I remember vacationing with some friends in Mombasa, Kenya many years ago and they brought their beautiful little son with them from Australia who, at the time, was probably no older than 6 months. You know what they brought for him? Aside from the essential gear like diapers and a few clothes (and not too many of those either!), they brought one toy. Yes, that's right - ONE toy. It was a little wooden train. I was amazed. This little guy was so content - no portable DVD players, no "Baby Einstein" stuff - he needed nothing more than an empty water bottle or a paper towel role to get his imagination going. He was such a happy little man and I remember vowing on that trip that I would raise my children in the same way. Residing on a boat with limited space far away from places like "Buy Buy Baby" will certainly make living this way easier because - let's face it - we simply will not have room for excess, but it will still take effort not to buy into all the hoopla. For our little Isla, the world will be her playground.
Despite wanting to be as "bare bones" as we can - we don't want to go completely without baby gear as some of it will make life aboard a little easier. Here are some products we have that we think will help us to unite our baby and our boat, without going too over-the-top:
- ERGO Performance Baby Carrier - our good friends on S/V Sarabande love theirs and little James was a happy camper when hiking with them in it. I trust just about everything Alicia tells me so when she advised we pick up one of these things, I listened. We have yet to use ours because Isla is too little, but this will be useful on long hikes and visits to the market. She can interact with the world around her and we can walk in comfort - hands free! (Are you seeing a trend here?) [Editor's note: we swear by this, and used this a LOT on shore excursions. A must have in our opinion].
- Okkatots Travel Diaper Backpack - when you go ashore to run errands, a backpack usually comes in handy and travelling with a baby requires a little extra prep as well. This backpack is awesome - it has plenty of room for our stuff as well as lots of room for things like diapers, wipes and whatever else little Isla will need. It also has a small cooler section to keep a bottle as well as a travel changing pad. It is on the large side for everyday land use - but for when we're going from sea to shore, this will most definitely come in handy. Rugged and functional! [Editor's note: we ended up not bringing a diaper bag ashore with us, instead we used our Sailor Bags Back Pack and stored both our items as well as baby items in it. We travel as light as possible.]
- Inglesina Fast Table Chair - since a high chair is definitely out of the question on our boat - we opted for this collapsible travel chair. It is awesome. It can fit on just about any table and folds flat. We use it ALL. THE. TIME. here on land. [Editor's note: We did find this useful when we went ashore for dinner as hardly any island restaurants are equipped with high chairs, but on the boat we preferred to use her Bumbo seat with the tray (see below)]
- Phil & Teds Traveller Crib- we went back and forth about getting one of these and when we found one on sale for a steal we decided to get it. So happy we did. At only 7 pounds this is light and easily stow-able and a great place for Isla to sleep when we are not on the boat. When we are on the boat, it's a great place to put her where know she can't get into any trouble. It has a UV shade that zips in the top and the feet have holes where you can secure them with line (to the boat) or with pegs (to the ground). Isla loves it in here, and we love knowing she is protected and safe. [Editor's note: This, in our opinion, is a must have item. Unfortunately the new generation models don't have the side zip like our old one, but Isla at almost 2 STILL sleeps in this travel bed. Best baby purchase ever for us.]
- Umbrella Stroller - It is HOT down south so "baby wearing" isn't always the best way to go. We love being able to take Isla on a walk in her Maclaren Globetrotter stroller. It has a big shade, is durable and still small enough to keep on the boat, but rugged enough to endure lots of miles. [Editor's note: while we preferred to "wear" Isla in the baby carrier mentioned above, we still used this stroller quite a bit and while we wouldn't consider it "essential" it is nice to have.]
- PaciGrip Pacifier Holders An item goes in their hand, goes in their mouth, then goes on the floor. This pattern can repeat an exorbitant number of times. As such, it's important to keep things attached to baby. I have found that these paci grips are great for more than just pacifiers: toys, sunglasses, hats...while things falling on the ground isn't that big of a deal, things falling in the water is. These will help to keep her affects on board. [Editor's note: Love these. Period.]
- Infant Life Jacket - despite the fact that it is very likely our little Isla will learn to swim before she walks, wearing a life jacket will be a must for her when we're on the boat and going from sea to shore in the dinghy. [Editor's note: Isla wore her lifejacket in the dinghy and on docks, but on the boat was almost exclusively in her West Marine infant tether and harness.]
- Floating Activity Center with Canopy - it's cheap, stores flat, blows up, provides shade and lots of entertainment for when we're playing in the water. Isla will feel at home both in a pool or in the ocean when she can sit in one of these! [Editor's note: This was great fun for a while, until it popped. We found the Stearns Kid's Puddle Jumper much more useful once she was a year and over. Be sure to check sizing as some are larger than others.]
- Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym - Isla LOVES this activity mat and when we place her in it, coos and giggles begin. She works on hand eye coordination, tummy time, and scooting around on her but in here. This one is cheap, folds flat and will provide lots of fun play time for little Isla on rainy days or when we find ourselves inside the boat for long periods of time. [Editor's note: This was great when Isla was under 6 months, but by 6 months she was crawling, and by 10 she was walking so this had a short shelf life.]
- Bumbo Baby Seat - Yes, we know these were recalled but we still love ours. When we are not underway, this seat will be great for Isla to sit up in and interact with mommy and daddy. Babies don't want to lay on their tummies or backs ALL the time and this chair will be great for those times when she wants to sit up and look at the world around her without being all strapped in. [Editor's note: This was another baby essential on board for us. It was her high chair on the boat (with the tray addition), it was her seat in the cockpit, and it was - in general - one of the most used pieces of baby gear we purchased.]
I know that some of you out there are mom's with babies on board so if you have other suggestions or tips to make boating and babies fit together, we'd love to hear from you!