Friday, December 27, 2013

Nightmare on All Streets

People seem truly baffled by the fact that we are raising a child aboard a boat. We encounter a lot of confusion and genuine curiosity about how (and why) we are doing it. (Where does the baby sleep? What about her toys?). In the end, I have no doubt that, after discussing our baby-on-board lifestyle with people, many suspect we're a bit "off" in terms of our mental stability. Fair enough, but however crazy you might think we are, I can now, with confidence, say that I feel the same way about you if you are, in fact, someone who has elected to raise a child in a house (unless your house has only one room...if that is the case, you're golden).

We recently spent some time with Helina at her grandparents' house, which allowed me to experience what it would be like to raise and wrangle a toddler in an actual house. I have to say, after comparing the two dwellings, there is no way I would willingly choose a house over a boat.

House nightmare number 1: Staircases

Based on Helina's short stature, a traditional staircase is the equivalent of a mini mountain--one that beckons her to scale its Berber-coated terrain. While at her grandparents' house, a good deal of my time is spent either carting Helina up and down the staircase or spotting her while she crawls up the steps. I also spend every other moment in which I am not doing one of the aforementioned activities worrying about whether or not Helina is climbing the stairs without my knowledge. I guess that is why those rickety little gates were invented (I sure do hate those ugly little gates).

House nightmare number 2: Pools

I know, I know. It it both illogical and inconsistent for me to be concerned about swimming pools given the fact that our home is literally surrounded by (and partially submerged in) water, but I am. Much like staircases, swimming pools call my child's name. Although she is completely dismissive of--perhaps even bored by--the water in our marina, she has an uncontrollable urge to touch pool water, feel its lukewarmness, and smell its chlorine. Here she is directing a rescue mission to save a darling little "oc-ta" (aka a floating chlorine dispenser resembling Helina's octopus bath toy) that, tragically, managed to strand itself within the waters of a residential pool.

Mission Impossible
House nightmare number 3: Kitchens (more specifically, kitchen cabinets, drawers, and cupboards)

If you ever want an experience that is equal parts mind-numbing and blood-boiling, lock yourself in a kitchen with a 17-month old. It is awful. Here is how it will likely unfold:

You: No.
You: Stop.
You: STOP!
You: Don't do that.
You: No.
You: NO!
You: Stop.
You: S-TOP!
You: Why are you doing that?
You: Why are you doing that?
You: Don't touch that!!
You: That belongs to the dog.
You: Do NOT eat that!
You: That is truly disgusting.
You: I can't believe you just ate that.
You: I'm gonna be sick.
You: No.
You: Do not touch that!
You: Hot!
You: HOT!
You: Hot, I said Hot!
You: [mumbled] I told you it was hot...
You: No touch.
You: NO touch!
You: Dear god.
You: DEEEEARRR GOD!!!!!!!!!!!
You: No.
You: No.
You: No.
You: I said NO!
You: Stop.
You: Stop.
You: Stop that.
You: Stop touching that!!!!!!!!!
You: You are making mommy crazy!!!!

This scenario has never once happened in our galley.

House nightmare number 4: Space

I always tell people that the only luxury we don't have aboard our boat is space (well, that, and a dishwasher). I will never again make such a comment, as I no longer view space as a luxury. Quite the opposite. Space is actually a major source of worry. Whenever we are in a house with Helina, I constantly find myself asking, "Where's Helina? Where's Helina?" In a blink of an eye, she is able to magically disappear. On our boat, we never have this problem. I always know where my child is and I always know she is safe.

Thankfully, when we're at Helina's grandparents' house, there are two additional sets of eyes watching her (although we could use about 10 additional sets on top of those, plus a few cameras, heat sensors, bells, and whistles).

Needless to say, we won't be buying a house anytime soon. And, now that I know what I'm missing, I strongly encourage new parents to consider adding "boat" to their registry.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tying it Together

When I think of true adults, I think of people whose children's rooms look like this:

Not My Home...
I am not an adult. 

The room I decorated for my child in no way resembles what is pictured above. Helina's room has over 8 dozen colors, many of which clash (harshly, I might add). Other than a generally juvenile feel, there is no real theme to the decor. I attempted to keep her room nautical in nature, but it has morphed into a psychedelic under-the-sea mash-up of octopi, turtles, baby dolls, angles, pirates, and mermaids. 

Despite the lack of cohesion happening in Helina's room, I found something to tie it all together--a rug:

Li Mo Hipster Funky Kids Rug
The quasi paisley print looks a bit like splashing water, which works well with the sea(ish) theme of Helina's room. And, just like the room's interior, the rug's dominant colors of blue and purple are paired with a seemingly senseless mix of other shades that have no business being together.

Somehow, it all works though:

Helina's Quarter Cabin

Monday, December 16, 2013


In a previous post, I mentioned that Eric and I rotate Helina's modest collection of toys and books to ensure she always has something "new" at her fingertips.

When Helina was a baby, the majority of her toys were plush, and most all of them were relatively small (or could at least be tucked out of the way). As Helina morphed from baby to toddler, her toys, too, have evolved. Compared to her baby toys (most of which are now off the boat), Helina's toddler toys are much bulkier. This is concerning because our storage space is both fixed and limited. Although Helina's assortment of toys is modest compared to that of her toddler friends, she has more than enough stuff to keep her entertained:

Helina's Current Collection
And where do we store this smorgasbord of bulk? Believe it or not, most everything in the picture above fits (with room to spare) in the same cupboard that housed Helina's baby toys:

A few of her smaller toys reside in a little cupboard that also houses a small portion of Helina's book collection:

Tiny Storage Space
In addition to all of her everyday toys, Helina also has several bath toys. Unfortunately, because Helina bathes in our shower, our master head (bathroom) has become the de facto dumping ground for her bath-time toys:

There are few things I detest more than little kids' toys cluttering up a master bath, but fortunately for us, Helina doesn't have many bath-time toys (which makes sense considering she doesn't really have a bathtub).

I'm not sure what the next iteration of age-appropriate toys will look like (size-wise), but I'm hopeful that we can figure out a way to cram them inside the toy cupboard.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Boat Math

I once came up with a rule of thumb for estimating the amount of time it takes a complete a repair or installation task on a boat.  First, think the task through, step by step, and by conservatively estimating the amount of time required for each step, estimate the total amount of time required to complete the task.  Second, double that.  Third, add four hours.

Why would a  repair take so much longer on a boat than in a house?  The short answer is that, on a boat, everything that could go wrong goes wrong.  The longer answer is that, on a boat, you are working in tight spaces, the construction is much more robust (and thus more difficult to dissect), and you never really know what is lurking beneath the surface, waiting to cause problems once discovered.

Foolishly, after a few recent projects went more smoothly than expected, I ignored that rule when I estimated how much time it would take to tear our old freezer box out of the cabinetry so that the new freezer, which had been on the floor of the salon since we bought it, could be dropped into place and wired in.  I gave myself three hours.  Krissy took Helina to run some errands to keep her away from fiberglass dust, etc., and I asked her to return three hours later.

When she returned, 4 hours had passed (I begged for more time due to an unanticipated trip to the hardware store), and I wasn't even half done.

So how long did it take to finish the job?  3 hours times two plus four equals ten hours.  And, sure enough, it took ten hours.  Ten hard, painful hours.  But that was only the beginning.

The remaining steps, dropping in the new freezer and installing the wiring, I did not think would even take one hour, total.  But, I should have known that 1 times two plus four equals six hours.  And, yes, it took six hours.

The wiring was no more difficult than I anticipated, but dropping the freezer into place was grueling.  The freezer was a much tighter fit than expected, and it had to be finessed into place, pausing only to strip off as many obstructions from the freezer and surrounding cabinetry as possible.  In the end, I did not have one millimeter to spare. 

Tight Fit
One more millimeter in height or width, and the freezer would not have fit.  But, after 16 total hours of awful labor, it did. 

6 Inches Under
Mission accomplished.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


My vintage rya rug is disappearing right before my tear-filled eyes. It is truly horrifying (to me, anyway). I have been assured that, back when my particular rug was new, it was quite lush, and although this state of fullness occurred well before my time, through the magic of the internet, I have located a like-new version of the same rug and confirmed that, yes, it was, in fact, quite fluffy. Here is what it once likely resembled:

Not My Rug
My rug has no where near the volume as the rug pictured above. In fact, I'd go so far as to say my rug is balding (and not balding à la Patrick Stewart--think mangy alley cat). This is because that, in addition to the rug being 40(ish) years old, for the past 2 years, we've subjected it to ongoing abuse by having it lay across the most heavily traversed part of the boat.

To combat the consequences of intense use, I've been grooming the rug in a rather unorthodox manner, with the hope that my beloved heirloom might magically return to its Mid-Century plumpness. More specifically, I've been crawling around on my hands and knees, meticulously combing the matted wool with a baby comb intended for Helina's head. While I understand that this technique ventures into crazy-cat-lady territory, short of buying a new (old) rug, I'm not really sure what other options I have for getting my rug to look like the one pictured above.

The downside to re-fluffing the rug in this manner is that, in addition to feeling like a bit of a weirdo, I'm directly contributing to the root cause of the problem itself--wool loss. Each combing session results in a significant pile of wool fibers being removed from the rug (which I think resemble fuzzy bacon):

The Departed
Even without combing the rug, it expels fibers on a daily basis, but not at the rate implied by the picture above. As Eric noted upon seeing my last pile of "bacon," an appreciable percentage of the rug is disappearing with each grooming session. Despite the rather grim implication, I'm too addicted to the immediate result to stop: 

Post Combing - Fluffy
For now, the combing technique is helping breathe a bit of life into the old rug, but I'm not sure how long it will last (and I mean that quite literally). 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Domesticate Me

As I mentioned in a previous post, a lot has been going on aboard Sea Gem. Among other things, we bought a sewing machine:

Baby Lock: BL9

Exciting, I know.

I can't say that I was particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of owning a sewing machine. I don't have very fond memories of sewing machines. My only real experience using one was back in junior high during home economics class. Students were assigned to make decorative throw pillows. And what horrible little pillows we all made. Although I have managed to successfully block much of my junior-high experience from memory, I do recall two lessons I learned in home economics: (1) don't burn your eyes with steam and (2) sewing machines jam...often. Coincidentally, Eric and I attended the same junior high and have the exact same takeaways from home economics--steam in eyes is bad and sewing machines are finicky. While both Eric and I are extremely cautious when removing the lid from a pot of boiling water, only one of us (Eric) was interested in testing our luck with a sewing machine (I assume Eric's pillow turned out better than mine). 

Although I was not inclined to buy a sewing machine, I am truly excited by the idea of being able to produce as many (horrible) little pillows my heart desires. Before I fulfill that fantasy, however, we have a few small boat-related projects in mind for the near future (more on that later).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Seeing Clearly

Sea Gem is a raised-deck saloon boat, which means that the salon area of interior is raised (two steps in our case) above the rest of the interior and is surrounded by large windows, as opposed to the small opening ports typically found on sailboats.  The result is a very bright, airy salon.  On the other hand, the larger windows are more likely to be broken by waves (in a really big storm) while at sea, which would severely compromise the safety of the boat.  To address this weakness, Sea Gem's former owners had storm windows made, which bolt on over the windows to provide additional protection in a storm.  (Really, no different than storm shutters on a house.)

When we bought Sea Gem, the storm windows were installed, and we never got around to removing them until just recently.

Removing the Storm Windows
Although the front windows are crazed from the sun and in need of replacement (more on that soon), the side windows are in great condition and allow us, for the first time, to clearly see what is going on outside the boat while we are inside the salon.

Before and After
Our plan for the near future is to replace the clear windows with tinted ones so that we have a little more privacy with the blinds open and to prevent the cabin from turning into a greenhouse in the summer.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Recap

We managed to do it again--cram 10 people aboard our boat and consume mass amounts of turkey and pie!

Thanksgiving 2013
This year's preparation was surprisingly easy. In fact, I'm fairly confident that I didn't actually do anything. I remember roasting a head of garlic (which requires almost no effort) and then making the cranberry compote (which also requires almost no effort), but that's about it. The secret to our stress-free Thanksgiving? We outsourced turkey production! This was key, as our galley contains only one microwave-sized oven and a stove with only 3 working burners

A few Hanukkah-inspired dishes made their way onto the menu in honor of the never-to-occur-in-our-lifetime-again phenomenon known as Thanksgivukkah

Main Course

Latkes with Cranberry Apple Sauce
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Baked Sweet Potato Mash with Pecan Crumble
Oil-less Fried Jerk Turkey - Courtesy of JR's Jerk Joint
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Corned Beef 
Celery Root, Potato, and Pear au Gratin
Cranberry Bourbon Compote
Crescent Rolls 


Pumpkin Pie
Blueberry Pie 
Sweet Potato Pie
Old World Apple Cake 


Red Wine
White Wine
Apple Cider

Like last year, we spent the Friday following Thanksgiving on the water for--what we can now refer to as--our 2nd annual Black Friday sail. Unlike last year, though, we didn't spend the day basking in the sun. It has been raining for days here in Miami, and although it didn't rain while we were out, the weather wasn't all that great:

Dark Sky, Dark Water
It wasn't just the cool air, lack of sun, and threatening sky that contributed to the less than ideal sailing conditions--it was also extremely windy. Although wind is arguably the most important factor in the sailing equation, it is also the most sensitive component--it can't be too weak or too strong. As such, we were one of only a few sailboats on the water that's why:

(He popped back up--don't worry.)

After it was determined that the wind would not, in fact, roll our boat, everyone enjoyed the sail--especially Helina.

Black Friday Sail 2013
Happy Holidays!!