Friday, August 5, 2011

Living Aboard a Boat with a Baby

Well, I've waited four months to write this post. I wanted to get used to living aboard the boat with Ivy before jumping to any conclusions about what living aboard a boat with a baby was really like and how it might differ from living in a house or apartment with a baby.

When people initially ask this question (and they inevitably do), I tend to tell them that it's not that different. In some ways it's true, but the more I think about the question, the more I see the differences. Let me explain.

Madrigal's head is pretty small. Our shower is the sink faucet that extends out to be a shower head, and we essentially shower with the toilet. It's certainly not glamorous, but it gets us clean. I've given Ivy a couple of showers in there, but it doesn't work out as well as her tummy tub. We are thankful to have hot water, so we don't have to heat water up on the stovetop to get her water warm. The bonus? We can give her a bath out in the cockpit on a nice day (which is what I plan on doing when she wakes up from her nap!) I don't feel like she's missing out on anything here, and I'm actually very pleased with this tub. She loves it, we love it.

Cloth Diapers:
Cloth diapers are definitely more of a chore for us than if we lived in a house with a washer and dryer. No doubt about it. We keep them in wet bags so they don't stink (which works great) and wash them by hand every few days. Disposables would have been another option, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. We spent $100 on her entire stash of diapers, and every one of them is going to last until she's potty trained. It would be easier to have a washer and dryer for them, but I'm happy we don't. I enjoy washing them by hand, I love hanging them on the lifelines, and I love how much money we're saving by doing so.

Which brings me onto another topic - elimination communication, or infant potty training. That's right, Ivy's mostly potty trained. It's weird and I won't get into it too much, but I'd say she's about 75% potty trained. We still keep her in diapers at all times, but for the most part they're staying clean and dry now. Ivy loves it because she hates being wet more than she hates anything else, so it's also cut down on the crying about 75%.

Well, this one's pretty simple and would be the same in a house as it is on a boat. Ivy's 100% breastfed. We own a bottle (somewhere) but she doesn't use it.

Ivy's playtime is ever evolving as she gets bigger. She started using a johnny jump up at two months old. It hangs from a handrail and she can push off of the cushion and bounce. She has a bumbo, but she's never been a big fan of it. Aside from that, we don't have any fancy contraptions for her to sit in/lay in/play in. No playpens or pack-n-plays.

She's just about sitting up on her own now, with a few topples here and there, so I decided to start dropping the table down to make one big play area for her. It's safe, it's cushy, it's fun. And I can sit over there with her while she plays, so there's currently no need for any safety netting. I know that's only going to last us a few weeks, so I've started figuring out the best way to make it safer for her. We have some extra lifeline netting that I plan on putting up very soon. She'll be able to practice crawling and standing up there, and it's a really nice sized area for her to play in.

She obviously doesn't have a lot of space for a lot of toys, but I'm sure most parents would say "oh, you're lucky!" She still has a good amount of things to play with - toys of different sizes and textures. Toys that squeak and teething toys. Fabric toys and wooden toys. She's certainly not missing out on anything there.

Ivy sleeps with us in the v-berth. She sleeps like a champ. It's awesome. But there are times when it's harder to live in such a small space with her because of the issue of sleep.

For instance, she likes to wake up at 4am sometimes. I like to let Justin sleep, since that's only 4 1/2 hours after he gets home from work. Usually it's just fine - I can take her out of the v-berth, shut the door, and we're fine. But if she's having a rough morning and screaming, that door is pretty thin and she keeps him awake. When she gets up at 4, she's usually ready for a nap at 6. The easiest way to get her to nap is to take her back into bed (well, that or the Ergo, but at 6, I'm always hoping for a bit more sleep as well). If Justin's still in bed, then we end up waking him up until she goes back to sleep. It's not a terrible setup by any means, but I imagine that naps with a baby in a house go much differently than this.

And then there are the daytime naps. The time where I think "Yes! I can do the dishes and vacuum and clean up the boat!" Except...I can't. I don't dare do the dishes, because if I drop a fork, she wakes up. And if she doesn't get enough sleep, she'll be cranky. So either I do dishes when she's awake and happy and playing somewhere safely, or I do them when she's in the Ergo, or one of us does them when we're both home.

Another silly thing that we have to be very aware of is Willie's collar. We've discovered that Willie loves to do that doggy shake that dogs like to do. It makes his tags jingle SO loudly, and sometimes that wakes the baby. So we're always frantically trying to get his collar off before he wakes her.

I do turn on white noise for her, which helps with most things. It allows me to worry a bit less about waking her.

Naptime for Ivy is quiet time for everyone. It's the time when I nap with her when she's woken me up too early, the time that I do indexing, or the time that I update the blog. It's a great way to force myself to relax a little, because soon she'll be awake and needing this and that. Naptime is me time, and I am very thankful to have it.


  1. Cool entry and the pics are a nice touch. I like the one of her with Willie on the play area, AKA, my fabulous sleeping quarters!

    But, all that sleep/nap talk and NO mention of Elizabeth Mitchell?!? Just hours after you laud her on Facebook? Strange....

  2. She is sooo cute and I'm very impressed you are doing cloth diapers and washing them by hand! Wow!

  3. Amazing, amazing. Cloth diapers by hand. Awesome! I will never grumble about my cloth diaper laundry which I was in our little machine...
    Freja is a light sleeper too, so I understand the "nap time is quiet time." When she was little(r), you could start up the boat's engines and she wouldn't I can't even open the fridge without her eyes popping open. Challenging. But also relaxing, calming, and peaceful.
    Great post!

  4. The cloth diapers by hand really isn't a big deal, especially with the elimination communication. It cuts down on the wash like crazy! Besides, I really really do enjoy washing them.

  5. This is a great find for us. Thanks for posting! My wife and I have an 8 month old and we're doing all of the legwork to move onto a boat soon. We're doing EC with our little girl as well. Awesome. We have a lot of questions but one has to do with your neighbors; do you catch any attitude about the baby crying? Keep up the blogging!

  6. Oh. Just noticed this is an old post. I'm going to explore your latest posts to see how things have progressed. Cheers.

  7. Hi! I just found your blog and have a question. We are looking into a live-aboard and I'm 28 weeks pregnant. My question is about sleeping. Do you bed share or does she have a bassinet or something? No judgement on bed-sharing, but my husband is a very heavy sleeper, so it's probably not an option for us and I'm trying to figure out what would be the best. We are looking at 40ft aft cabins, so we should have plenty of room. Love the idea of dropping the table for play space!