Monthly Archives: October 2014

Toddlers on the high side

Why as first time parents do some of us over think the changes in our little one’s lives? Fear of the unknown is one obvious answer. While I spent many a waking hour thinking through how to make the changes Orbit’s life as seamless as possible, he had worked it out himself or was just happy to go along with the change.

Orbit playing in the relative safety of the cockpit

Orbit playing in the relative safety of the cockpit

Now Orbit is walking and happiest when he is exploring the world, his attention span has widened beyond the relative safety of the cockpit (Medina has a fully enclosed centre cockpit). This isn’t a big issue when we are in the marina because we can easily hop off the boat and go for a walk or when we are at anchor we can jump in the tinny and do some beach combing. But what about when we are sailing?

So, although not the average milestone in a baby’s life, we were faced with the dilemma of when to let Orbit out of the cockpit when sailing (harnessed on and supervised of course).

Prior to going into the details, I would like to acknowledge that each family makes its own decisions based on their situation and there is no right or wrong answer.

There are two schools of thought on managing development changes in babies lives, parent led change or baby/child led change. For us, the answer of when do you let your baby out of the cockpit started as a parent led change,  getting him used to being outside the cockpit and the restrictions on him when out there, e.g. sitting on the back deck in the baby carrier then in the bumbo seat then as he got older playing in the safety harness. The parent led change quickly transformed into a baby led change. When Orbit wants to get out of the cockpit there is much gesticulating and he pulls out his harness (it lives in a rope bag in the cockpit for easy access) as a way of communicating to us what he wants to do (“the signal”).

Learning the golden rule "one hand for you and one for the boat"

Learning the golden rule “one hand for you and one for the boat”

Prior to letting Orbit out of the cockpit when sailing, we waited until he was used to wearing his harness, was used to moving around the boat when we were under sail and we had the most appropriate sailing conditions. We then waited for him to give us “the signal”.

On the weekend everything came together, and we popped Orbit up on the high side of the boat, harnessed on and me within close range (trying not to let my fear get the better of me). Orbit blissfully unaware of my fear, absolutely loved being on the high side, the freedom of being able to walk up and down the boat and to see things from different angles. He was sure footed and absorbed the rolling deck with ease. His confidence and ability to move around the boat (high side only) surprised me but not the extremely proud Skipper.

My biggest learning from the weekend was how much my baby is growing up and how I need to give him the freedom to keep learning and while he does, we will always be there to guide and catch him.

[Definition of high side – when a boat is under sail it leans over from the force of the wind (known as heeling) making the boat have a high side and a low side. The high side is the side of the boat which is furtherest away from the water and the low side is closest to the water.]

Morning tea with a lower carbon footprint

When cooking on the boat, I try not to use any electrical appliances. That means anything that plugs into an electrical outlet. Which most of you know, is most cooking appliances these days.

The reason why I am trying not to use electric appliances is because electricity will be limited (and need to be topped up) when we are sailing (i.e. not in a marina). Electricity, like water and food is a limited resource on a sailing boat. In order to generate our electricity we’ll need to either:

Our solar panels

Our solar panels

a. rely on our solar panels, an idea which I love, but they are reliant on the sun (which doesn’t always shine); and/or

b. rely on our engine, an idea which I don’t necessary love (in this context), because it uses diesel (not good for the environment or our hip pocket), can be smelly and noisy.


Once we have generated the electricity (either by solar or the engine), it then needs to be converted from 12 volts to 240 volts.  We have an inverter on the boat which converts the electricity, but it also needs electricity to work, so the whole process can be a bit draining on our electrical supplies.

To be honest, I don’t want to run the engine or drain the batteries each time I want to cook up a batch of chocolate chip biscuits or pop the electric kettle on to have a cup of tea with them.

My new best friend - a hand beater

My new best friend – a hand beater

The alternative is to use a hand beater to make the biscuits and ‘old whistler’ (kettle) on the gas stove.

So my new best friend, who I am on a mission to get to know is my newly gifted hand beater. A big thanks to my ever supportive mother-in-law, who I affectionately call MILly. After hearing of my cooking situation, Milly very kindly offered me her hand beater, which she’s had since she married my FIL (yep, father-in-law). So its a family heirloom that will need to be passed on, hopefully with many swashbuckling stories.

I’ve kept the first attempt using the hand beater a simple one – chocolate chip biscuits. I have made these biscuits before with an electric beater and know they worked out well, so the only difference will be the beater.

The only downside to using the hand beater compared to the electric beater when making the biscuits was I couldn’t give Orbit a beater to lick at the end (which he loves). As an alternative I gave him the spatula with a good dollop of biscuit batter on it and he seemed quite content with that.

I am pretty confident I’ll be able to make the biscuits while we are sailing, I can pop the mixing bowl in the sink and our oven is gimballed. The challenge is going to be the cooling the biscuits when they come out of the oven – but I don’t need to solve all the challenges just yet – that’s part of the adventure!

Morning tea on the 'back deck'

Morning tea on the ‘back deck’

Laundry 1, Laundry 1 are you there?

I think we have been living in the marina for too long … Medina has a nickname – “Laundry 1”. I only found out our nickname the other day when a fellow live aboard called out “Laundry 1, Laundry 1, are you there?”

Medina on wash day, every day is wash day

Medina on wash day, every day is wash day

Why are we called Laundry 1? Because I always seem to have laundry drying. One of our neighbours, who isn’t a live aboard but is regularly on his boat made the comment that I am always doing the laundry when he sees me. Other live aboards have said “are you doing to washing again?” when they come over for coffee and a chat. It never really sunk in how much laundry I did, until we were called Laundry 1.

I am not sure if I do anymore laundry than anyone else (I am a wash the sheets and towels once a week kind of girl), it is just that our laundry is more obvious (I do keep our ‘smalls’ out of the public eye though).

So why all the laundry? There are a few reasons …

Firstly, having an 18 month baby helps to generate the amount of laundry – particularly now he has decided that he wants to feed himself and loves to play in sand and dirt.

Our little washing machine

Our little washing machine

The secondly, and probably the most valid reason is our washing machine. It’s a small version of the old school twin tub that our mum’s may have had or our grandmothers definitely had prior to the automatic machines. It only holds 20 litres of water on the washing side, which in practical terms means two large towels or one queen size sheet. This is about one quarter of the size of an average size washing machine.

It’s extremely water efficient (great when we are reliant on our tank water, i.e. not in a marina) and the spinner is something of a miracle worker – everything comes out nearly dry. The washing machine sits quite nicely in the cockpit (when we are in the marina) and offers Orbit many opportunities for entertainment, from ‘helping me’ load the machine, turning the dials and emptying the spinner. This does mean I need to check the machine prior to popping a load on, I have found many wonderful things in the machine that he has decided to ‘wash’, everything from pegs to food and winch handles.

The Skipper was so proud the day he presented me with the washing machine. To his credit he did alleviate my requirement to lug our washing to the marina laundry – which was a timing challenge between Orbit’s sleeps and machine availability. Other’s using the marina laundry were extremely generous knowing my predicament and would often pop our laundry in the machine, transfer it to the dryer or even fold it for me – god bless them!

My internal clothes line

My internal clothes line

These days, to stay on top of the laundry, I do at least one load a day – which is why there is always washing ‘on the line’. I would rather do this than a week’s worth of washing – which can take a full day.

I’ve had a few people ask how are we going to do our washing when we are not in a marina. The first challenge is going to be limiting the amount of washing we create. The second challenge is finding the opportunity to wash. It will only be when Medina is flat and we can plug the washing machine into the inverter (basically when we are at anchor), we have enough water and we have the best drying conditions. In the interim, it will be a case of hand washing. Oh the joys!

I know I am going to have to relax my usual laundry routine of washing at least once a day and I am looking forward to it. As much as there is a sense of achievement with having the washing basket empty and everything put away, I would rather be out and about exploring the world than doing the laundry any day!

Why Medina is the right boat for our adventure

Medina out of the water (its weird seeing your home hanging in the air)

Medina out of the water (its weird seeing your home hanging in the air)

The Skipper and I took many years to decide which boat to buy for our adventure, it was a common discussion as we watched our savings account slowly grow. Our priority was and still is safety, followed by performance and/or comfort.

Medina has been designed to cross oceans, as long was we sail her safely. She was built and outfitted by talented tradespeople. Being made of steel, she may not be the fastest boat on the water, but that is ok. We know we will enviably hit something or something will hit us, and a well maintained steel hull gives us peace of mind. The original owner had her painted yellow so she could be seen from a distance, another safety feature. We weren’t particularly fussed on having a yellow boat, but now it would seem odd to change her colour when she needs her next paint.

Another feature of Medina’s design which appealed to the Skipper and I was her semi long keel. I have included a diagram showing the different types of keels because many people don’t get to see the underside of boats (as they are usually in the water). One of benefits of a semi-long keel is that you can access areas with shallower water e.g. anchorages as the boat ‘draws’ less water. One of the down sides of a boat with a semi-long keel is they have a really bad turning circle, which can make going in and out of tight spots, like marinas a bit more of a challenge.

Different types of keels on sailing boats (source: Schinas 2005 p. 45)

Different types of keels on sailing boats (source: Schinas 2005 p. 45)

Other features of Medina’s design which appealed to us was her centre cockpit – great from a safety perspective but not from an entertaining perspective and being rigged for single handed sailing, this is where all the running rigging (or ropes) essentially come back into the cockpit, again great  from a safety perspective.

Internally, Medina had the features we were after, including an aft cabin with a bed that was accessible from both sides (so one of us doesn’t need to climb over the other to get out), two heads (or toilets), a separate shower, a well appointed galley, as much storage as possible (there is never enough storage), good size water and fuel tanks. Another bonus was that Medina was meticulously outfitted and maintained so no renovations required.

Orbit in the v-berth, the lee cloth is up to stop him from falling out.

Orbit in the v-berth, the lee cloth is up to stop him from falling out.

Raising a baby on board has just meant using common sense and organisation to use the same area for multiple uses. For example, the v-berth is Orbit’s playroom, nappy changing table and dressing room. As we have to use most parts of Medina for multiple difference uses, we have to keep our things pretty organised – “everything has a place and there is a place for everything”. This mantra is also part of basic seamanship, so its a good practice to have on any boat.

We still need to make some modifications to Medina prior to going on our big adventure. The modifications include installing a water maker, building another sea berth which will double as another couch and install netting around the lifelines. I am sure we will continue to make modifications as our adventures continue, as we learn more and as Orbit gets older.

Medina is a safe boat, designed to tackle the adventures we would like to have, but it is up to the Skipper and I to make the best decisions we can to make sure we have a safe adventure and  make it back home.