Toby finally met the boat! We wanted to introduce him to his English and American family first, so it took us 7.5 months to get him there, but now that we’ve tried family life aboard we don’t want to stop. It was just a short trip this time, but it’s keeping us motivated for longer term plans. From the first moments he seemed mesmerized and totally at home and having him there with us made it feel even more like home to us.
Doug went down a week earlier to carry on with the engine rebuild so Toby and I had another flight together. We had a lovely lady sitting next to us who made things a little easier and apart from the little lad failing to sleep – overexcited at the adventures ahead, no doubt – it went fine. (Obviously “fine” is relative – it was, unsurprisingly, exhausting, awkward and uncomfortable for me, and gone are the days of chilling out with a movie and a few glasses of wine on flights, but the other passengers were all impressed by the “well-behaved” baby so that was a relief.) We arrived at night and our valiant little traveller wasn’t phased by the thirty minute bus ride or the short walk to the harbour. Then, bless him, he sat with us in the cockpit while us grown ups had a ‘welcome whiskey’ (like we did the very first night I spent on the boat in Raivavae, almost exactly two years ago), peacefully watching the other boats and the lights and the water, and generally looking like he was right where he belonged. And he carried on like that for the whole trip. He seriously seemed to love it! And we loved watching him being so into all the new sights and sounds and experiences.
Some of the things he loved:
And I really can’t think of any bad points. Doug was working on the engine most of the time we were there – there weren’t many jobs I was able to help with while also looking after Toby, but we managed to do some galley cleaning and an up-to-date food/supplies inventory, plus check out options for provisioning, run a few errands and a fair bit of exploring, considering we didn’t have a car. It was extremely hot and I’d been worried how we’d cope with that, but Doug had installed a fan in the main bedroom which draws very little power from the battery so that was on the whole time we were in there. Babywearing in that heat is a slight challenge, but not impossible, and way easier than taking a stroller with us – we used our trusty Ergo and our lovely Connecta, which appropriately has a rather groovy anchor design! It took me a day to get used to the idea of getting on and off the boat with Toby in the carrier, but it was fine – just had to be extra careful with my footing. The main problem was working out how to cook and prepare meals with a baby who constantly wants attention, but that’s no different to being in the house. Toby has now travelled with us to England, Texas and Hawaii and all the trips have been made massively easier by baby-wearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping and not caring too much about routines. It’s different, of course, to travelling without a baby, but it’s worked pretty well on the whole and hasn’t really been any more stressful than looking after him at home. Yay!
Perhaps the coolest side of it was realizing how little ‘stuff’ you actually need with a baby. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all the things out there being recommended for little ones. But the things I thought he’d miss – like his mobile or bouncy chair with the all-singing, all-dancing moving animals above it or his high chair – were easily forgotten with so much else to look at: flags, trees, wind generators, water, boats, people… We took a few of his usual toys and books just so it wasn’t all totally new and we used them a bit, particularly his little pouring pots for in the ‘bath’ and a couple of chewy teething toys (especially useful as he got his first TWO TEETH while we were there!), but he was easily entertained by things on or around the boat – door handles, rope, colourful cloths, the hose. And of course, lots of singing with newly made up words especially for boat-life. It felt so simple and do-able.
So, overall, it’s left us excited about the possibility of spending lots more time on Illusion with Toby. Of course, as he gets older and starts moving around we’ll need to look at setting up certain systems and features to make it a safer environment for him, but there are plenty of other people doing that who we can learn from. And obviously, being in the harbour is a whole different thing to actually being out on the water sailing, but we’ll start with little sails and build it up from there. We decided a while back that I would sit out this passage (Hawaii to Vancouver) as it just feels a bit of a huge first step – I’d like to do some shorter sails with Toby on board before we commit to two to three weeks at sea. (Doug’s already spent time sailing and living aboard with his step-children, but it’s new to me, so might take a little while to get confident about it.) But for now, apart from being sad that Toby and I flew home rather than sailing up together, our boat-baby experience was a really positive one and we can’t wait for more. Luckily we’ve started making some connections via Twitter and Facebook with other sailing families in and around Vancouver so perhaps it’ll be sooner than we think….
***Thanks to various friends and family (Aunty Hannah, Uncle John, Granny Jan, Jon & Fiona, Alejandra and Nick, and Cousin Margaret) for great clothes and accessories for the boating life! Some of which are in these photos – though he spent a lot of time with not a lot on!***