Category Archives: Babies and toddlers on sailing boats

“Calling all ships … Calling all ships”

The alarms went off at 3:45am. It was going to be a big day and we needed to get an early start. Our journey would take us north from Mooloolaba to Tin Can Bay at the southern end of the Sandy Straights, via the Wide Bay Bar. The Wide Bay Bar is between Inskip Point (the mainland) and the southern tip of Fraser Island.

Part of the chart for the Wide Bay Bar, note the warning in red [do not use for navigation]

Part of the chart for the Wide Bay Bar, note the warning in red [do not use for navigation]

Not only were we doing our geographically longest journey on Medina, but we were also going to be crossing one of Queensland’s, if not one of Australia’s most dangerous Bars, the Wide Bay Bar.

Like many bars, the Wide Bay Bar can be extremely dangerous and the local coast guard put out regular annoucements over the VHF radio warning mariners to undertake the crossing with caution and to be informed of the conditions when they choose to cross.

The best conditions to cross the Bar are well known and many people cross it on a regular basis, local fishermen in tinnies and large trawlers, plus regular cruisers in power boats and on sailing boats. However, she must be treated with respect and sailing clubs, local pubs and the internet are filled with stories of people who got it wrong.

Orbit listening to music on his iPod

Orbit listening to music on his iPod

Deciding to cross the Wide Bay Bar was a big a decision and to cross it with Orbit on board was even bigger. So we researched and sort advice from people who have crossed the Bar numerous times. We decided that in the right conditions and in Medina we would cross the Bar with Orbit on board.

We were prepared to stay in relative luxury of Mooloolaba for up to two weeks, waiting for the right conditions to cross the Wide Bay Bar (more to come on our stay in Mooloolaba in another post). But we ended up cutting our stay short because the conditions aligned for a good crossing, hence our early 3.45am start for the day.

After a strong coffee, preparations complete and with Orbit still asleep, we motored out of marina at Mooloolaba at 4:45am with the intension of crossing the bar sometime after lunch. With the wind on Medina’s nose, and a light swell from the east, we headed north under motor and raised the mainsail too reduce the rolling effect.

We were lucky to be traveling with another boat, friends of the Skipper who has crossed the Bar many times. Although we were making our own decisions, it was comforting knowing they were there, somewhere ahead of us, just over the horizon.

Orbit watching a movie

Orbit watching a movie

It was a bit rolly, but no where as bad as our first day. Orbit woke at about 6:30am and was quite happy to stay in bed and I checked on him regularly. At one point he was sitting up in bed, talking to his toys. My little heart burst when I heard him say,  “Calling all ships, calling all ships, securIte, securIte, securite”.

This was a regular call we had been hearing over the VHF radio. It was the beginning of the call from local coast guard on Channel 16 letting people know to switch channels to get the latest weather and information on the dredge in a local river. We’ve had to teach Orbit not to talk over the VHF radio and he’s been pretty good at it. He’s obviously been listening to the broadcasts as well, which bought a smile to my face.

Passing Double Island Point on our way to the Wide Bay Bar

Passing Double Island Point on our way to the Wide Bay Bar

When Orbit was ready to get up, he had breakfast and played below decks for most of our journey north. He came up into the cockpit to say hello to the Skipper and have a look around, but was content to play ‘downstairs’.

He kept himself entertained, listening to music on his iPod, playing games on his leap pad, he even watched a movie. We also played together, having car races (we had races to see which car would be the fastest from one side of the table to the other with the movement of Medina), playing games (memory and snap) and read books.

When the time came to cross the bar, we radioed in to the local coast guard, put our lifejackets on, put the wash boards and Orbit sat on my lap with me holding him tight. It took us about about 10 – 15 minutes to cross the bar doing about 6 knots under motor (its quite a long bar). Thankfully nothing exciting happened. What did surprise me was that Orbit was happy to sit on my lap for the whole crossing. Maybe he was tired or he actually listened to the instructions of the Skipper – I am not sure.

Life jackets on, preparing to cross the Wide Bay Bar

Life jackets on, preparing to cross the Wide Bay Bar

Once we were over the bar and safely in the smooth waters of the Sandy Straights, I took out the wash board and opened some hatches open to let in the fresh air. I popped Orbit into bed and let the coast guard know that we were safely across. Orbit was soon fast asleep, he must have been equally relieved to have safely crossed the bar!

In hindsight, did the Skipper and I make too big a deal about crossing the Wide Bay Bar? I don’t think so. It’s not just our lives at risk if something goes wrong, it’s Orbit’s. Plus anyone who comes to rescue us, if we can be rescued.

We have to ensure we do the relevant research and planning for each adventure we have, no matter how big or small. But we also need to manage our fears of what can go wrong by putting the relevant safety strategies in place – whether its in the marina, at anchor or when sailing. After all, the one thing we must teach Orbit about sailing and living on a sailing boat, it’s good seamanship.

Dr Seuss to the rescue

Our first sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

Our first sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

It was 5am and soon we would be having our first adventure out of Moreton Bay and into the coastal waters of Queensland on Medina. Medina’s previous owners had sailed her from the Whitsundays to Tasmania a number of times so I am sure she was looking forward to giving her sails and halyards a good stretch.

I hadn’t done any coastal sailing in a long time, nearly 10 years, and I was excited to get out there again, out into the elements where you feel a little on edge but truely alive.

After a final check that everything was in it’s place; we raised the anchor and were off, out of the lee of Moreton Island and into the ocean swell, motoring through the channel that would take us out into the relative safety of the Pacific Ocean. Oh how I had missed the ocean, I will never forget that sun rise, over first on Medina with no land impeding our view.

Medina heading north

Medina heading north

We were heading north, but the swell and waves were heading east which meant Medina was rolling from side to site with every wave we went up and down on. So I was down below, looking for the stash of extra tea towels and stubbie coolers to pack into the nooks and crannies to stop all the noise of our things rattling or rolling.

The Skipper and I are lucky enough not to get seasick so don’t mind these conditions, however, we were soon to find out that Orbit does get sea sick.

He woke up at about 6am to the unfamiliar sensation of his home rolling from one side to the other. I explained to him that we were ok but he would have to stay in bed for a while, at least until the rolling had decreased. Luckily he was happy to stay in bed, so I went back up on deck to help the Skipper set our headsail to try and reduce some of the rolling.

Tea towels stopping the rattling noise

Tea towels stopping the rattling noise

After the sail was set, I went back down below to check on Orbit. He was not well. He said his tummy felt funny and I started to look for something for him to throw up in. I wasn’t prepared for Orbit to be sea sick, he had never been sick sailing around Moreton Bay. But then again, he had never been in conditions like this before.

Unfortunately I didn’t find a suitable container in time and he vomited all over his pyjamas and bedding. The poor little guy had never thrown up before so the whole experience was quite upsetting for him.

After consoling him, I cleaned him up, changed his pyjamas and replaced the soiled bedding – all while he was still in his bed. After that I found a suitable container, just in case he was sick again.

Thankfully we were out of the channel by this point and the severity of the rolling had decreased – enough for me to make the Skipper a coffee at least. My focus then returned to caring for Orbit, who had thrown up again. He was managing the technique of throwing up in the container so there wasn’t too much mess to clean up. He was quite distressed and although I wanted to get Orbit up into the cockpit and into the fresh air, I couldn’t until it was safe enough to do so. So the only thing I could do was distract him.

Heading into Mooloolaba

Heading into Mooloolaba

I crammed into Orbit’s bed with him (which he thought was quite funny) and we read Dr Seuss books over and over again. As we were reading Cat in the Hat for the umpteenth time I asked him if he was feeling better, and he said he was but wanted Green Eggs and Ham again. So I took this as a sign that his sea sickness was abating.

Once the rolling had subsided enough for Orbit to be safely in the cockpit, I got him up. He almost instantly perked up and enjoyed the roller coaster ride of going up and down and side to side with the waves. He spent ages naming the wave as either ‘big’ or ‘baby’. Was fascinated by the large ships which were anchored just off the shipping channel, enjoyed watching the birds dive for their breakfast and spotting the high rise buildings along the coast.

Orbit recovering from sea sickness

Orbit recovering from sea sickness

After about an hour, he started to fall asleep in my arms, and I popped him back into bed. Thankfully he wasn ‘t sick again and he slept soundly till well after we were tied up in the marina at Mooloolaba. Once he was awake, we got lots of water into him to rehydrate and a jam sandwich for lunch to give him some energy. By mid afternoon he was back to his cheeky self.

We’ll be continuing our journey north tomorrow which will mean heading back out into the ocean. I am hoping Orbit won’t get sea sick again as the conditions will be different (southerly swell and lighter winds), so crossing fingers he should be alright.

But just in case, I will be prepared. I’ll have his container ready, multiple layers of bedding ready to go (so I can just strip off the soiled sheets if need be), and have his Dr Seuss ‘library’ on hand.

We did it!

Our little family

Our little family

In the infamous words of Dora the Explorer “we did it!” (sorry for the ear worm).

Yesterday was an exhausting day but extremely rewarding, one that I will never forget.

After Father’s Day breakfast with Orbit’s grandparents, we were back on Medina doing the final organising and spending time with the grandparents and our marina family. As soon as the wind had turned easterly, it was time to go (we are finally watching the weather instead of a clock).

We had planned to wave ‘see you soon’ to Orbit’s grandparents as we motored past the breakwater out of the marina. So with with the final preparations completed, we left our marina berth and I got Orbit up on deck so he could wave too.

As we went past the breakwater, we realised Orbit’s grandparents were not there. After a few phone calls (thank goodness for mobile phones) we found out they had been delayed trying to find a carpark. So a U-turn it was, we were not missing out on waving to them!

Leaving the marina

Leaving the marina

Heading back into the marina, Orbit got quite upset and said ‘No mummy, no home, stay here’. Bless his little cotton socks. The second time out of the marina, his grandparents were there. We waved as if no one was watching and once they were out of site, some tears and some deep breaths it was time to focus on the adventure ahead.

Remember my plans of having everything sorted, organised, put away … well that did not happen! Everything until yesterday morning had been put away, but our final loads of washing, our permanent mooring lines and last minute bits and pieces just thrown down below, into a spot where they could to do the least amount of damage in the worst case scenario.

I was thankful that the Skipper had decided to motor to our first anchorage – to give the newly serviced engine a good run in. It meant that Medina was relatively ‘flat’ and I could put things away as we went along.

Orbit living his dream - he's finally at 'the beach'!

Orbit living his dream – he’s finally at ‘the beach’!

Orbit feel into a deep sleep after his lunch, he thought he was something pretty special sitting in the cockpit with his dad, munching away on his sandwich. He didn’t even wake up once we had anchored and turned the engine off. A few hours later he was up, the first thing he said was ‘beach’ so it was into the tinnie and off to the beach.

So for the next few days, we are just going to be taking it all in, doing some final provisioning and plan the detail of our next few weeks.

As I sit here with my coffee, watching the sun rise I feel so blessed and thankful. Thank you to everyone for your warm wishes and thank you for coming on the adventure with us.

The art of multi-tasking

IMG_7388

The Skipper up the mast, checking everything is ok and replacing bulbs in the navigation and steaming lights

Preparing Medina to go cruising has given our multi-tasking skills a really good work out this week, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Even though we have crossed a lot of things of our to do list, there just didn’t seem to be enough daylight hours, hours without Orbit on Medina, hours when there is little or no wind this week. So it has been a case of making the most of each situation we found ourselves in. If the wind was calm we were doing things up the mast or taking the tinnie for a run with its new outboard. If it was too windy for tasks on deck, we were doing things below and making the most of wind by washing those things that take a while to dry. If Orbit wasn’t on Medina I was cleaning, sorting, ordering or provisioning and the Skipper was servicing the engine or installing new equipment.

There was also all the ‘administrative’ tasks to sort out, everything from organising our mail, insurances, cars, Orbit’s daycare and activities. And of course, the passage planning – watching the weather forecasts, planing where can we anchor/which marina to go into if we needed water, filling up with fuel (and having spare jerries – just in case), checking our safety equipment, planning menus and what is our plan B in case something goes wrong etc.

Medina's matching boom cover and UV strips on the head sail and stay sail

Medina’s matching boom cover and UV strips on the head sail and stay sail

Despite all the rushing around or because of it, our to do list is much shorter. Either by achieving the tasks (which is the majority), postponing them till we are on the way (mainly little tasks, like finishing the netting I planned to do ages ago) or putting them on a new list to be achieved at our next major stop (the big ‘nice to have done but run out of time’ tasks).

Thursday was a particularly challenging day, both physically and mentally. We only had the morning to get a number of on deck tasks done. Orbit was at daycare, which meant we didn’t have to worry about him but we only had the morning because strong winds were predicted from Thursday afternoon onwards for a few days. I had to take a some photos at one point because I was so proud of what the Skipper and I were achieving both together and individually.

The cleaning and washing never seems to end

The cleaning and washing never seems to end

Within a few hours, I had cleaned the shower including the shower bilge (the grate from the shower bilge and Orbit’s non-slip frog), completed a number of loads of washing (rugs, cushion covers and curtains from the shower (thank goodness we have a washing machine onboard), helped the Skipper put Medina’s sails back on (she looks very smart with her matching boom cover and UV strips) then winched the Skipper up the mast – twice! I then got to go up the mast, because the Skipper left one of the steps at the top open. It was easier for me to go up and close the step rather than winch him up for the third time.

Besides multi-tasking the physical tasks this week, we have also had to multi-task our emotions. There have been the concerns, the doubts, the ‘are we doing the right thing?’ question being played on repeat in our minds. There was also the excitement and joy of starting a new adventure and the sense of achievement when we get one step closer.

View from the mast looking south, our home

View from the mast looking south, our home

We have been mindful of Orbit through this whole transition, how do we assist him through this time? He is seeing a lot happen and a lot change and he has heard us talking with family and friends. We have been trying not to send him on an emotional roller coaster by being on one ourselves.

We’ve have been trying to prepare Orbit by explaining what is happening and what is going to happen and matching this with his concept of time – today, tomorrow and in a few days. We kept his routine in place but talked about how it would be the last time we will be doing something (e.g. last day at playgroup, last day at day care), but he had new adventures ahead. I asked Orbit yesterday what he was most looking forward to and he said going to the beach.

View from the mast, looking north, to where our next adventure begins

View from the mast, looking north, to where our next adventure begins

I am not sure if Orbit completely understands what we are about to do, and even though he’ll be having fun, I am sure after a few days he will be asking to see family and friends and when he’ll being going to playgroup or swimming lessons. When this happens the plan is to explain to him what our new adventure involves and we can count the days till he sees his grandparents, family and friends but also look forward to the new friends he is going to make and the new cousins he will get to play with. I have a calendar on the Medina that we can mark of significant days and he can count the days (I am also hoping this will help him learn the days of the week and months).

Orbit and his cousin, Tilly having fun on Medina's foredeck

Orbit and his cousin, Tilly having fun on Medina’s foredeck

So with only a few hours to go, our time will be spent with our family and friends who have been so supportive of us and our dream. Without them, we would not have achieved what we have so far and we would not be sailing away in a few hours time. Not once have our family or friends questioned what we would like to do. They have asked questions so they can be informed, but have never told or asked us not to go. The main question they have asked is “when are you going”, well we are going very very soon. Too soon to leave them but not soon enough to begin our adventure.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us to get this far – we could not have done it without you and you are all coming with us.

Mummy, mummy, look at me!

Step 1 to getting into bed

Step 1 to getting into bed

After what feels like a very long time, we are home. We were only away from Medina for 7 weeks but it feels like a lot has happened in that time.

Leading up to the end of our house sitting, particularly when he was tired, Orbit would say he wanted to go back to Medina, he wanted to go home. Which was reassuring after his initial excitement of house sitting! The day finally came and Orbit was back on Medina. Back with his toys and ‘non-toys‘, back to the space where he can’t lose us, back to being in the middle of everything and back to his bed, which he symbolised by taking of his ‘travel’ pillow case to reveal his ‘Medina’ pillow case.

Since being back on Medina, Orbit has been discovering the physical differences of the growth spurt that happened while he was away. Areas that weren’t accessible before we left, now are and on the flip side, there are some areas that much smaller than they once were.

Step 2 to getting into bed

Step 2 to getting into bed

The second full day were were on Medina, I was glued to the Olympics when I heard Orbit say “mummy, mummy, look at me”. I turned to see Orbit sitting in his bed, proud as punch that he had completed the climb all by himself. I asked him to climb in and out again for me so I could see how he did it and get some photos – he kindly obliged.

Orbit has been able to slide out of bed for a while, but getting himself into bed seems to be a bigger achievement for him. Going to bed always involved the Skipper and I putting Orbit into bed, his bed was just too high for him to climb into – but no longer! With the lee cloth (the piece of netting that stops him from rolling out of bed) ‘half up’ Orbit now has another area accessible to play or spend time on his own.

Step 3 to getting into bed

Step 3 to getting into bed

Although Orbit can now get in and out of bed on his own, the Skipper or I still need to put the lee-cloth fully up or down. Because Orbit can’t yet undo the clips that hold the lee-cloth up, we are able to relax knowing that he is safe in his bed.

Because the lee-cloth is made of netting material, we can still see and talk to each other, but Orbit is out of harms way. It’s his ‘safe space’ on Medina. It is where he goes when either the Skipper or I can’t properly supervise him. This means he isn’t going to walking around on deck, isn’t going to hop off Medina and go visiting, isn’t going to be getting into things he shouldn’t while we’re asleep. We will continue to pop Orbit into bed when we are anchoring, leaving/entering a marina, tacking or gybing till he gets a little bit older and we can trust him to stay out of harms way.

It will be interesting going sailing again to see how much he has changed since we last unfurled the sails. It won’t be long now and we will be out there!