Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Boats and Babies: Products that Unite the Two?

Bringing a five month old baby on a boat requires a little...creativity.  When I got pregnant, Scott and I vowed to raise our children with "simplicity" in mind.  Our goal is to try and raise our babies without having to fill an SUV with pack-n-plays, swings, bouncy chairs and god knows what else every time we go out somewhere.  This sounds easy enough, but take one trip to a dedicated "baby store" and suddenly you are in a world where excess is not the exception, but the rule.  From prenatal "educational systems" to gadgets that analyze your baby's cry...the makers of baby stuff have left no stone unturned.  It's ridiculous, really.

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.]
Yes, despite wanting to simplify things - we still have a pretty adequate list of baby gear that doesn't include all her clothes, sun hats, sunscreen and stuff like that.  While this might seem like a lot to those of you without kids - trust me, this is NOTHING compared to what most new parents in the Western world have for their babies!

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!


Lisa said...

Brittany -
This is Lisa from Beaufort, SC. You were kind enough to answer a few of our cruising question a few months ago. I thought I would offer a few ideas. Living on the coast, we took our little ones on the boat with us shortly after they were born. Many days they were worn in the carrier, but the life savor for us was this life jacket from Salus. It allows your infant to lie flat or sit in a car seat or carrier (moses basket for us sometimes) without riding up onto the childs chin and throat. But most importantly it works as advertised. We tested each of our kiddos in it in the pool.
Our youngest is quite small (at three she is still under 25 lbs) and wore it until this fall. One of the best baby product purchases we ever made. Hopefully this helps!

beth said...

So, not a mom on a boat, but here are a couple of thoughts:
1. Books - you'll need them. There are great books for babies and they come in small sizes.
2. About the bumbo chair - they can get out of them. I know the marketing on them says otherwise, but not the case!
3. The gyro bowl might come in handy - look it up - it's a no-spill bowl.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brittany and Scott, and little Isla. Reading your blog brought back a lot of memories. Katie (who is now nearly nine) was first brought onboard at 5 months. You will find what works and doesn't for you so I'm not giving advice, but I will make an observation regarding the carseat. We had one that we set up in the cockpit for those times when we imagined we'd have to strap the baby in while we handled the boat. I will say that on the two occasions of severe weather, once when we were in a very dangerous situation, I had my baby strapped to my chest completely wrapped up in towels. I had the helm while Steve did the manual work and we have never been so focused or made a better team than in those frantic moments. My point is, that if I had not been "wearing my baby" to use your phrase, my attention would have been split. She would have been crying, and I could not have concentrated and I might have put Steve (on the foredeck) in greater danger than he already was. In those extreme moments, it was the sling that made all the difference...she was tightly wrapped to me and slept the whole way through. Just a personal anecdote for you to consider. Oh, and we never once used that bloody chair, it just took up space! :-) Anyway, fair winds. I hope our wakes cross some time. Cheers, Lyn, Steve & Katie syHaven (we'll be sitting out the hurricane season in Grenada).

Dani said...

It is nice to hear some of my peers realize how ridiculous commercialized parenting has become.

Congrats on the new baby. I'm sure you will do fine moving back on the boat.

On the bright side also, things may get easier in comparison as she gets older. Potty training, learning to speak, swimming etc.


SailFarLiveFree said...

Thumbs up for the Bumbo, thumbs down for the Moby wrap - too much work! (personal preference). You might also consider picking up a Lightspeed Quick Shelter for your shoreside excursions. They're great as a sun/wind/sand shelter for both baby and mom/dad.

Michele said...

Shopping in baby stores is exhausting, isn't it?! A couple of pointers from a landlubber who hates junk. 1. babies will play with anything as long as you didn't buy it for them, literally. toys are practically useless. 2. Carter loved the moby wrap until he was big enough to crawl, then he got too independent. You might not get a lot of use out of it after you get on the boat, but that one's all up to Isla. 3. We absolutely love our umbrella stroller, the First Years Ignite. It folds up nicely, has a basket and two separate cup holders, and the back is reclining so Carter has no problem napping. It's no trail stroller as it doesn't have shocks, but it does great on roads, sidewalks, and well cleared paths. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Brittany, Scott, and Isla-Sometimes old can be new. Our daughter was with us on the boat from two weeks old. I am not sure why, but the designers of the 1976 Ericson 27 thought you might need seat belts on the seats below to use while you were eating. They worked well for the car seat as long as you remembered to swith the seat to the other side when you tack.


Tytti said...

Many use bike safety seats for toddlers.

Seaswing has one designed straight for boats

Tytti said...

Some pics from older times with ideas.

Anonymous said...

You are drifting, but that is natural for new parents. I suggest getting back to the wooden train (not on your list). Then add, life vest and diapers. The rest is either not needed or can be improvised - but I understand the temptation.

SailFarLiveFree said...

A word of caution about strapping your baby to yourself while onboard (with towels, Moby wrap, Baby Bjorn, or other): If you lose your balance and fall, the baby can get very hurt or worse. Also, PFD's and these wrap device don't mix. Save the wraps for the shore or while at anchor.

Mary-Sweet Bookshelf said...

Love the list. Not on a boat, but they make bath time books, Dr Seuess and all sorts. They are water proof! My son loves them. Just like regular books, but they can get wet and the pages won't rip. Isla can suck on them or throw them in the ocean! Books are important and kids love them. They never get old and a few of them will be all you really need. My son has his fav's and leaves the rest. Kids really don't need a ton. My son is happier with our car keys or the remote than his own toys. We let him discover our flat and the stuff in it. He likes to play with pots and pans and wooden spoons too.

Kristen said...

Congratulations! We live aboard our powerboat in Philadelphia with our 13 month old and your list is almost duplicate to what we have aboard. We sailed in the eastern caribbean from 2006-2009 pre-baby so I've had fun perusing your blog. Moby, yes! Ergo, yes! clip on high chair, yes! I LOVE ours. We never used a bumbo, Freja just sat in our laps until she was ready for the high chair. One thing we do have that we use a lot and you might want to think about because it does take up space: a baby swing. Maybe instead of the bumbo? Freja was in it before she could sit up; we just padded all around her with towels. She still loves it. Or maybe a cloth baby hammock/seat that could work as a swing? And if you want extra diapers, just for safety, I've always used the flat, prefolds. They're so cheap it'd be easy to have a handful in the back of a locker just in case you don't have time to do the wash.
good luck!

Stephanie said...

I love the products you mention, I am a huge fan of the ergo! The one thing that I suggest-someone above mentioned, a shore side shade thing...I saw one recently that pops up and stores small...a must have in the sunshine. Also, we used the swimways baby float with a canopy-also stores small and flat-we used our jogging stroller leash to pull it around while we snorkeled, we dragged him behind us-worked perfect. Happy adventures to you all!

Jen Brett said...

Good list! We brought our baby home to our boat straight from the hospital. I think that the things we used most are: a Boppy pillow, Bumbo seat, and she slept in a Snuggle Nest in our bunk until she was 6 months old or so when we moved her into her own bunk. Our table couldn't accommodate a clip-on chair, so we used a portable high chair from Fisher-Price. It sits on a settee and we've tethered it in place. It also works well in the cockpit. Two and a half years later, we're still using it! Our umbrella stroller is a Chicco and it's been awesome. Totally agree with the Salus lifejacket. The Lil' Legends one has served us well too. My now-seven year old has gotten probably 3-4 years out of hers.
Overall, kids and their stuff expand to the space you give them. And babies are easy on board- it's the toddlers that you have to watch out for ;) as mine reminds me daily.

chris bee said...

4 kids on a boat

Windtraveler said...

EVERYONE!! Thank you so much for these great comments/suggestions! I love it!! And as for the suggestions of books - I didn't list them because those are a NO BRAINER!! We read to Isla already and reading will be a HUGE part of out lives, just like it was for mine. I always remember my dad reading (or telling) me a story every. single. night. before bed - it's a tradition I will continue with my baby girl :).

Honestly, thank you so much for your viewpoints/comments/suggestions!! You all have given me a lot to think about :)

Sandra J said...

I have read your post. Great post! I found it very useful. Love the final result. Thanks for the inspiration and the tips.

Falgoni Dutta said...

You may not get a large amount of use from it after you access it the vessel, but which one's almost all up to Isla. 3. All of us absolutely really like our patio umbrella stroller, the very first Years Spark. It folds up up perfectly, has a container and 2 separate mug holders, and also the back is actually reclining therefore Carter does not have any problem nap time.

Barry H. Gillespie said...

This is a very good post. baby seat is most important thing of protect our baby on our bike.Sling seat is the most widely recognized assortment and they accompany a five-point security tackle to guarantee that the wellbeing of the kid is not traded off anytime.

aron max said...

all are good product. I like this. this an amazing post of baby product.

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