Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lost & Found

I have the tendency to become consumed by random little things. For instance, this one time, I honked at a motorist who--for no apparent reason--wasn't turning right, even though there were no cars and turning right was the only option. Oh, and did I mention there was a tornado swirling around outside at the time? Anyway, the driver's obliviousness isn't what continues to bother me. What eats away at me is how Eric recalls the story. First, I should disclose a few more details. You see, although I was the one that honked the horn, I wasn't the one that was driving the car--Eric was. In Eric's (false) recollection of the incident, it was a beautiful day, we were leaving the mall, we pulled up behind a car that was stopped at a stop sign, and I randomly reached over and started honking the horn like a crazy person! I mean, does that make any sense at all? Why would I do that? I had never done anything like that leading up to that moment, nor have I since! It just doesn't add up. Clearly extenuating circumstances led me to take such bold action. Anyway, the details of that day aren't what this post is about--my point is that this incident happened years ago, and I still get upset when I pull up to a stop sign with Eric in the car.

My most recent fixation centers upon a missing cockpit cushion. About a year ago, while having our teak refreshed, one of our aft-cockpit cushions was whisked away by a gust of wind (it was extremely windy that week). Normally, the cushions are snapped securely into place, but because we were having work done on the boat, they were on the floor of the cockpit--unsnapped and vulnerable. The cushion's unexpected departure was upsetting for many reasons. For one, we can't just go to the store and buy a new one because our cushions are custom to our boat. We could certainly have a new cushion made, but that would be expensive and replacing an aft-cockpit cushion ranks low on our priority list. What really bothered me about the whole thing was that I knew our boat was out of balance (from an aesthetic standpoint, not literally). Just as seeing a stop sign reminds me of the tornado* incident, every time I'd see a cockpit cushion (on any boat), I'd feel a bit depressed that we were missing one of ours.

After torturing myself about the missing cushion for almost a year, a miracle happened. While out for a walk, we found our missing cushion! Well, sort of...

See It?
It was on another boat in our marina! As we approached the boat, Eric's exact words were "Oh look, they have the same kind of cushion that we do. Wait, is that our missing cushion?!" 

Lost & Found
There is no doubt in our mind that this is our missing cockpit cushion.

The boat with our missing cushion is located at the opposite end of the marina from our boat. Our best guess is that the owner(s) of this boat snagged the cushion from the water as the tide was taking it out to sea. Although we've been missing the cushion for quite some time, we don't know when in the past year they found it. For all we know, it could have just passed them by! We've walked by their boat dozens of times in the past year and have never once noticed it until now.

Since we can't get onto the pier where this boat is docked, we are working with the marina to help us get our cushion back. 

I can't even explain how excited I was to see our long-lost cushion--I was literally clapping! Eric is excited, too (although he didn't clap). While writing this post, he looked over my shoulder, saw the picture of the cushion, and anxiously exclaimed "We'd better get that cushion back!!" 

So after a year of missing our cushion, we have it in our sights (although not yet back in our possession). 

*Eric asked that I put tornado in quotes. I opted not to. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Splish Splash (Bathtub Update)

Not long ago, I explained how we bathe Helina on board. You can read my previous post for more specifics, but in a nutshell, we hose her down while she sits in a very shallow pool of water at the base of our shower. I suppose our bathing technique could be referred to as a baby shower.

In theory, my idea to create a tub in the base of our shower was a good one, but it never seemed to work in practice. The silicone trivet I used to cover the drain always allowed water to escape (because it was a trivet and not a drain cover), so the tub never filled with water. Oftentimes, I would actually get into the "tub" with Helina and sit on the drain, which would allow for more water to fill the bottom of the shower. While this helped create more of an authentic bathtub feel (in terms of water depth), having a grown adult sit in a tiny tub with a baby isn't exactly a winning combination for creating a soothing bath-time experience (not to mention it looked absolutely ridiculous).

So that Helina could experience the joys of bath time (sans her mother), I came up with the brilliant idea to buy an actual drain cover! I have to admit, I wasn't completely confident that the new drain stopper was going to work. After all it looks suspiciously similar to the silicon trivet that I was already using (poorly).

The right tool for the job: OXO Tub Drain Stopper
However, unlike both the the silicon trivet and my bottom, the drain stopper produces a water-tight seal when submerged in water. (Come to think of it, my bottom probably does create an water-tight seal when submerged in water, but not in a way that applies to this scenario.)

With the new drain stopper in place, the base of our shower can now be transformed into the glorious bathtub I originally envisioned:

Helina LOVES taking a bath in our shower. It just might be her new favorite thing. And yes, in case you're wondering, I'm a bit hurt that my presence in the tub doesn't seem to be missed. In fact, my absence appears to be celebrated!

So lesson learned: trivets and tushes do not a drain cover make.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life Without TV (TracVision, that is)

We have been without TV for approximately one month (thankfully I still have a collection of CSI DVDs). About a month ago, water managed to infiltrate our TracVision antenna, resulting in the loss of our DirectTV signal. At least that is what we think that is what happened.

Last week, our antenna was removed from our boat and shipped back to the manufacturer, along with our receiver, for inspection and repair. The top of our bimini now sits barren and exposed, while we sit down below, signal-less and un-entertained.

In the Nude
We won't know the whole story or the extent of the damage for a few more days. With any hope, the antenna will be able to be repaired for a reasonable cost, and we will have DirectTV once again.

We aren't holding our breath though. There is a tipping point for how much we are willing to pay for non-network television. In case the jury returns a verdict of "not fixable," we came up with (and have implemented) a backup plan: we bought a regular old antenna.

Where our TracVision antenna was sleek and inconspicuous, our new (and hopefully temporary) antenna is large and quite visible. Words like "Ew" and "Noooooooo" come to mind (and out of my mouth) when I see it. Thankfully, aluminum foil isn't required for clear reception. That would be truly hideous. (Although I'm willing to bet Eric has considered it.)

For now, our digital antenna looms high above our heads, glaring down at us it all its tacky glory.

In a few days, we'll know how much it will cost to repair our TracVison and whether or not this delightfully large, plastic antenna will become a permanent fixture in our salon.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rotation

A lot of people can't seem to wrap their mind around how it is possible that we are raising a child in such a small space (because where do we put all of the "stuff?").

Well, I can assure you that Helian definitely has her fair share of material goods--baby toys, books, and contraptions (in addition to all of the non-toy boat gadgets at her disposal)--just not a ton of them.

To keep from being overwhelmed with baby stuff, we start by not buying a lot of it. This seems like an obvious and straightforward solution (or preventative measure, rather), yet a lot of people struggle to comprehend how we are doing it (or perhaps why we're opting to do it at all). The truth is, we live quite easily without the majority of things that other people don't seem to be able to live without. In fact, when I see a lot of these rumored necessities, I struggle to understand why anyone would ever need or want them in the first place. 

The most important thing for us is making sure that Helina has the right stuff to advance her development and spark her curiosity. To ensure that Helina's modest collection of toys is always fresh and new, I rotate it. Last week, she played with her stuffed animal collection (OK, she actually spent most of last week playing with her hair brush and chewing on the box my new phone came in, but there were stuffed animals in the vicinity). This week, Helina is staying busy with her activity cube, bead maze, toy cars, and select books (I have a sub-rotation for her books as well):

Toys du Jour 
Every few days, I replace some of her toys with other toys that she hasn't played with in awhile. She gets excited when she sees these toys reemerge. Sometimes she squeals and bounces up and down at the mere sight of them. It is like they are brand new again or perhaps she is experiencing the joy of being reunited with a good friend that she's missed. I've found that after a few days, the toys that have been "in the mix" the longest no longer hold Helina's attention, but when these same toys appear a few days later, she is captivated by them once again. 

A few items are always in the rotation, like her jumper and the little blanket she has draped on her head in the picture below:

For the most part, however, Helina's toy supply is constantly being refreshed, which keeps her happy, entertained, and absorbed in whatever she has in front of her (except for when she is takes a break to destroy the boat).

There is another component to the rotation that involves actually getting stuff off of the boat and out of our lives. Once Helina has grown out of something, we physically remove it from the boat and donate it to charity. Limiting our purchasing prevents us from buying more than we need, but it does nothing to prevent us from accumulate a burdensome collection of items we no longer use. 

Of course, there is a huge temptation to save absolutely everything (What if we have another baby? What if I find myself wanting/needing something that we donated? What if? What if?). But we can't keep it all, so we don't. And wouldn't you know it, we're just fine. Actually, I'd say we're more than fine. Being conservative with our purchases keeps our lives (including Helina's) as simple and as close to stress-free (and clutter-free) as you can imagine. 

Had we been of the mindset that raising a child required owning a lot of things, then we probably would have ended up owning a lot stuff (and not living on a boat), but we convinced ourselves that we didn't need all that much. And as it turns out, we don't. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Potty Training

No, Helina is not yet learning to use the toilet.  (Unfortunately.)  Rather, I am learning how to fix it.  And I think I am now finally fully trained.  It's a big accomplishment.

Land-based toilets are very easy (and clean) to fix.  The bowl, of course, is disgusting, but there is nothing in the bowl that breaks.  It has a built-in siphon, and it works by water being dumped into it.  In fact, if you pour a bucket of water into your toilet bowl, it will flush.  It is a simple design and there is nothing down there that needs any maintenance.  There are things in the tank that break, but the tank (which is just an automated bucket of water) only sees clean water, so repairing it is a clean (and usually easy) job.

Boat toilets might look like regular toilets, but they operate completely differently.  There is no siphon and no tank of clean water.  Nothing is simple, and there are dozens of things that can (and do) break.  And all of those things spend their lives sitting in poo.  Some are located in the toilet bowl itself.  The other half are located between the toilet and the holding tank, where the poo goes to rest before it is emptied into the sewer system or (if you are far enough for shore) the ocean. There are valves, hoses, pumps, levers, tanks...all filled with poo, and all in need of maintenance from time to time.

I recently ventured on a long, disgusting journey of discovery in order to learn how to replace all of the parts that break.  On the way, I saw some truly horrifying things, but at the end of the day, I became fully trained in the operation of our potty, which now works like new (and will hopefully stay that way for at least a few years).

I'll spare you the most disgusting images, but do you see that white valve at the bottom of the bowl (where in your toilet there is only a hole)?  Well, I replaced that thing.  You can imagine what the part of it you can't see looks like.

And here are various valves and other parts that I removed and replaced:

Mystery Box
In addition to a smooth-running toilet, another benefit of my potty training is that changing Helina's diapers now seems like a walk in the park.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Sunset Years

We are loving our new neighborhood! We're only one pier away from where we used to dock our boat, and yet, the water has never been bluer.

The only true downside is that the sunsets aren't quite as nice. I know, I know--how are we managing?!

This was the (often spectacular) view from our previous slip, which we enjoyed for almost 2 years:

It was nice.

At our old slip, we were docked on the north-side of the pier, which meant we had a beautiful water view when looking west toward the sunset. At our new slip, we are docked on the south-side of the pier, so when we look toward the setting sun, we see a line of boats docked along the north-side of the pier. This is our new view:

As you can see, it's not quite the same. 

While this not-as-magnificent-sunset situation has none of the makings of a Greek tragedy--I'm not going to lie--I was a bit bummed to discover my sunset-picture-taking hobby might require that I actually leave our boat to find a picture-perfect view. 

The other day, however, it was rather dark and stormy, which set the stage for a beautiful sunset--one that I was determined to capture. As evening fell, I channeled my inner paparazzi and ran around our pier trying to catch an unobstructed glimpse (and snap a Facebook-worthy photo) of the setting sun. I wasn't having much luck until, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eric perched high atop Sea Gem:

He seemed to be relaxed and enjoying himself (probably because I wasn't next to him compulsively snapping photos of the sun), so I decided to join him. And wouldn't you know, he had the best seat in the house (so to speak):

View from the Top
From on top of our bimini, we had a beautiful view of the sky and could even see part of the city. So now, instead of me shooting photos of the sunset from our cockpit, Eric and I put Helina to bed and head up to the top of our boat to watch the sun go down.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Captain is 9 Months!

Each month since Helina's birth, I've taken a picture of her sitting in (or wearing) my Dad's old Commander's hat. It is a very boat-appropriate way to visualize how much she has grown in one month's time. 

Here is her 9-month hat picture:

9 Months!
This month's photo shoot proved challenging (the sun was too bright, the wind too windy, etc.), and in the end, there wasn't a clear winner in terms of which image would serve as Helina's 9-month picture.

Usually, these monthly hat photos are easy to take--I plop Helina in the hat, coax a smile, then take a picture. The whole thing takes maybe 4 minutes. The only time-consuming part happens after the photos are taken, when I sit for hours compulsively Photoshopping the chosen image, so that the background is solid navy blue (she is actually sitting on a blue folding chair in the cockpit).

This month, however, we struggled to get a winner (and what I ended up with really isn't a true winner--more like what you're left with when the actually winner and first runner-up drop out).

Here are some of the outtakes:

Angelically Aloof 
Mad Hatter
Not-So-Idle Hands
Wind Blown
Smiling Sailor...finally
Although Helina's beautiful personality can be seen in each photo, for this month, the hat proved more interesting than smiling for the camera.

Hopefully we'll have better luck next month. If not, I have no doubt we'll have some funny outtakes to share.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Baby Bosun's Chair

Like many babies, Helina had reflux during the first months of her life. It was super gross (but thankfully not severe enough to affect her weight). At its peak, it seemed as though she spit up about 75-85% of everything she consumed. Here is Helina's reflux in action:

It was super gross (did I already say that?). To help Helina combat her reflux, Eric and I decided to call upon gravity for assistance. When Helina was about 15 weeks old, we got her a jumper. We hoped that if she could "stand" upright, gravity would do its job and more food would stay in her stomach, as opposed to being ejected all over everyone and everything.  

We purchased a doorway jumper designed to hang from within a standard doorway. Of course, since we don't have any standard doorways aboard our boat, we needed to do a little aftermarket customization.

Instead of clamping the jumper in a doorway, we hung it from one of the teak grab rails in our main salon:

Main Salon Grab Rails
These railings may not seem like much, but they are made to bear the weight of grown adults. 

At first, Helina didn't care for her new apparatus:

Discontent at 14 Weeks 5 Days
But eventually, she grew to tolerate being in the jumper for short periods of time (5-10 minutes), during which she would chew on the seat's plastic rim:

Content at 19 Weeks 1 Day
With each passing day, Helina was willing to spend more and more time in her jumper (up to 20 minutes). Recently however, Helina has begun to relish her time in it. In fact, she has even developed her own spinning technique, which she spends hours perfecting each day:

When she isn't spinning gracefully from within her little bosun's chair, she is hoping around in it like a madwoman:

Although Helina's reflux has long since past, the chair continues to be a fixture in Helina's life. It allows her freedom to move around and entertain herself, without us having to worry about where she is/what she's doing every second.

Soon, she'll be too big for her little jumper, but that is OK. We have a big-kid bosun's chair waiting for her (complete with accompanying chores).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bored with Boarding?

We've written several posts (this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one) about the mundane topic of boarding--the act of moving from the dock to the boat.  Well, here's one more.

At our old dock, we had quite the boarding setup, including a gate, a fixed set of stairs, and a handrail.

Unfortunately, none of that transferred to our new slip.  Our new dock is much higher than our old one, so the stairs were much too high.  Our dock is also much longer, so the safe boarding point did not line up with our gate. 

Nothing aligned 
The result is that, for our first couple weeks at our new location, we've had to board without any good handholds, which is--to say the least--not the safest method, especially while holding a baby.

This weekend, we made the time to properly configure our boarding situation.  First, I installed a new gate in the lifelines to so that the boarding location on the boat lines up with the boarding location on the dock.

Next, I installed a sturdy stainless steel grab-bar on the dock.

We also tied a rope to the dock that we can use to pull the boat closer or use as an extra handhold.

Extra Help
This new configuration should do the trick.  And, if all works as planned, this may very well be our last post about least for awhile.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Maintaining Control

Helina has really taken an interest in sailing. Of course, when I say sailing, what I really mean is she can't keep her hands off of Sea Gem's gadgets and gizmos. No matter what kind of baby toy I put in front of her, she makes a beeline for the good stuff--pumps, fire extinguishers, electronics, etc.

There is one feature on Sea Gem that Eric and I figured would be the most tempting for Helina--our control panel:

Sea Gem's Control Panel
I don't think an explanation is needed as to why we thought a curious baby would be interested in playing with this marvelous contraption. The panel has about 65 different switches that control everything aboard Sea Gem requiring power. And where might this panel be located? At ground-level, of course. There is a switch that can turn on/off our refrigerator, navigation instruments, anchor windless (thing that lowers the anchor), overhead lights, pumps, fans, deck flood lights--even our toilets (yes, we can turn off our toilets). Given Helina's propensity for boat gadgets, we figured our control panel would be the first non-toy that Helina mistook for one, but surprisingly, she has only recently taken notice of it.

We aren't taking any chances though. Although some things on this panel would prove harmless if they were accidentally switched on/off (say, our lights), other things would not (imagine if our pumps were turned off and we sprung a leak). The control panel has doors and a latch, but they aren't secure. Helina could easily figure out how to open the doors if she put her mind to it (she has already figured out how to unlatch our ice maker, which has the same type of closure).

Thankfully, unlike many things aboard that require a custom baby-proofing fix, we were able to buy a regular old baby-proof lock, which fits easily over the cabinet's door knobs:

Safety 1st
In fact, it is so good that Eric and I can barely unlock it.

Because Eric and I both use the control panel several times a week for various things, we've been leaving it unlocked due to the difficulty that we have releasing the mechanism. However, because Helina has started to include the control panel in her daily rounds (of destruction), the lock is back on and securely latched! A minor inconvenience for us, but one that protects our boat--and us--from an endless amount of trouble.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

But What About Washing the Baby?

It might surprise you to know that we have two bathrooms aboard Sea Gem. However, it probably won't surprise you to know that neither of them contains a bathtub.

Initially, we thought we would bathe Helina in our galley's sink, but because our sink is almost always in use, we figured we should look for other options. 

We ended up buying Helina a European wash pod. Sounds fancy, doesn't it? We thought so, too. That's why we bought it. Well, that, and it was small and semi-compact, so we thought it would be a good boat option. Turns out, it is basically a glorified wastepaper basket (although it is recommended by physicians and midwives as one of the best ways to wash a newborn... I'm guessing it is a fairly long list of recommendations and the pod falls at the bottom).

Here was Helina's first rub-a-dub-dub in her wastepaper basket European wash pod:

A Dip in the Pod
She hated it.

For something that is supposed to replicate the safe and secure environment of the mother's womb, it certainly seems menacing. But, maybe being in a womb is a terrifying experience... or perhaps being shoved back into one after escaping a 9-month captivity is what is so upsetting.

After a few more failed attempts at bathing Helina in this contraption, I decided we needed a bathtub. So, I made one.

The shower in the master head (bathroom) requires that you step down into the stall, which creates a mini tub that is approximately 1 foot deep. So, I simply plug the drain, fill the bottom of our shower stall with water and...voilĂ ! We have a glorious bathtub:

Splish Splash! 
OK, so this isn't exactly a bathtub. It is more or less just Helina sitting on the floor of our shower, playing with rubber duckies, while I hose her down, but hey, it works.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rethinking the Sink

Sea Gem has a large (by boat standards) stainless, double-sink in our galley:

The Galley Sink
However, it usually doesn't look as empty as it does in the picture above. We use half of the sink for sink-like things and the other half for holding our in-sink dish drying rack. This is what our sink typically looks like:

Full Sink
Despite not fitting into the sink as well as it could, our collapsible dish rack works fairly well, but when it is packed full of dishes and cooking tools, it makes the whole sink area feel cluttered. In addition, with all of the dishes in the rack, cleaning the entire sink area is difficult and accessing the water sprayer and faucet is hard. For all of these reasons, we've had our eye out for a new dish rack. 

The other day, I found one. It is a brilliant design. There is no rack to speak of--just a hard rubber, slotted slab that sits in the bottom of your sink. Essentially, the sink is the drying rack:

Umbra In-Sink Dish Drying Rack
This is exactly the type of thing Eric and I were looking for, so I hastily ordered one.

After placing my order, I thought to myself, "I probably should have measured our sink to make sure the rack will fit." And so I did...and wouldn't you know it, the dimensions of drying rack were too big. But it was too late, my order was placed. I figured we could do a bit of altering after-the-fact and make it work anyway.

As soon as the rack arrived, Eric attempted to trim it down to size with a pair of scissors. He did the best he could given his tool of choice, but the rack is still a tad too wide to fit in our sink properly. 

Until the next time we visit Eric's parents (who have a table saw), we are using the rack in a rather unorthodox manner. Eric describes it as the "tilt method." The tilt method is where you jam a too-big drying rack into the sink at an angle and then pile dishes on top of it. It isn't really what I had envisioned: 

While this solution is most certainly a bastardization of the original design, we'll eventually get it to look right and function correctly. Until then, the tilt method it is!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Magic Wand

It has never been my intention to dress my daughter in princess attire (my intention is to dress her in nautical attire). Babies soil their pants, stew in their own filth, and shove all sorts of disgusting things in their mouths--not exactly princess behavior (at least not modern-day princess behavior), so I don't feel obligated to dress her as such. That being said, a few tutus and princess-themed gifts have made their way aboard Sea Gem, but for the most part, Eric and I have done a good job at keeping Sea Gem free of princess paraphernalia.

Yesterday, however, I discovered that Eric and I had made a glaring oversight in our princess suppression efforts, and now Helina has a fairy princess wand that she loves to wield high overhead. Here is my sea princess's scepter:

Sea Scepter
This most magical wand is located conveniently next to Helina's other favorite toy, the control lever for our engine room fire extinguishing system:

A Few of Her Favorite Things
So what exactly is this wand and why is it stored at ground-level? It is the lever for a manual bilge pump, which happens to be located directly below the Fireboy control panel (although the two are unrelated). Here is how it fits together:

Manual Bilge Pump
What my budding princess doesn't know is that I'm secretly happy she enjoys playing with this wand, for soon "m'lady" will have the noble duty of manually pumping our bilge--a good starter-chore.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fireboy Meets Girl

For many reasons, it would be really bad if our boat were to catch on fire. Thankfully, because our boat contains things like engines, gasoline, diesel, propane, oil, lacquered wood, and electrical wiring, it also contains things like automatic fire extinguishing systems and fire extinguishers located throughout the boat. 

Our main salon houses the control for our engine room fire extinguishing system. If pulled, a fire suppressant would flood our engine room and extinguish any surface-burning fire. Given the necessity of this device, it is no surprise that it is located in plain sight and is easy to access--great news if we have an engine room engulfed in flames, not so great when we have a baby that grabs at everything she can get her hands on.

This is the control for our Fireboy fire extinguishing system. It's Helina's favorite toy.

Fireboy Pull Lever
She is obsessed with it. She methodically examines the rusting pin (I supposed the fact that it contains a rusting pin makes it an even worse baby toy than it already is), the red lever that reads "FIRE," and the thin plastic tie (the green thing) that--if removed--would allow the pin to come free and the lever to be pulled.

I cannot emphasize enough how awful it would be if the lever were pulled accidentally.

Unlike our inverter control panel, which we were able to cover, we're not really sure what to do about the exposed fire extinguisher control. We don't want to cover it with anything that locks or is difficult to open because that would defeat the purpose of this type of device. So for right now, our solution is to watch Helina like a hawk and pray that the thin plastic tie is strong enough to keep our engine room from total destruction.