the back bedroom. More toys are also stored outside in a plastic bin with lid.

    During the winter, the kids have a huge play area out on the back deck. There is a door from the bedroom leading out onto it. We’ve lined the floor with those colourful puzzle playmats. Most of their toys are out there and they go out there at will to play. The Boy also climbs the ladder to the top deck so he can play by himself sometimes – having a younger sister who pulls hair isn’t always fun to play with! In the summer this area is not available for playing on unless they are supervised and have life jackets on. (Note: see our article on safety aboard with children to learn about the ‘turtle’ watch that we use as well.)

    Baby Bath Tub

    Baby Bath Tub

    Bathing

    Bathing a baby on the smaller sailboat was a little more challenging than our current situation. It was something we just got used to however, so it really wasn’t much of an issue. We had a simple white plastic baby bathtub. Since there was no shower aboard, in the winter we hauled warm water to bathe him in it. We simply laid out towels and set it up on the settee and gave him his bath there. Other times either one of us would carry the baby bathtub with us to the marina showers and set it up in the shower stall. Sometimes it seemed easier to do this. I would have my shower while the baby was in the bathtub right beside me.

    In the summertime, we would either do the same as above or even put the baby bathtub in the cockpit and bathe him in there. We didn’t have warm water though, so we’d boil some hot water on the stove to add to his bath water or haul it from the marina.

    On the larger boat, we still use the baby bathtub. We have the luxury of having a shower stall now! The baby bathtub actually fits on the floor of the shower stall. During the winter, we would either haul warm water for their baths, or bring them up to the marina showers as we used to do. In the summer, we have hot water right from the pressurized taps (another luxury!), so they bathe on board in the tub set in the shower stall.

    Learning to Walk

    The Boy was a late walker. He didn’t really start walking fully until about 13-14 months. There wasn’t really a lot of room for walking on the sailboat so we’d take him out and get him practice on the main docks. He was crawling early on and since we were in the boat, he climbed a lot too – up onto the settee, then up onto the ice box, up the ladder, etc.

    The Boy on the Upper Deck

    The Boy on the Upper Deck

    The Girl started learning to walk around 10 months. We were on the larger boat plus she had the advantage of having an elder brother to emulate!

    We have thought about it and don’t think that living on the smaller boat had a lot to do with limiting when The Boy began to walk. He really wasn’t stuck at home a lot – we were always out and about so there was plenty of opportunity to do it when he was ready.

    Toilet Training

    When we were on the 30′ sailboat, we had a little portable potty that we used for The Boy. We would store it underneath the v-berth and pull it out whenever it was needed. We also had a little child-sized toilet seat that would fit on top of the regular toilet. We found that this wasn’t convenient however, as the toilet was raised up so high that his feet couldn’t reach the floor, even with a stool. So we stuck with the potty instead.

    He was only partially trained when we were on the smaller boat. It wasn’t until he was a little older and on the larger boat that he learned to be fully trained. We tried the potty as well as the child-sized toilet seat. We ended up having more success with the toilet seat at that stage in the game. With The Girl, we haven’t begun to toilet train her yet. I imagine we will try both methods with her as well to see which one she works best with.

    Toilet training on the boat really isn’t much different from in a “dirt dweller’s” house. It’s just a matter of the childs’ preferences and readiness as to which method works best.

    Sailing / Cruising

    When sailing out on the 30′ sailboat with The Boy, we used to put him in the baby car seat. We attached it to the cockpit and fastened him in. This way we could be hands free for handling the boat and he was safe and out of the way. As he got older, we allowed him to be out of the seat, but with a tether on his life jacket so he couldn’t stray out of the cockpit.

    We have friends here who had their daughter attached to the cockpit in a similar fashion. C&V had a jogging stroller with no wheels bolted down to their cockpit. Their daughter would be strapped in there to keep her safe. While at dock, J&E sometimes had their baby daughter in a baby swing attached to the boom. What a great view!

    Up & Down the Dock

    When we are at our winter slip, we are very close to the main dock. It is just a short few steps to climb the ramp and be up on the mainland. The Boy wears his life jacket all the time he is out there. When he was younger he would also hold our hand. The Girl does this now, but when she was just a baby, we would simply carry her back and forth. Sometimes in our arms and sometimes in her carseat.

    I think that covers the major topics of raising a baby on a boat. If anyone has anything else they’d like us to discuss, please let us know in the comments. I will finish with a list of things that I think are necessities for living on a boat with a baby. (The obvious are not mentioned.) You will notice that there really isn’t much here. Plus some are things that you would need if you lived in a dirt-dweller’s house.

    Baby on Board Necessities

    • baby bath tub – Pick the simplest, plainest, and cheapest one there is because if you’re like us and store it out on deck the sun will make cracks in it and you’ll end up replacing it anyway!
    • portable feeding chair – When the child is old enough to be fed real food, having one of these is indispensable. Ours is collapsible and thus stores very small for when it isn’t in use.
    • life jacket and tether – for cruising and at dock
    • safety netting – Install this all around your boat. It’s a project we did on the sailboat and plan to do it on this new boat as well.
    • ‘turtle’ watch – Alarm goes off when it gets wet. Have your child wear it when outdoors.
    • baby gates.
  • by strathy

    We recently added another tool to the toolbox of keeping The Boy safely on the boat. He is now at the age (3 1/2) where he is curious, impulsive and wants to try and do everything. That means that, in a flash he can be out of the cabin and onto the deck of the boat. If he can fly out of here so fast, then we have to consider the possibility that he could just as quickly end up in the water. It worries me sometimes with A here and taking care of Baby Girl, that The Boy could get into trouble.

    So we bought him a turtle watch.

    Actually, it is “Safety Turtle personal immersion alarm” that he wears on his wrist or ankle that will send a signal to a Base unit if it gets wet. i.e. falls in the lake. The base unit stays plugged in and is kept centrally in the boat along with one of the smoke detectors and the Carbon Monoxide detector. If the “turtle” gets wet, the base alarm sounds an ear-piercing siren that is loud enough to be heard anywhere around the boat.

    So … it had it’s first ‘test’ the other day. The Boy was out on deck and all of a sudden the alarm went off. A. bolted out the door to see what was going on and found The Boy … licking his new turtle watch. Huh?! Yep, licking it. Nope, don’t know why. Anyway, now we know it works and only his wrist had to get wet to check it out.

    Keeping kids safe on a boat is a topic that I’ve put a lot of thought into over the past couple of years. (Other post here.) I always seem to come back to the concept of Vigor’s Invisible Black Box. Check out the post Safety at Sea from a couple of years ago for a description of VIBB. Every time you envision what could go wrong and then plan for it, you are adding another piece of equipment to your VIBB. Safety, not just at sea, but generally in life is a combination of awareness and small corrections. Awareness of what could go wrong – awareness of something that is going wrong and then the small corrections to prevent or stop that situation. Of course, I’m not saying that disaster will not strike, but with planning and awareness you can prevent the series of small events that lead to catastrophe.

    Safety is a state of mind – it is living fully aware.

    John Vigor wrote an article for Good Old Boat about the Black Box theory – check it out, it’s an interesting read.

    Finally – every boater who ever leaves the dock should have John’s book, Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat: A Guide to Essential Features, Handling, and Gear. Even if you have no intention of going off-shore, the concepts and planning will help keep you safe anytime you are out on the water.

  • by strathy

    Boy in BunkWow – where has the time gone? Time does fly when you’re having fun!

    Couple of updates first: the plastic wrap is off the boat and everything is ready for the summer. The engines started easily, the genny runs well and the AC units are both pumping out the cool when the days get hot.

    Last week while A. and the kids were visiting grammy, I built bunk beds for the kids. The boy LOVES his upper bunk. He’s got all his stuff up there and loves climbing up and down. Plus he’s discovered a new game – when I’m laying on my bed, he crawls up into his bunk and starts throwing his stuffed toys at me while laughing his head of hysterically. At least one of us is having fun.Girl in Bunk

    The girl is now 6 months old and growing like a weed. In fact she is in the 96th percentile for her length and her weight is off the chart. She’s still breastfeeding so I guess that is agreeing with her. She’s not mobile yet, but can roll over both ways, sit up by herself and jump like her pants are on fire in her exersaucer. That thing takes up a lot of space on a boat, but she loves it and the exercise is good for her chubby little legs.

    I’ve begun to use the upper deck for my office in the evenings. The view from here is lovely but is more conducive to daydreaming than getting any actual work done. The weather has really warmed up, but is not too hot… yet. I will take advantage of my upper office as long a I can before the heat drives me back into my main floor office (kitchen table.)

    I’m on the hunt for a dingy with a motor that the boy and I can tool around in this summer. If you know of any, let me know via email.

    Upper Office

    View from Here

  • by strathy

    Eireann 011908Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life we can lose the sense of how good life really is. I guess I’m getting in touch with my feminine side here, but I am currently … content.

    I sit here now on a Saturday morning writing on my laptop, my baby girl laying beside me talking away and sucking her fingers. My stomach is pleasantly full of fresh croissants and coffee. The sun is shining brightly in the windows – the boat gently rocking. The boy and my wife are out and about. I’ve got several good books, just waiting for me to crack open. A day off work.

    Ahhhh – life is good.

  • by admin

    Well now … as you can see I’ve finally migrated my blog over from Blogger to WordPress. What a job it was! They don’t make it easy for a non-techie – that is for sure! If people are interested in how I did it – just leave a comment and I’ll do up a post on it. I also purchased a new theme for this blog – Shifter. Shifter is amazing. It allows me to set the format and look of my blog just by turning features on or off. No programming – no ‘geek squad’ stuff, just on or off. That – I can do! Anyway, I urge anyone who is looking for a quality WordPress Theme to check out Shifter – it is the most versitile theme I’ve found to date.

    SmokingLakeBoat News

    Yes – we survived the storm! I left off my last post early in the morning after a night of watching the storm and hoping that everything would hold together. In the morning light, I went out back to where the most of my frame is to discover that I had a few rips and that the whole plastic canopy had shifted position and no longer sat tight against the frame. So, I hopped into the car (big mistake) and headed off into the blizzard and drifts to get some shrink tape from my supplier. He lives about 10 mins away, but the trip took half an hour. I was plowing drifts the whole way and going down his street I was literally floating on top the snow most of the time. I made it back without mishap and plastered tape over all the rips and stretched areas. I also reinforced most of the corners and anywhere where the plastic was touching boat to prevent chafing. The short version is – we survived.

    Now we are dealing with a cold snap. Last night it went down to -16 C which is cold for this time of year. The ice is growing thicker, but the bubbler is keeping it at bay. This morning the lake was smoking – at least that is what it looked like, as the heat left the open water. It won’t be long if this cold lasts and we will be walking on water again.

    Having the baby on board has been wonderful. We’ve really settled into a nice rhythm with her. A and I are learning again how versatile babies are – basically, they are happy if you are happy. The boy lived in a house until he was 8 months old although he does not remember it at all. This child will not know anything but the boat – at least for the next couple of years anyway. What a life she will have! Not many kids can say they live on the water – I think it’s pretty cool – I hope they do too.

    Finally, I’ve resurrected my business website (with that new Shifter Theme – I just couldn’t help myself.) So that has also been sucking up my time. Check it out at neighboursappliance.com – let me know what you think.

  • by strathy


    Our little girl was finally born last Saturday at 2:00am – 9 days late! She is beautiful and is the perfect addition to our new boat. She and A. are both healthy and doing well.

    My boating todo list for this weekend is:

    Finish wrapping the River Queen. I have the framework up but have been waiting for a day without wind to pull the plastic and shrink it.

    Get Strathgowan ready for haul out on Monday. I was hoping to do a whole bunch of sailing this past month but only got out twice. What a drag! The mast is booked to come off at 9:00am and the haul out for 11:00

    Winterize the Atomic 4 one more time.

    And then I will be modifying the frame from last year and remounting it. One last shrinking and it is done for the winter.




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