Raising a Toddler on a Boat: Day to Day Life

22 04 2013

I want to write about how I manage living on a boat while raising a toddler. It is tough enough raising a toddler on land, but then when you bring the boat variable into things; it adds another dimension of parenting. I thought I would first start off with our day to day life on a boat. Other topics I will include are: using cloth diapers while sailing, making baby food while sailing, childproofing your boat, and other topics as they come to mind.

 Daily life on a boat with a toddler is ever changing. It is difficult enough for the adults to have a plan, let alone create some sort of routine for your child. Every time you think you’ve finally settled into some sort of a routine…BAM….something happens and you are back to square one. So for the most part, we have a skeleton of a routine to keep some consistency is Caleb’s life, but we do allow for a lot of flexibility in our day to day life.

 I would have to say that they days with the most consistency are the days when we are traveling. A typical sailing day looks like this: We wake up, make breakfast, have our quiet time, take the dogs on the dinghy and go to shore for a walk, plan the day’s sail destinations (we have plan A, plan B, and a plan C). Then off we go. When the weather is nice, Capt’n in Training loves to sit in his booster seat in the cockpit and be a big boy with mommy and daddy while we are sailing. Capt’n in Training is actually quite happy sitting in this booster seat and watching what is going on around him. When he starts to get fidgety, I  read to him, I pull out some toys for him to play with, and we do eat yummy snacks as well. When he has grown tired of sitting pretty stationary, we put on his harness and tether him to the cockpit so he can wonder around a little bit. This is when Capt’n in Training loves to sit on daddy’s lap and steer the boat, or just enjoy daddy’s company. By this time, it is lunch, so Capt’n in Training joins me down in the cabin while I prepare lunch. We then eat lunch in the cockpit, and the. It is time for Capt’n in Training ‘s nap. Now I know a lot of people have said that babies sleep a lot on a moving boat, but I am not convinced of this. Capt’n in Training does not seem to sleep longer because we area sailing. He will sleep for about two hours and then he’ll come back up to the cockpit, and by this time we are almost ready to dock or anchor for the night. Remember, we are day sailors and will only sail for about eight hours a day. Once we have anchored or docked, we take the dogs out for a nice long walk, check out our surroundings (remote or not), then come back to the boat for dinner. Evenings consist of reading, playing games, watching movies and going to bed. Of course listening to the weather, planning out our course and looking at the current and tide tables are all included. 

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A bouncing seat is a great item to have on a boat. It doesn’t take up much space and you can hang it really anywhere. Capt’n hung it up on our boom and Capt’n in Training was content while we were changing a light at the top of the mast.

 

 

However, when we have “settled” into a place for a week, month, or more, the routine is hard to make. I usually do not know how long we will stay in one place. It takes a lot of energy to check out the local children activities and locations and sometimes I do not have the energy to do so. Also, we usually work on boat projects when we are stationary. Sometimes these projects start out as a two hour project and end up being a two day project. Or we have a lovely day trip planned only to get a phone all asking Tim to help out with a pay job, and we never say no to money for the cruising kitty So it is difficult to create a routine for Capt’n in Training. However I try to keep some sort of consistency in our lives, like meal time and nap time.

 Some days I am okay without a plan. I think that it is good that I am raising a boy who can be flexible and be comfortable in all sorts of situations, and other times it gets really hard and I want some sense of normalcy. 

 So what are things that we do when we are docked at a port for an extensive period of time? Well, we do a lot of playing. And right now Capt’n in Training likes having mommy as a play mate. We also read a LOT of books and do a LOT of bike riding and playground hunting. Playgrounds are actually a great way to meet people. We met some of the best people at the playground. The playground is also where you can ask where the library is, when storytime is, or what special child friendly events may be going on. On the days that Capt’n is not busy working, he takes Capt’n in Training for daily dinghy rides, and takes him fishing. It is in those moments that I am really grateful for this season of our lives in which daddy and Capt’n in Training have these great experiences together. 

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 One of my greatest concerns with living on a boat with a toddler is the limited social interaction he has with kids his own age. So to encourage playing with other kids, when we are in towns or cities I always take advantage of the library. We visit the library weekly and participate in age appropriate activities when available.

 So that is basically our day to day life. Now, I mentioned that we do a lot of playing and reading on the boat – well where do we put all this “stuff” on a boat. We don’t have a designated play room that many homes have. No, we have the “everything room.” It is the space where we eat, where we read, where we watch movies, where we email, and where we play. It is about 10’ x 10’. I laugh as I write that because it really is a small space, but it serves us just fine. We use the main bookshelf for Capt’n in Training’s books so he can access them any time he wants. He is particular and will pick out certain books for me to read. We modified our table storage as a play chest. I remember when we bought the boat I was excited that the table had some storage for wine and glasses and plates. Then I remember about two months into our sailing trip Capt’n in Training managed to figure out how to open the table storage and remove the wine glasses. The next day that storage space became Capt’n in Training’s toy chest. Two other ways I store toys are: I store toys in the grocery store’s hand held baskets, and extra bags I have lying around the boat. My favorite is my seabag (http://www.seabags.com/) made from old sails.

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I also want to make it very clear that I do not think every day with Capt’n in Training is a walk in the park. Oh no, just like with any child, we have a good days and our bad days. Below is a picture of one of our bad days. We were ocean sailing off the coast of Connecticut and it was cold. I had to help Capt’n with something on deck so Capt’n in Training was in the salon. Well he wasn’t happy and he cried and cried and cried. When I had the free moment to check on him I found him asleep on a roll of paper towels that he unraveled. (We have since moved the paper towel dispenser).

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