Author Archives: Rachel Maas

About Rachel Maas

Getting ready to go on a sailing adventure with the Skipper and our baby.

The fun of ad-lib (i.e. making it up as we go along)

Hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and New Year break. The Skipper, Orbit and I had a great time catching up with family and friends. I was reflecting on our time over Christmas and New Years (as you do when downloading photos), and I noticed a similarity between some of out adventures … there was a fair bit of ad-lib or making it up as we went along. Nothing major, just the little things we did to fill in time waiting for significant events to occur, e.g. waiting for our coffee to arrive, waiting for dinner to cook – filling in the space Dr Seuss calls “The Waiting Place”.

Waiting for breakfast to arrive

One of the things we like to do as a family is go out for breakfast. The time between ordering breakfast and waiting for it to arrive can be a bit time consuming for a small child. So to keep Orbit occupied we made up a game to keep him sitting in his seat. This technique involves a few pre-requisites, disposable serviettes, a pen and a toy car. Once or breakfast is ordered, we draw a map on a serviette. Myself or the Skipper draw the roads and Orbit quite happily fills in the details. Orbit then has a map on which he can play with his cars. This is a bit of a variation to the roads-scape I described last year (I still have to finish the nautical version). We can usually drag this game out to about 15 minutes which is usually enough time for our breakfast to arrive and if we’re really lucky it can be dragged out after breakfast too.

Waiting for the Skipper and I to stop talking

One of the joys of being on Medina and cruising is being able to stop in picturesque anchorages. Where there is a good beach, we take the tinny into the beach to have a swim and  explore. One of Orbit’s “waiting places” in this situation is when the Skipper and I are having a chat with other people on the beach. Orbit usually wants us to play with him and doesn’t necessarily appreciate the joy of meeting new people. So what we do? It’s usually a case of looking around and finding something for him to do, luckily one of Orbit’s favourite things isn’t too far away – sticks! Once he’s found a stick to his liking, its just a case of  giving him a list of things to draw, it can be anything shapes, pictures or letters. Even finding the ‘right’ stick can occupy a significant  portion in time!

Waiting for me to cook dinner

We have been very spoilt this summer, the Skipper installed air conditioning on Medina! It has been absolute heaven to be able to have a good sleep at night and be able to get things done during the day without sweating. What to do while waiting for the Skipper to install the air conditioning? Simple, make a game out of the left over core flute the Skipper was using to make a temporary cover (similar to what we do when out for breakfast). And being back on Medina, Orbit had some extra toys to incorporate into the game. Over the last few days, while waiting for me to cook dinner, Orbit has been adding extra bits of core flute to his original piece, making extra roads, bridges, tunnels and turning the whole thing into a cubby house! However, unfortunately it all came to a very abrupt end when the cubby house was used as a very slippery slide.

I am learning that the “waiting place” is not a bad place to be, in fact, it’s the place where our imaginations can really thrive!

We’re going on a stick hunt

On our stick hunt

As you may know, we have started a little tradition of making Christmas decorations for family and friends. But this year due to everything that has been going on (travel, work etc) Orbit and I haven’t had the lead up time we’ve had in previous years. It was already December and I had no idea what to Christmas decorations make and we had very little time left to make them.

I was searching the internet for ideas when an answer arrived in my inbox. I was saved by Picklebums, a fantastic parenting/activities website for kids of all ages. That week’s newsletter had a list of Christmas decorations to make at home – woo hoo! Scrolling through the list, the stick reindeer stood out as the perfect decoration for this year.

For the last six months or so (maybe longer), Orbit has been obsessed with sticks. You can imagine my disgust when he would walk around with a stick in his mouth like a dog. I have lost count of the number of sticks I have found on Medina or in the car. But on the positive side, Orbit does draw some pretty cool sand pictures with the sticks when we are at the beach.

One of Orbit’s sand drawings

Orbit’s grandparents made the connection with the sticks – he was copying the character Spot from the movie, The Good Dinosaur! With the connection made, I have been able to manage Orbit’s behaviour beyond just saying (also read yelling) “take the stick out of your mouth!”. Thank goodness for grand parents!

So embracing Orbit’s obsession with sticks (he no longer puts them in his mouth), the decision to make stick reindeer was pretty easy.

The next day was gorgeous and wan’t meant to be too hot, so I decided to turn collecting the sticks for the reindeer into an adventure. We packed our bag (including a picnic) and went on an a stick hunt.

Orbit and I had lots of fun wondering around the bush looking for appropriate sticks, we even made up a song based on, “We’re going on a bear hunt” …

The stick reindeer production line

We’re going on a stick hunt , We’re going to find a forked one, What a beautiful day, We’re not scared!

Yeah, Bush! Brown scrubby bush, We can’t go over it, We can’t go under it, We’ll have to go through it

Look crunch, Look crunch, Look crunch

What’s that?

One small close fork, Two rough breakable ends, Two matching friends

It’s our stick!

Quick, put it in the bag

Orbit and a stick reindeer

With sticks collected and bellies full of morning tea, we headed off to the local haberdashery to cool down the air conditioning and buy some buttons, glue and eyes. Back on Medina, after some lunch and a nap (stick hunts are very exhausting), Orbit and I got the stick reindeer production into operation. I snapped the sticks to the right size and Orbit decided which buttons to go on each. They were really quick to make and all I had to do was use the hot glue gun. Once the glue was dry, Orbit then decided who was getting each reindeer and we packaged them up ready for their delivery.

The next day our reindeers stared to slowly make their way to loved ones houses and boats, just in time for Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you and your family from the Skipper, Orbit and myself. We hope you have lots of amazing adventures over the holidays, no matter how big or small they are. Oh, and apologies for the ear worm!

Once it’s in the water …

If I had a dollar for overtime I said to Orbit “be careful, once it’s in the water it’s gone” I would be financially rich.

Orbit likes any type of car, but racing ones are pretty cool

Orbit likes any type of car, but racing ones are pretty cool

Orbit usually has a toy car in his hand so, the ‘it’ is usually a car. Orbit loves playing with cars, its doesn’t matter what type or where it is, in his bed, the Skipper’s and my bed, the v-berth, at the table, in the cockpit or on deck.

I have learnt never to leave Medina without at least one in my bag. I’ve even popped a few in our tinny bag (just in case). If ever we are caught out and have to wait for something (e.g. the doctor is running late at the medical centre), we can always make a game out of cars. Any line can be a road and it’s amazing what we can make bridges and tunnels out of (e.g. serviettes at a coffee shop).

Back on Medina, there are many places for Orbit to lose his cars into the water. A car being thrown overboard or rolling through the scuppers is obvious and he is pretty careful about this. But less obvious and easier to forget is loosing a car in the water from within the cockpit.

Starboard cockpit drain hole with stubby cooler

Starboard cockpit drain hole with stubby cooler

Medina has a centre cockpit and this means she has drain holes to allow any water that may come in, to drain out. Drain holes for water is a good thing, but for other things, not so good. Once something falls in a drain hole, it’s gone for good – to the bottom of the marina or the ocean. I usually loose pegs and Orbit has lost a car or two. So how do we stop things going down the drain holes?

Simple, stubby coolers.

We place an upside down stubby cooler on each drain hole and just like magic they prevent things falling into them. The best bit about using stubby coolers is that if water does get into the cockpit, they float, allowing the water to escape. I discovered this one day when I was giving the cockpit a good scrub and forgot to remove the stubby coolers before hosing out the cockpit.

Port side cockpit drain

Port side cockpit drain

Orbit was playing in the cockpit the other day and he wanted me to get something for him. For the life of me I could not work out what he wanted. After about 5 minutes of both of us struggling, Orbit trying to explain what he wanted and me trying to understand, I worked out he wanted some stubby coolers.

Once he’d put the stubby holders over the drain holes, Orbit proceeded to make a cubby house. After he was finished I asked what each of the pieces of the cubby house were for, he said the steps we use to hop on and off Medina were to hold the umbrella, his umbrella and gum boots were because it was raining, his sand toys were to play with on the the beach after it stopped raining and his cars, were to play with “of course”.

I then asked Orbit if he could fit in his cubby house. He just looked at me, said “no” and continued to play. I guess the fact that he couldn’t fit in his cubby house was ok. He had made his cubby house, he could play with his cars next to the cubby house and he was happy with that. Geez I love this kid.

Me and my shadow

Checking the Beacon to Beacon

Checking the Beacon to Beacon

Orbit is at the wonderful age of wanting to help out and to have responsibility. I am really enjoying this stage of his life, but sometimes it can be a bit challenging to find ways that he can safely be involved in what we are doing. We used to be able to say, no and distract him or put him in bed out of harms way. But as Orbit is getting older and more interested in things, we can do this less and less. Here’s a few ways of how we’ve included Orbit in everyday activities on Medina.

When we are sailing Orbit enjoys helping the Skipper navigate. We navigate using electronic charts on an iPad and cross check to paper charts. Because we use our iPad for navigation Orbit isn’t allowed to play with it. The last thing we want is for Orbit to start playing on the iPad while we are underway. So instead Orbit helps me cross check our position on the paper charts or in the Beacon to Beacon. The Beacon to Beacon is a easier for Orbit to use because it’s smaller and is a bit more interesting with pages of charts of different areas. Orbit likes it when I point out where we are on the chart and where we are going, particularly if there is a beach where he can go swimming.

Getting ready to winch

Getting ready to winch

Orbit has alway enjoyed winching. I am not sure why he has an attraction to winching. It could be the noise the winch makes or it could simply be because he sees the Skipper and I using the winches. Given his attraction, we had to come up with a way that he could learn to use the winch safely. When Orbit was smaller we’d just let him wind the winch handle in an unloaded winch. Once he worked out that there needed to be a rope around the winch, we loosely wrapped the lazy sheet around the unloaded winch but not through the self tailor. This seems to keep Orbit happy at the moment, but it is only a matter of time before he works out that the winch isn’t actually doing anything … then we’ll have our next challenge. But just putting the winch handle in the winch can keep Orbit occupied. Our winches have a locking mechanism on them, so coordinating the lock while lining up the winch handle with the winch can be a bit tricky, particularly if Medina is rolling around a bit (even for an adult!).

Taking the covers off the water tanks

Taking the covers off the water tanks

When we’re in a marina, one of Orbit’s regular responsibilities is to help me check the water level and fill the water tanks if required. This job isn’t something I have to ask Orbit to do twice as it involves one of his favourite things – water! Orbit removes the covers to the water tanks and I take the lids off the tanks. We both have a look and decide if the tanks need filling or not. If the tanks need to be filled, Orbit helps me organise the hose and fittings on deck. While the tanks are filling, Orbit checks the water level and lets me know when they are getting full. Once the tanks are full, I put the lids back on and Orbit then replaces the covers. He then helps me put the hose and deck fittings back in place. Once the job is done and everything is back in its place, I often get a high five with “good job mummy” at the end.

Pre start engine checks

Pre start engine checks

Orbit used to regularly get in the way when the Skipper was trying to do his pre-start engine checks, so the Skipper taught Orbit how to do his own. Orbit gets out his tool box as the Skipper moves the stairs from in front of the engine. First Orbit turns on the engine light, then checks the bolts are all tight with his spanner, then hits various things with his hammer and checks all the screws are tight with his screw driver. Once this is complete he turns the light out and asks the Skipper to put the stairs back in place. Orbit then announces that the engine is ready to start and tells us that Medina is ready to go. The Skipper then does his checks as Orbit packs up his tools and put his toolbox away.

There are many things on Medina that Orbit is interested in and given his personality he is going to investigate them regardless of whether we want him to or not. So the Skipper and I have to come up with ways to teach Orbit how to use the different things on Medina safely. We’ve learnt to take things slowly, to break things down into small steps and to give Orbit as much knowledge and experience as he is interested in. We have also learnt to give him space, space to work things out by himself and space to make mistakes, after all, this is how we learn.

On the road again

Orbit at the beach in Hervey Bay (part of his usual routine)

Orbit at the beach in Hervey Bay (part of his usual routine)

The last few weeks have been quite hectic as we’ve spent a fair amount of time in and travelling to and from Brisbane for work and other commitments.

We’ve had a number of different people ask us ‘why didn’t you just stay in Brisbane?’. We could have, and it would have been a lot easier on everyone involved, but we would still be in Brisbane, waiting to leave. Being in Hervey Bay means we have left, we have started the next stage of our adventure.

We also want to slow travel. It’s not just about hopping from one destination to another on our way to somewhere else. Its about spending time in a place, getting to know it and the people who live there.

The ‘messiness’ is not going to be like this forever. We have parameters around how long we plan to be here, how much money we would like to have in the bank and jobs that need to be done prior to starting the next leg on our adventure. It’s easier to keep the ‘messiness’ in perspective and just take each day and week as it comes, making the most of each location we find ourselves in.

We are extremely fortunate to be able to alternate between staying with our respective parents. They are happy to look after Orbit when both the Skipper and I are at work. What we are doing would not be possible without them. Being able to spend this amount of time them is priceless, particularly as we won’t have the opportunity to do so once we start to head further north.

The car trips do get a bit boring at times

Because of the amount of driving we are doing and the distances we are covering, the Skipper and I decided to upgrade my old car to something a bit newer and a bit safer. It has been a strange feeling upgrading cars. I had a certain pride in driving around in my early 90’s car. It was far from flash, daggy even. But that was ok, it was unpretentious and I didn’t have to worry about anyone dinting it in the shopping centre car park or stealing it. It wasn’t worth anything as a whole or in parts and I don’t think any self respecting car thief would be seen in my car!

I’ve realised that I have made a rookie error by stopping off at a McDonalds about half way between Hervey Bay and Brisbane to have something to eat, go to the toilet and stretch our legs each time we pass through. I am not saying that taking your child to McDonalds is bad, it’s just Orbit now wants to go to McDonalds each time we pass one. I had never noticed how many McDonalds there were until Orbit points each one out to me and I have to tell him that we’re not going in.

Each trip I remind myself I need to be more organised and take a packed lunch for us to have a picnic one of the lovely parks with a fantastic playground. But it just doesn’t seem to happen – maybe next trip …

Passing the time in the laundry - waiting for our washing

Passing the time in the marina laundry

I have been a bit concerned about our travel, its randomness and what it would mean for Orbit settling in as there is no routine to our time in Brisbane. I try to be in Hervey Bay for Orbit’s swimming lessons and day care, but sometimes that is not possible. He seems to be taking it all in his stride and hasn’t complained yet. The hardest part is when Orbit and I are in Hervey Bay and the Skipper is away for more than a few days, but we keep ourselves busy exploring and finding new things to do, as well as the usual everyday things.

Each time we pack up to go back to Brisbane, Orbit says he is going on holidays, which I think is a fantastic way of looking at it. I can see where he is coming from, because it is a bit of a holiday for him, its a break from his ‘normal’ routine, he gets to hang out with family and friends and do things he would not normally get to do. What may seem mundane living in a house, is still new and exciting for Orbit. It’s the little things that he loves, like watering the garden, playing in a backyard and having a bath.

Some people assume that because we live on a boat that we are on a permanent holiday and I can see how they think that. But as a lovely friend who also lives on a sailing boat recently told me, we still have to do all the usual everyday things one would do in a house, the laundry still needs to be done, meals cooked and the boat cleaned, its just we get to do it in some pretty amazing locations.