The number one draw to our blog these days is the fact that we cruised with our first born baby on board.  Apparently a lot of you are baby happy which kind of took us by surprise!  It also seems that cruising as a young family is becoming all the rage with more and more people deciding to head out to sea with little tykes in tow.  It is our belief that there is no greater gift that you can give your babies and growing children than that of your time (whether on land or sea matters not), and we feel incredibly lucky and grateful that we have found a lifestyle that allows us to give this to our children in spades.  Boats produce some pretty awesome kids if you ask us!
Our first born daughter, Isla, was raised on a boat from five to twenty one months old (at which point we came home to have our twins).  She was a natural on the boat and made cruising more fun for us.  Traveling as a family was a huge gift, and I believe very strongly that living on a boat and traveling with mom and dad during those formative months of Isla's life had a profound effect on her development (verbal, motor, social..etc).  All positive effects, mind you.  The fresh air, the sunshine, the lack of television, quality time with mom and dad, exposure to other cultures and foods, the natural stimuli of nature - I could go on and on, but suffice it to say; we think cruising is a pretty cool way to grow up.

Cruising with one baby - while it did pose new challenges - was not hard for us, but this is not the case with everyone (three toddlers, mind you, is a different story! Which is why we decided to relocate indefinitely in the BVI, one of the best - and easiest cruising grounds in the world).  There are a huge slew of factors that will effect how you will find boating with a baby, and a few of those things are:
  • Your boat.  Is it easy to single hand?  Because in our experience, when you cruise with a baby or toddler (and it's amplified if there are more young children), one crew member is on dedicated baby duty.  Having a boat that is easy to sail by one person (in our case this is almost always Scott) is key in our opinion.  We bought a boat with this in mind and made adjustments where necessary and all maneuvers on our boat from raising and reefing sails to anchoring are easily done by one person.
  • Your location.  Where you are will greatly impact your cruising enjoyment.  We island hopped with our baby in the Caribbean.  While we did do some overnights and one five day offshore passage, the bulk of our sailing from place to place was day hops that ranged from 4-12 hours.  We think this is the ideal scenario when cruising with young children (under 3).  Long range passage making is taxing on adults, and even more so if you have babies or toddlers on board.  We, personally, are not even considering an ocean crossing to far-flung places until our girls are at least five or older.  Some people do this and are successful, but we prefer to be near more facilities, amenities, and cruising families while they are super young.  Again, this is a personal preference but nevertheless, something that should be taken into consideration. 
  • Peers.  It has been our experience that if you can find buddy boats with children the same age as your own, you will be significantly happier.  While families cruising with little tots are almost certainly on the rise, we are still in the vast minority.  Not only do fellow baby boats understand what you are going through (we can't party late, we wake up early, we like to find child friendly activities, we have parenting woes and triumphs that we like to share...etc), they have a built-in playmate for your little one which gives mom and dad a well deserved break!  Socialization is very important for children so exposing them to other tots is not only beneficial for them, but for the parentals as well!  Some of our best friends in the world started as our buddy boat and we cruised with them for about eight months, it was a blast.  On the same hand, it's also good to be realistic that you might not always find the peers you are seeking - and, for some who are used to a tight nit mom or parenting community on land (you know, organized play groups, classes, outings, moms day outs, preschool...etc), you might find living aboard with a baby very challenging as this lifestyle can be a little alienating - especially if you have young babies on board.
  • Your parenting style.  This is a biggie.  Scott and I are pretty laid-back parents in almost all departments except for sleep (we are huge fans of the sleep schedule, and believe very strongly in the importance of sleep for a growing child.  Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is the book we would recommend to learn more) and we are on the same page about how we want to raise our kids.  We never worried for a minute about bringing up Isla on a boat and we think this relaxed style, combined with the fact that we had very realistic expectations as to what it would be like (having cruised as a couple before) really made our experience a positive one.  It is important to note, however, that not everyone finds having a baby on a boat as rewarding or easy as we did.  It really depends on the situation and each family is unique.  Also keep in mind we only had ONE baby at the time, and that's a pretty advantageous adult to child ratio. Three young kids is much different and trickier. It's still doable, no question - but, for example, we opted out of long-range passages and overnights until our twins were a bit older. One mama can only do so much for three babies in rough seas! Read: NOT ENOUGH ARMS.
  • Your child.  Every child is an individual and some children are easier than others when it comes to adaptability.  Isla was so young when we brought her on the boat that she really knew no different, she thrived in the lifestyle despite what many would venture to guess.  Some children are more fussy than others, some are more high maintenance - Isla was (and always has been) an "easy" baby.  If you have a challenging baby, it's worth nothing that it will be more of a challenge when you don't have the luxury of play groups, organized activities and reliable baby sitters around to give you a break.
  • Your 'Tude.  Yep, I'm talking about your attitude.  Your thoughts shape your life so think wisely. We hold more power in our heads that we can possibly imagine.

Want to read more?

We have written pretty extensively on the subject of child-rearing on a boat having sailed over 5,000 nautical miles with Isla.  We are still learning, and of course there are no hard and fast rules to parenting and what worked for us may or may not work for you - but you will find tips and tricks that we found helpful in the links below.  Enjoy, and feel free to share your experiences in the comments.  No one gets medals in this whole "parenting" thing and we could all learn a thing or two from each other! 
And check out these posts I have written for Zizoo Boats on Boating with Babies:


Kate L said...

Hi- just wanted to say kudos for taking your kids out! My family cruised for a few years when I was 9 and my sister 4. I believe we adapt to change much easier as a result. We came back before my middle school years and I sort of forgot how great boat life was. But as I have considered having kids of my own, I realized if I do, I want to be sure they have the same sort of experiences. .... And if I don't, I want to have the experiences again for myself. :)

Tony T. Brown said...

Journey by boat it is a exciting tour.

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Saleem said...

Oh..your journey with your lovely one is really inspirational and exciting. Of course, managing this three smarties on a journey itself is very exciting. Have a safe and enjoyable trip. Take care, all the best.
The images posted are great. How you are managing to take exciting photos with this cutes?

Unknown said...

I really love the sentences "babies are such a nice way to start people". Kids are drawing papers, how they become in the future depends on parents. For best children's development, board and baby playpen are the best combination.

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I love the kids.
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They really like it. You try to buy it for your kids.

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Can't imagine myself cruising with my baby, looking forward to that day.

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