Monthly Archives: January 2015

Keeping little hands and big minds busy on a sailing boat

Since the day Orbit could move himself around the boat, the Skipper and I have let him explore at his own pace, allowing him choose what he would like to play with (minus the things that could hurt him). Orbit enjoys playing with his toys in the v-berth and is interested in the usual things that other babies and toddlers play with, such as drawing, reading books and playing with tuppaware. But most days he is more interested in exploring outside – the cockpit and deck.

The day we were installing the washing machine, Orbit found the inlet pipe. He was convinced at the time that it was the greatest thing since rusk sticks! I should stress here that we had never used the inlet pipe and haven’t since (but that is another story). I did clean it regularly as he used to produce a fairly impressive amount of drool when chewing on it. Besides chewing on the inlet pipe, Orbit was also interested in its texture. The plastic was crimped and he would run his little fingers over it as he bent it every way it would go. I can’t remember when Orbit stopped playing with the inlet pipe, I think it was when the bucket handle took over as his favourite thing to play with.

The handle became separated from the bucket during one of the Skipper’s fishing adventures in the tinnie. Orbit was on deck when the Skipper was emptying the tinnie and picked the handle up. He was interested in its shape and the noise it made when he hit it on the deck. Knowing where the bucket had been and worried that Orbit was going to put it in his mouth, I quickly took the handle below for a clean. We were worried that Orbit would poke himself in the eye with the handle, but he never did, instead, the Skipper and I nearly had our eyes poked out as Orbit waved it around, learning what his arms could do.

IMG_2459Once Orbit could open a peg by himself, they became the toy of choice. He would spend up to an hour quite happily attaching pegs to the peg basket, take them off and then put them back on again. I remember being fascinated the day he started to attach the pegs to the basket in colour groups and then group different types of pegs together. The next step in the peg evolution was when I set up a clothes line for him to pop the pegs on to – just like I do when hanging out the washing.

DSCN1358Orbit also likes playing with the ‘rope’ we use for the clothes line. He will sit and undo the knot that holds the ‘rope’ together when its not in use, sometimes creating more knots than the one he is trying to undo. But I have to give him credit, most days he will sit and focus on undoing the rope until it is running free. He then tries to put the clothes line up himself, but gets frustrated when it won’t stay up. No doubt, he’ll be the tying knots soon! Pegs are still a favourite and I can rely on them to keep Orbit occupied while I am hanging out the washing.

IMG_2848A few weeks ago Orbit found the Skippers stash of zip ties. He now carries at least one zip tie most places he goes (I have a growing collection in my handbag). On the weekend we went to for a sail and while we were anchored, with no prompting from the Skipper or I, Orbit grabbed some zip ties and walked/climbed to a shady spot on the deck. He was quite chuffed with himself once he got to the spot where he wanted to go. He then focused on putting the pointy end of the zip tie into the other end, giving himself a little clap each time the task was achieved.

Part of me worries that we are somehow depriving Orbit by raising him on a sailing boat, that he is missing out by not growing up in a house with a backyard full of toys. But listening to the advice of other parents, those who live on boats and those that live on land, it doesn’t matter that inlet pipes for washing machines and zip ties are his favourite toys. The most important thing is that he is in a safe and loving environment, learning and growing with a genuine interest in the world around him and a drive to get out there and be apart of it.

Toilet training on a sailing boat

Orbit getting used to sitting on the potty

Orbit getting used to sitting on the potty

The Skipper and I have decided to start Orbit on the journey of toilet training. We’ve waited until Orbit started to show the “signs” that he is ready and am grateful that he is showing the signs in summer rather than winter.

We would like Orbit to be confidently using the toilet on the boat (also known as the head) before we leave to go cruising. This will free up storage space as we won’t need carry nappies and we won’t need to worry about washing or disposing them. 

We opted to start Orbit on a potty to keep things simple. The plan is for him to move on to using the head once he has mastered the potty. We decided to put the potty in an area that is easily accessible for Orbit but out of the way – which is difficult on a sailing boat because most areas are used for multiple uses throughout the day. We put the potty near the v-berth which keeps it and Orbit out of the way when he is on the potty, allows for easy cleaning (when there are accidents) and easy access to baby wipes etc. 

Getting Orbit to sit on the potty was a bigger challenge than I expected, he just didn’t like it. So we introduced a number of distractions to get him to initially sit on and then lengthen the time he sits on the potty. These distractions including reading a stories, (such as ‘Pirate Potty’), playing on a musical toy (which is just the right height when he sits on the potty), playing with stickers or doing puzzles. He still isn’t a fan of the sitting potty but he knows what it is and will sit on it with some encouragement and distraction.

Orbit in his undies

Orbit in his undies

The next step (which we are at now) was to incorporate the potty into our daily routine. The Skipper and I are doing this to hopefully have more success with ‘catching’ wees and poos than previously. We are also hoping that Orbit will continue to make the connection between the feeling of having to do a wee or a poo and doing a wee or a poo. He is still fascinated when he does a wee or a poo in the potty and likes to point at his effort as we congratulate him on his achievement.

I am also putting Orbit in undies (when he’s not in bed) to aid the process of learning about doing a wee or a poo. Orbit is so proud of wearing his undies and so far he’s has only had one accident. But I think this has been more good luck than Orbit being able to control his bladder!

I am expecting Orbit’s journey of being able to use the head on his own to take a few months, maybe a longer, but we are just going to take our time. It will be interesting to see how he goes using the head when we are sailing – this can be challenging for adults, so we may need some nappies on board just in case!

Crab pot wrangling

Our latest mini adventure had a purpose – we were going to catch some sand crabs. The crab pots were checked, the bait was in the freezer, the sails were up and we were off to an anchorage that is a well known sand crab hangout. ‘Look out crabs, we’re coming’ was on repeat in my head during the sail.

Crab pots 101

Crab pots 101

Due to our late afternoon arrival, the sand crabs got a reprieve the first night. ‘Run, scurry, crawl away’ I kept thinking, trying to telepathically warn the sand crabs of their impending doom. But their time was up after breakfast the next day. Much to Orbit’s delight, the Skipper turned preparing the pots into a ‘father and son moment’. The Skipper explained the technicalities of where and how to put the bait in, the virtues of one type of bait over an other, where he was going to put the pots in, the legal bag and size limits, … I called it Crab Pots 101. I was surprised by how interested and focused Orbit was, not realising that a 21 month old had such an attention span, but I guess that is one of the superpowers that dad’s have.

Once the tinnie was in the water and crab pots on board, the Skipper was off, leaving me with a very disappointed little boy who really wanted to go with his dad. It would have unsafe to have Orbit and I and the crab pots in the tinnie at the same time. Orbit will have to wait until he is big enough to sit in the tinnie without me holding him before going on any adventures to put the crab pots in. I explained this to Orbit while he was devouring a banana, his favourite fruit and preferred tantrum distraction, but I wasn’t sure how much, if any, registered as the banana disappeared pretty quickly while he scanned the waterline for his dad.

That evening, the Skipper timed checking the pots with Orbit’s dinner. With Orbit already distracted, the Skipper quietly slipped away in the tinnie. Orbit did however hear the outboard on the Skipper’s return and there was nothing stopping him from getting into the the cockpit to watch his dad come back to Medina.

Sorting the crabs

Sorting the crabs

Orbit’s concentration span got another work out when the Skipper was back on deck. As the Skipper sorted the legal from the non-legal sand crabs (females or undersized) he explained to Orbit how we need to respect all living animals, particularly the ones we catch to eat. He went on to explain that we should only take as much as we need to feed ourselves, don’t be greedy, kill the animals as humanly possible, don’t cause them any unnecessary pain and eat as much of the animal as you can – don’t waste anything. All this while keeping little fingers out the way of snapping nippers!

The next time the Skipper went to check the crab pots, Orbit was on deck and to my surprise, gave him a big wave goodbye, rather than throwing a tantrum to express his disappointment, so maybe (just maybe) I have some superpowers too …

Sailing milestones for a 1 year old?

Being the end of 2014 and start of 2015, I thought I would reflect on what it has been like to raise Orbit on Medina this year. It has been an eventful year, he has met the development milestones as set out in the baby books, but what about his sailing milestones? I am not sure what the sailing milestones are for a one year old who also lives on a boat, but here are some of Orbit’s achievements for 2014.

Learning how to walk on the floating pontoons in the marina

Learning how to walk on the floating pontoons in the marina

Learning how to winch

Learning how to winch (unloaded side of course!)

Learning how to make a cubby house with the cockpit cushions

Learning how to make a cubby house with the cockpit cushions

Learning how to steer (when the auto pilot is on)

Learning how to steer (when the auto pilot is on)

Learning how to get up to the bow and find a comfy spot to watch the world go by

Learning how to get up to the bow and find a comfy spot to watch the world go by

Am not sure what this year is going to bring, but I am sure it will be filled with lots of adventures!

Happy New Year to everyone!