Category Archives: Marina adventures

Toys? Who needs toys?

It never ceases to amaze me how much Orbit enjoys playing with his ‘non-toys’. Non-toys are things that Orbit plays with, which were designed for something other than entertaining toddlers.

A zip tie garden

A zip tie garden

I have already posted about Orbit’s ‘non toys’ when he was younger and he still plays with some of them, but in a different way. For example Orbit still loves playing with the Skipper’s zip ties. Instead of being satisfied with just threading the zip ties so they lock, he makes zip tie flowers. Orbit loves giving them to the Skipper and I, or anyone else on Medina at the time. This week he combined zip tie flowers with play dough and made ‘zip tie’ gardens.

Ropes are another non-toy that has lasted into toddler-hood. Lucky we live on a sailing boat, we have plenty of ropes! Orbit is genuinely interested in how they knot together. We were in the process of teach Orbit how to tie knots, just the simple ones, but that has been put on a slight delay until his finger heals and the splint on his arm can come off. The splint hasn’t stopped him doing many things. It has been wonderfully reassuring to see him adapt to everyday tasks and not be afraid to hurt himself. But learning to tie a knot with one hand is hard enough for an adult (something I am yet to master), so it might be a bit much to expect a three year old to learn.

One of Orbit’s coat hanger sculptures

A recently discovered non-toy was a set of spare coat hangers. We are lucky to have hanging space on Medina, and I always kept a small stash of spare plastic coat hangers stored away, for what reason I am not sure, and now they have a very good use. Orbit found them the other day and spends a great deal of time (toddler equivalent of time that is) making lovely ‘sculptures’ in the cockpit. Once he completes a sculpture, he announces “I did it, I did it. Mummy, photo, Mummy photo please”.

One of my concerns about raising a baby/toddler/child in a small space and on a sailing boat, was keeping him entertained. But slowly I am coming to realise I don’t need to keep him entertained, he does that himself. I just need to give him the freedom, the space to use his imagination, and to support him, then its just a case of enjoying his self-learning journey.

Do your kids like playing with non-toys? If so I’d love to hear what they are and how they play with them.

Riding around on my balance bike honey …

When Medina is in the marina, there are some rare days when we don’t have anywhere to be. Since I returning to work I really appreciate these days. But it also took a change of mindset to realise that there are many adventures in the marina, many more than I initially thought.

Working out how to ride a balance bike

Working out how to ride a balance bike

Looking through Orbit’s eyes, each time we hop of Medina is an adventure, even if we have walked the same path many, many times before. It never ceases to amaze me (and equally frustrate me), how Orbit can get so much enjoyment just walking from Medina to the car or vice versa. Each time we do the journey, he sees something new (a new boat, or fish fos example) or has to check on something he noticed on the last trip (“oh wow, the hole is still in the concrete“, mum says with feigned enthusiasm).

So staying in the marina and going to a walk is an adventure for Orbit – which is great on those days when we don’t have to jump in the car and go out into the land-based world beyond the marina gates.

The Skipper and I bought Orbit a balance bike for Christmas last year. The balance bike has opened up a whole new world for Orbit when exploring the marina. Just learning how to ride the balance bike has presented a wonderful challenge for him to work out. Once he gets the hang of it, he loves the freedom of being able to travel further and faster, to get to places with less effort and explore further.

When we go on a biking adventure, I get Mungo Jerry’s “Push Bike” song in my head. But instead of lyric being push bike, I replace it with balance bike. It doesn’t have the same flow in the song (being two syllables instead of one) but I can’t seem to get it out of my head!

Incidental learning - counting

Incidental learning – counting

Learning to ride a bike isn’t an essential skill for living on a sailing boat, but it is a skill that we would like Orbit to have. We figure one day, hopefully not in the too distant future, bikes will be our preferred method of travel when on land.

There are also plenty of incidental learnings while riding around the marina. Who would have thought we could use hardstand numbers to learn how to count or boat names for the alphabet? To work on Orbit’s language skills when we run into people and stop for chat. To learn about nature, the flowers, birds, lizards (real live lizards are a real fascination). To gain road sense, to look out for cars and pedestrians in a relatively safe environment.

There are many adventures we can have outside the marina, but to be honest, there are some pretty cool ones to inside the marina too, and the best bit is that they are for free!

When it’s hot, we make water cakes

It’s definitely summer in Moreton Bay. Some days, it’s hot, just too hot to leave Medina. If we have something scheduled we grin, remind ourselves how lucky we to live on a sailing boat and get on the with the day (lucky our car has air conditioning!). But if we don’t have to be anywhere, it’s nice just to sit, enjoy and be as still as possible … while trying to keep cool.

Orbit's two favourite things - water and cars

Orbit’s two favourite things – water and cars

Living in a marina has its advantages and frustrations. One of the frustrating things, is being surrounded by water but not being able to jump in to keep cool. We could jump in, if we really really wanted too, but the thought of bull sharks, jelly fish, things from boats – mentionable like antifoul paint, diesel, oil etc and unmentionables (which shall remain unmentionable) don’t really encourage us to jump in – no matter how hot it is. A part of me envies the divers who are working on boats in marinas on hot days – but they have wet suits and devices to scare the sharks away …

The Skipper and I choose Medina’s berth because it’s more likely to get the prevailing winds, keeping things cooler in summer. We also have a shade cover over the foredeck and a bimini covering the cockpit (with a waterproof cover over that) to create shade on the decks which in turn helps to keep below decks cooler. We also have fans throughout but, somedays even with the breeze, the shade and the fans, it’s hot.

So how do we keep Orbit cool? It’s simple, we just add water. A bucket full of fresh potable water and toys is all he needs, the the games and entertainment flow from there. 

Making water cakes

Making water cakes

Orbit and I made up the game of making ‘water cakes’ a few weeks ago. We made it up from the things we had at hand on Medina, no purchases required (it was too hot to leave to go to the shops anyway!). I am sure many others have variations to this game as it keeps toddlers entertained for quite a while.

So to make water cakes, we get a bucket full of water, a container to full with water and different size and colour measuring cups. Orbit then says how many cups of water are going in the cake (good for learning how to count) and starts to fill the container. As he fills he container with water, he uses different coloured cups (good for learning colours).  So a recipe might be, 3 blue cups, 4 red cups, 2 yellow cups etc. I have found this to be a great game to also talk about when something is full, empty, etc. Once the container is full, either Orbit or I tip it on his head.

A warning with this game – you may get a few containers of water on your own head too – the temptation to do to me as I do to Orbit is irresistible. But hey, on a hot day – who cares, it keeps us both cool!

Things only said to a toddler on a sailing boat

There's a lizard in the halyards!

There’s a lizard in the halyards!

Raising a toddler on a sailing boat provides many opportunities for unique statements.

Over the past few months I have been compiling a list of statements that made me giggle or have raised questions when I have been telling a story to a family member or friend who has asked for clarification when using sailing boat terminology.

Below are some the statements on my list and a translation or explanation …

“Can you grab the painter please?”

A painter is the rope used to tie our tinny to Medina. We’re teaching Orbit his ‘tinny skills’ and he’s in charge of passing me the painter (which is next to him on the seat) when we’re close to Medina.

Playing with water in the cockpit

Playing with water in the cockpit

“Out of the galley, NOW!”

“Out of the kitchen, NOW!”, especially when I’m using the oven, as it doesn’t have a heat proof door, and the door is the perfect height for Orbit to lean or put his hand on.

“I think lizard is in the halyards”

This is my often my response when Orbit says “where’s lizard?” We coil our halyards (ropes) and hang them in the cockpit so they stay out of the way and I quite often find toys in the halyards, including cars and lizards!

“Water stays in the cockpit … please”

When its hot, Orbit cools down by playing with his toys in a bucket of water under the shade of the cockpit bimini (see “please don’t climb on the bimini”). Its amazing how much water can get from the cockpit to the galley when he’s having fun!

Caught in the act of trying to get on the dodger

Caught in the act of trying to climb on the bimini

“I’m in the head”

“I’m in the toilet” (nothing more needs to be said).

“In a minute, we’re about to tack”

“In a minute, were about to turn the boat”. It’s all hands on deck for the Skipper and I when we’re tacking and Orbit is in bed, safe from harm. Quite often he asks to come out, which he can, but after we have tacked.

“Please don’t climb on the bimini”

“Please don’t climb on the flimsy bit of canvas that keeps the sun and rain off us.”

“It’s not a good idea to sit on the windlass”

“It’s not a good idea to sit on the winch that drops and raises the anchor”, even if its not working at the time. I don’t want Orbit to get in the bad habit of sitting somewhere that is potentially dangerous.

Orbit's 'sticker art' around the engine instruments

Orbit’s ‘sticker art’ around the engine instruments

“Thank you for not putting stickers on the engine instruments”

Orbit is still in the ‘sticker phase’, so we have stickers every where on Medina, which is lovely and cute, until they cover the instruments that the Skipper needs to see! Orbit now decorates around the engine instruments rather than over them.

In reviewing this post (I hope I have fixed all the grammatical errors!), I have realised that some of the things that we ask Orbit to do or not to do, is related to his height – toys in the coiled halyards, the oven, the windlass, where stickers are placed for example, are things that are at his height, which make them attractive for him to sit on or touch. It will be interesting to see what we’re asking him or asking him not to do when he’s taller!

Fancy Pants Christmas Decorations – “made by Orbit”

Last year the Skipper and I decided to start a new family tradition of making fancy pants Christmas decorations. So quite a few weeks ago, I put on my thinking cap on and tried to come up with some concepts. I was keen for the decorations to be as “made by Orbit” as possible, so the concept would have to be age for Orbit. I also wanted to make Christmas decorations for Orbit’s grandparents and our ‘marina family’, so not only did they have to be Christmas tree friendly, but they had to be boat friendly too.

Sorting the bits and pieces - the lip on the saloon table came in handy!

Sorting the bits and pieces – the lip on the saloon table came in handy!

My initial (and only) concept was to make a Christmas decoration that had an existing decoration at the bottom, with beads threaded on top and finished with a bit of ribbon so it could be tied to various places on a boat or a Christmas tree.

With this ‘broad concept’ in mind, Orbit and I headed off to our local craft store. I was bit worried as we drove to the craft store – would the concept practical and if not, prayed that I would be inspired for a Plan B at the craft store.

In the spirit of making the decorations as “made by Orbit” as possible, I gave him a lot of the decision making about what materials we used. After I selected a range of decorations, beads and ribbons to choose from, Orbit choose the particular ones he wanted or pointed over my shoulder to the ones he wanted. I was surprised by his decisiveness, I think he has inherited my low tolerance for shopping, so was able to make quick decisions.

Using a plastic needle to thread the beads

Using a plastic needle to thread the beads

Back on the boat, the first step was to unpack and sort out purchases. I helped Orbit split each of the decorations, beads and ribbons in individual packets so we could work on one decoration at a time. Again, in the spirit of trying to make them “made by Orbit” as much as possible, I left the decision of which and how many beads went with which decoration and ribbon to him.

After the first decoration was made, we had our process down pat. I was pleasantly surprised that that my concept worked and wrapped that Orbit enjoyed making the decorations.

One of the completed fancy pants Christmas decorations

One of the completed fancy pants Christmas decorations

Once all the decorations were complete, we then laid out all the decorations and I asked him which one he would like to give to his grandparents or members of our marina family. Orbit then decorated bags to deliver the decorations in, adding final element of the “made by Orbit” to the process.

This whole process from heading to the craft store to delivering the decorations took about four weeks. It was a great project for a number of reasons, Orbit could work on each decoration pretty much independently of me (he just needed me to set them up and finish them off); and it involved very little mess (once the initial distribution of materials was complete).

Merry Christmas from my little family to you and your family, hope you have a fantastic time over the Christmas and New Years!