Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moishe's Pending Demotion

Moishe, our fearless dog, has grown quite accustomed to living aboard Sea Gem over the past 11 months.  He has mastered climbing in and out of the cabin, scampering around deck, and staying out of the ocean.  And, it took awhile to find a good space for him to rest, he has finally settled into his "den," the empty space beneath the navigation/office desk. 

Overall, Moishe has a predictable, comfortable life.

His life is about to radically change, of course.  Although he now runs the show most of the time, in less than two weeks, our daughter will be here, and Moishe is about to be pushed down a rung or two.  He won't be the center of attention, he won't have free reign of the boat, and it is just a matter of time before the baby is able to crawl right into his den and start rearranging his belongings (a tattered pillow and a few slobbery rubber toys).  

Can Moishe share the spotlight?  Time will tell. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Short List, Tall Order

When we tell people we plan to stay on the boat after the baby arrives, as opposed to moving into a house, we get a lot of questions. In general, people are very concerned about things like where the baby will sleep, how we'll manage to keep the baby in the boat, childproofing, and where we'll put a rocking chair.

While Eric and I don't share any of the aforementioned concerns, we were initially a bit panicked about the idea of having a baby on board. Specifically, we were worried that our boat would be taken over by baby gear. These days, babies seem to come with a lot of stuff, and since space is limited on a boat, we knew it would be a challenge keeping "necessities" to a minimum. Just like when you get married, when you bring a child into the world, people instantly want to give you all sorts of stuff, which can be overwhelming. On top of that, there is so much baby gear available in stores, it can be a challenge distinguishing between products you actually need and products that are merely clever ideas masquerading as necessities.

In order to keep from filling our boat with baby gear, we first made a list of the things we thought we'd need. Then, I called a friend of mine, who had recently had a baby, and asked her to go through her registry with me. She told me which items from her registry she actually used, which items she found to be unnecessary, and which items weren't useful at all. Then, I called one of my sisters, and went over the list with her, which resulted in a few more additions and eliminations. Finally, Eric and I reviewed the list, and for anything that we were unsure of, we'd ask ourselves, "Did our parents need this to take care of us?" If the answer was "no," it was eliminated. Once Eric and I felt like our list was complete, we went shopping. Although it was tempting, we didn't wander the aisles looking at every baby product under the sun--we only allowed ourselves to find the items on our list. This process saved us from being overwhelmed at the store and kept us from making impulse buys.

While each of us has the ability to control what we buy, it is much harder to prevent other people from buying things for you. People are so excited about the arrival of a baby that--even strangers--go out of their way to buy you gifts and give you boxes and boxes of stuff. Although these offers are incredibly generous and extremely kind, given our space constraints, they are nearly impossible for us to accept. When someone offers to give us their used items, we thank them and let them know that we have very limited space and are waiting to see what items (outside of those on our list) we need before we buy/acquire anything else. We also let people know that several of our family members have baby gear for us, and since they are our relatives, they get first dibs when it comes to offloading their stuff. To further ensure our friends and acquaintances felt absolutely no obligation to get us anything, we didn't register, nor did we have a baby shower. Of the gifts that we've received from our close friends and family (who are all well aware of our living situation), everything has been very thoughtful (i.e. tiny & practical), on our list, or comes in the form of a gift card. 

So what made our shopping list?
  • Life jacket
  • Diapers
  • Bassinet
  • Baby blanket (1)
  • Receiving blankets (4)
  • Swaddling blankets (3)
  • Pacifiers (2)
  • Burp rags (12)
  • Bottles & nipples (4 & 6) - we hand-wash everything after we use it, so we figured we'd start with just a few
  • Brush for washing bottles (1) 
  • Breast pump 
  • Nursing cover (1)
  • Baby bouncer (hand-me-down my parents supplied)
  • Diaper disposal container
  • Changing table items (wipes, diaper cream, ointment, etc.)
  • Changing pad
  • Changing pad covers (4)
  • Portable changing pad (for diaper bag)
  • Baby bathtub
  • Bathing/bathroom products (soap, shampoo, SPF, infant nail clippers, etc.)
  • Washcloths (4)
  • Clothes (not a ton - babies grow quickly, so we didn't want to load up on any particular size)
  • Baby mittens (3 pairs) 
  • Booties (2 sets of 6)
  • Hats (3)
  • Baby book
  • Car seat (1 to start with)
  • Baby K'tan Baby Carrier (1)

Things you might have expected to see that are not on our list:
  • Diaper bag (we are using a backpack we already own)
  • Stroller (we are going to see how long we can go without one)
  • Crib (we'll buy one once she grows out of her bassinet)
  • Baby monitors (we live in a small space--no need for amplification)
  • Rocking chair (we live in a boat--all of our chairs are rocking chairs
  • Boopy (I'll use a pillow or perhaps just suffer in silence)
  • Bottle drying rack (we already own one)
  • Highchair (we'll get one when she starts eating solids)

Can we get by with just these items? Maybe. We'll let you know!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Making Boarding a Little Less Adventurous, Part III

As Eric explained in two previous posts, after he accidentally fell into the water while taking out the trash, we decided we needed to make a few changes to our boarding practices. The very first thing we did was commit to paying attention to what we are doing while getting on and off the boat (the root cause of why Eric slipped). Next, we rearranged our lifelines, so they were less cumbersome, and we installed a set of secure boarding steps, which makes boarding during high tide less of a gamble.

With these changes in place, boarding Sea Gem was a breeze. In fact, the only remaining safety concern was boarding at night (or the early morning) while it is dark. Truthfully, boarding at night was never that challenging (of course, neither was boarding during the day, yet he still managed to fall in). Our marina is lit well enough to ensure that, even in the dark, you can see where the dock ends and the water begins. However, since none of the marina lighting is particularly bright, we thought the addition of some strategically placed lights could only make things safer. Eric installed two small solar lights on deck by where we board (see them below in red), so we can see where we are stepping, even when it is dark: 

These lights charge on sunlight during the day and emit a soft glow when night falls:

While not blinding, the light put out by these lights is just bright enough to cut through the darkness and help us see precisely where (and where not) our feet should go. They are our boat's equivalent of a porch light. So far, boarding in the dark has proven uneventful. And considering we'll soon have some very precious cargo in our hands, we want to keep it that way.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sailing Sabbatical

It's official--we, or rather, I, can't go sailing anymore until after the baby is born (and weighs enough to wear her new life jacket). Although I feel fine and am not having much difficulty maneuvering about the boat, sailing at this point in my pregnancy wouldn't be a good idea. It could be unsafe for a variety of reasons, especially if I were to go into labor. To be sure, at my last doctor's appointment, I asked my OB if I could sail at 37 weeks, and after a brief chuckle, he confirmed that I'd be better off staying put for the time being.

Although I am disappointed we won't be going sailing for awhile, the timing actually couldn't be better. Currently, we are in the process of having our exterior teak refinished (pictures to come), and since we need to keep the exposed teak from coming into contact with saltwater, Sea Gem can't go out anyway. On top of that, Miami has been experiencing a tremendous amount of rain lately, so even if I weren't pregnant, we'd still be stuck at the dock.

So, for now, we are tied up at the marina waiting for the baby to arrive. Although our current situation is less than exciting, we are happy knowing that the next time we head out for a sail, our daughter will be with us.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

But What About Keeping the Baby in the Boat?

A question that we are frequently asked is how we will manage to keep the baby in the boat once she is born.  Based on the questions that come before and after, I don't think anyone is actually expecting an answer to this question.  Rather, it is usually just another way of asking: "So, you are selling the boat, right?"  And that, of course, is a kinder way of demanding: "Sell the boat and get a house already!"

Well, we certainly aren't selling Sea Gem, and as it turns out, the question has a pretty clear answer.  It is actually harder for us to wrap our minds around the question than the answer, as we need to remind ourselves that most people are still picturing us bobbing around at sea in a big canoe.  In that sense, the question of how we will keep the baby in the boat falls right line with asking what we do when it rains.

The short answer is that we will keep our baby in the boat the same way that parents all over the world keep their babies in their houses.  Sea Gem is fully enclosed.  You can't get up from the easy chair, turn around, and stumble into the ocean.  The interior and the deck of Sea Gem are completely separate spaces, much like the inside and the outside of a house.  Although the exterior of Sea Gem is near the ocean, we won't allow our baby to crawl around the deck anymore than a land-based parent would allow his baby to crawl around the street or around the swimming pool.

What's more, it is much harder to leave the interior of Sea Gem than it is to escape from inside a house.  Whereas a door knob is about three feet above the floor, the latch to Sea Gem's door is three feet above the top of a four-and-a-half foot ladder:

If you don't worry about your baby unlocking and opening your front door and crawling into the street, there is certainly no reason to worry about our baby doing the same after first scaling a tall ladder.  In addition, the latch to our door is far more difficult to unlock and open than a typical door, so even when our baby grows big enough to climb the ladder and reach the latch (we estimate we have at least a few years), opening it will be another matter:

Although raising our baby on the boat will certainly bring its challenges, including many we have not yet anticipated, keeping the baby inside is one challenge where the boat is actually advantageous, as compared to a house.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Life Jacket, Eh?

Over the past two weekends, Eric and I have been preparing for the arrival of our daughter. We've done all of the things land-based expectant parents do (purchased car seats, stocked up on diapers--we even bought a new car), but since we live on a boat, we also had to find items that will allow us to sail with our daughter. Not surprisingly, the most important thing we had to get was a life jacket.

Just like our dog, whose unbalanced proportions don't allow him to swim successfully, our daughter will also need a life vest to compensate for her top-heavy physique and inability to swim. To find a suitable infant life jacket, Eric and I ventured to Fort Lauderdale, the boating mecca of South Florida, to see what options were available. Sadly, we were more than disappointed by what we discovered. For starters, there was very little in terms of selection. There was even less in terms of quality.  Apparently, "sailing infants" do not account for a large enough segment of the market to warrant the production of seaworthy life vests...unless you live in Canada. Yes, our friendly northern neighbors have produced the perfect infant life vest:

Salus Marine Wear Bijoux Baby Flotation Life Vest
(Not our baby)
The Bijoux Baby Life Vest is much more robust than anything we were able to find locally in stores. It is designed around the shape of an infant's body, as opposed to other infant life jackets, which are merely scaled down versions of adult vests. The Bijoux Baby Life Vest's design accounts for an infant's inability to maneuver strategically in the water by ensuring that the baby floats face up should they happen to fall in. It also has a special 3-piece collar that supports the baby's head when the child is lifted out of the water by the straps. In addition, this vest is also comfortable for the baby to wear outside of the water, and considering our plan is to keep our daughter in the boat, her comfort while dry is also extremely important.

We were so impressed by all of the life jacket's features and positive reviews that we ordered one--in pink:

Now that we have a life vest that we can feel confident about, we are ready to set sail with our daughter...the only thing we are waiting on is her arrival.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Coffee Service Begins at 0700.

We are both coffee drinkers.  When we first moved aboard Sea Gem, we would make coffee every morning using whole beans, a coffee grinder, and a french press.  Not the quickest method of making coffee, but using whole beans and a french press makes really good coffee.  On the other hand, the process is time consuming (ten minutes is an eternity when getting ready for work in the morning), and cleaning the french press in a boat sink without a garbage disposal is about as irritating a daily task as I can think of.

Once Krissy became pregnant and stopped drinking anything with caffeine, I simply gave up making coffee every morning.  Grinding beans, boiling water, using the french press, and--most of all--washing the french press was just too much work for a single couple of coffee.  Instead, I waited until I got to work and had a cup (or three) there.  Not as nice as a nice cup of coffee before leaving for the day, but clearly better than all the work that went into making coffee at home.  With a baby (and a lack of sleep) on the way, we clearly needed to to find a better way to make coffee.

Enter the Nespresso, a fantastic baby gift (albeit not for the baby) courtesy of one of my co-workers.  The Nespresso makes a fantastic cup of coffee at the press of a button and clean-up is as easy as throwing away the used pods every few days.  Our machine, the Pixie, takes up no more space than the electric kettle we used to use to boil water for the french press, and it fits neatly on a shelf in the galley--nothing needs to be moved, set up, or cleaned, and a fresh cup of coffee is never more than arm's reach and a few seconds away.  We also have the Aeroccino, a tiny machine that quickly whips milk into a thick foam.  Frothed milk is something that we would never make manually, and what's more, the machine is a cinch to clean.

(From left: coffee pods, Nespresso Pixie, Aeroccino)
The result is that coffee first thing in the morning is once again part of my daily routine, and capuccino (decaf for now) is now part of Krissy's:

Compared to all of devices we used to need to make a cup of coffee, the Nespresso is a space-saver that has quickly become one of our favorite additions to Sea Gem.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Making Room for Baby

Despite the fact that we are rapidly closing in on the baby's estimated birth date, up until this past weekend, Eric and I really hadn't done much in the way of preparing for her arrival. We had made a thorough list of items we wanted to get, but we hadn't actually pulled the trigger and purchased anything (other than socks and a few sailing outfits). So, in order to feel a bit more prepared, we ventured to the suburbs with the mission to buy baby gear. The number one item on our list? A bassinet.

After we explain to people that we are not going to move off the boat when the baby arrives, the first question we are asked about is where the baby will sleep. At first, we planned to buy a small crib and put it in our main salon (living room/dining room). However, in addition to not wanting our salon to resemble a nursery, we also knew it would be best if, at least for the first few months, the baby slept in our room in a bassinet.

As you can see from the image below, our room, while large for a sailboat, isn't large enough to accommodate a traditional bassinet:

As such, we can't get a traditional bassinet. We (very) briefly considered using a dresser drawer as a make-shift bed for the baby, but decided against it, as we felt we were already pushing the limits of societal acceptance by living on a boat. Instead, we opted for the slightly more socially acceptable Summer Infant Rest Assured Sleeper, which is a bassinet designed to fit on the master bed (in between the parents):

So, for the first few months, our daughter will sleep snuggled (safely) in between the two of us. After she is a bit bigger, she'll move into the nursery, which will eventually house a small crib.

Until the baby arrives, I am working to transform our starboard stateroom into something that resembles a baby's room. So far, we have a changing station, complete with diapers and wipes, and some nautical-themed bedding (not that the baby will be sleeping in the bunk beds anytime soon):

So, we made a bit of progress this past weekend. Although we still aren't ready for our daughter to arrive just yet, should she, we could at least change a few poopy diapers. 

Sea Gem vs. Puma

In my last post, I explained that Sea Gem is pretty far from a racing boat, and I know that for a fact, as I was recently on the ultimate racing boat. 

The Volvo Ocean Race, an around-the-world sailing race, stopped in Miami for a two-week event.  Through work, I was a lucky recipient of a ticket to "crew" one of the boats during a practice race off the coast of Miami.  Here is a photo of the boat (Puma) on its way through the cut to the Atlantic.  (If you look closely, you may be able to see me in the stern--I am wearing a light blue shirt):

The Volvo Ocean Race boats are 70-foot racing boats built entirely with modern technology that did not even exist in 1986, when Sea Gem was built.  They have canting keels, operated by massive hydraulic rams, to maximize righting force (to keep the boat from leaning over).  They are made almost entirely of carbon fiber.  They have several high-tech sails that are changed (manually, by a crew of ten men) to maximize performance on any given point of sail.  They have lifting centerboards.  To save weight, they use special no-stretch ropes instead of metal fittings.

With all of this technology at work, the performance is staggering.  The wind was very light while we were sailing, mostly between 6 and 8 knots.  Even with a spinnaker, Sea Gem would be lucky to muster 3, maybe 4, knots in that wind.  But Puma sails faster than wind speed.  In 6 knots of wind, we did 8 knots.  In 8 knots of wind, we did 11 knots.  And, apparently, the Volvo Ocean Race boats will hit 40 knots--faster than most power boats--in the right conditions.

So, am I jealous?  Not at all.  To achieve that performance, comfort is not only compromised, it is banished altogether.  Living conditions aboard Puma were awful.  It was hot and humid, dark, cramped, and extremely noisy.  Because the boats are carbon fiber and are not insulated, every noise is amplified into the interior.  There is one bathroom for ten men, who sleep nearly stacked on top of each other in tiny, mesh cots.  It is truly miserable.  That discomfort is necessary to achieve maximum performance, but for a liveaboard like Sea Gem, I will gladly sacrifice performance to be comfortable.

Although Puma and Sea Gem are polar opposites, I was pleased to see that they share one piece of equipment in common: the mighty Hella fan.  Whether sailing at 3 knots or 40, those things just plain work.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cracking the Whip

In Eric's last post, he described our cruising spinnaker and how we were able to use it successfully during our last sail. The one thing he left out of his post, however, was the violent assault we endured while attempting to lower the spinnaker on our return trip to Miami.

Day 1 of spinnaker usage went off without a hitch. The spinnaker was raised, we sailed, the spinnaker was lowered--everyone was happy.

Day 2 of spinnaker usage was not as successful. It started off much like the day before: the wind was extremely light and the water was calm. It was the perfect day for a spinnaker. Eric's parent made their way to the foredeck to raise the sail, while Eric steered the ship:

With the spinnaker raised, we picked up speed and settled in for a relaxing day on the water. Averaging over 5 knots, we were scheduled to arrive in Miami mid-afternoon, just as we had planned. Hours later, as we approached Miami, it was time to take the spinnaker down. Eric's parents again made their way to the foredeck to tackle the task at hand. We decided that, unlike the day before, we'd point into the wind when taking down the spinnaker in order to "deflate" the enormous sail, so that it would be easier to control.

As we turned into the wind to lower the sail, there were a number of factors at play that ultimately resulted in total chaos: the spinnaker's sheet (rope) was too tight, the wind picked up, the water became choppy, and something was tied that shouldn't have been. The moment we turned into the wind, the spinnaker began whipping around in a violent frenzy. The sheet attached to the sail began beating the cockpit at a speed fast enough to cause irreparable bodily harm to anyone in its path. As the line continued to whip the boat, its force cracked our nameplate into pieces and unhinged one of our life preservers from its metal frame. Seeing that the life preserver was about to fall into the sea, Eric instructed me to save it. I, of course, refused, as I did not believe the loss of a mildew-covered life preserver was greater than the loss of one of my limbs. He later concurred.

Shattered Nameplate
Meanwhile, on the foredeck, Eric's parents were nearly jettisoned into the air while attempting to gain control of the sail. Luckily, Eric was able to position the boat so that the spinnaker relaxed and could finally be lowered.

Once things calmed down, I was able to fish our life preserver out from the sea with the use of our huge fishing net and boat hook. And, once we were back at dock, Eric was able to replace our nameplate with a shiny new one:

Replacement Nameplate
So, although Eric is convinced that we'll be using the spinnaker the next time we're out, I'm not so sure we're ready to handle it solo. So which lucky couple will get the pleasure of being sent to our foredeck to tame the spinnaker? I believe my parents are visiting soon...