Monday, February 20, 2017

indispensable things.

We met up with some power boating friends a few weeks ago (Hi Bill and Molly!) and got to talking about our indispensable items on the boat. They had very specific items they couldn’t live without but I hadn’t really given it that much thought. Once I did, I came up with a few things. In no particular order here they are:

Headlamps (especially with a red light function). Great for so many things. Our kitchen area is a bit dark so I pull one on as I prep and cook dinner. It’s particularly helpful for checking things in the oven as it doesn’t have an interior light. We use them when we check the anchor at night, when we crawl in bed to read, when we stand watch in the cockpit at night, and when we are walking through an unfamiliar marina after dark and especially when we are dinghying back to the boat after sundown.

Travel chargers (what you’d use in your car). When we are not plugged into a power source at a dock we use direct current. We use the multiple DC outlets (of which there are currently 6) to charge all our electronics except my laptop because Apple doesn’t make a DC charger (darn them!).

Reusable water bottles. This is a “duh” kind of thing but we don’t drink from open cups except at meal time or at the very least when we are at anchor. Too many opportunities for spills especially when you have a small person aboard. The Hydroflask brand is a favorite of ours. If you can get your hands on ice, they'll help you keep your drink cold for hours and hours and hours.

Travel mugs. We both have Hydroflasks and absolutely love them. We have coffee cup lids for them that snapped closed (making them all but impossible to spill even if you toss it in your messenger bag and tote it around all day). They keep coffee and tea and the like hot for an entire day. No joke. We’ve had hot liquids still be more than lukewarm 12 hours later. They’re pricey but worth the investment for us.

Aim and flame lighters. We don’t have a fancy brand we like or anything. We just use the cheapy ones from the dollar store. They make lighting the stove and oven less of a hair losing experience than using a cigarette lighter.

Wet wipes. I don’t know if I would have thought of buying them if we didn’t have a toddler. They’re great for quick wipe downs of him, any surface, and can clean spots out of clothes like a champion. I also love to toss a pack into my purse for any outing. They lower the ick factor in lots of situations.

Small skillet and small spatula (scraping type, not flipping). I’ve mentioned these before but they’ve become my staple. The skillet is from TJ Maxx and the spatula is by OXO. The skillet is nonstick and is perfect for eggs in the morning and heating up leftovers at lunch. Easy cleanup and compact. The spatula is the most reached for item in my silverware drawer hands down. It’s smallish but not tiny and is great for all kinds of cooking and baking.

Sunglasses. We live and die by daylight. So, polarized sunglasses are a must. They’re better at protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and they make visibility at sea 100 times better—especially when it comes to spotting dolphins!

Active Captain. It’s Yelp! for boater. You can find reviews of marinas, anchorages and hazards along the way. It integrates with Garmin BlueCharts mapping technology we use on the iPad seamlessly and has kept us off more shoals than we care to count. It’s truly crowdsourcing at it’s best.

Kindles. We are both pretty avid readers. Being able to carry thousands of books in one device that is extremely efficient in battery usage is a Godsend.

I’m a big believer in living as you would on land if you undergo a cruiser life. What I mean to say is that it’s not some giant camping trip and you should have the creature comforts that you would want on land to make you your most comfortable if possible. With that in mind, these are our most loved creature comforts:

Quick drying hair towel. I’ve had 2 of these for a decade. For a person with long hair, they cut my air drying time in half. I hate to travel without them on land or on water. They run about $20 and are well worth the money. They dry quickly on the lifelines and are slightly larger than the size of a hand towel.

Art supplies. Yes they take up space. But as a creative type, having them makes me happy. I brought paper, fancy pens, a lovely set of watercolors, nice colored pencils, adult coloring books, and of course papers of various types. Between Fozel and myself, we have been putting them through the paces and it’s great for me to have something to do with my hands that also helps me unwind.

Bialetti coffee maker. We love coffee and this little stove top number is one of our favorite items from home. It makes 1 thermos at a time, is 3 fairly small pieces to clean and frankly, is kind of cute to look at. I’ve stopped drinking coffee because I ran out of decaf and I thought I would just give it up but when I’m brewing Josh’s thermos every morning that heavenly smell wafting from the Bialetti makes me regret it!

Exercise gear. We both have all our exercise clothing plus I’ve gathered some essential exercise equipment I’m so glad I didn’t leave behind. A kettlebell, jump rope, ankle weights, a set of 5 pound hand weights, a suspension trainer and resistance bands go a long way to keep me sane. Have I mentioned how much I love working out?!

Crocs. Yes, they’re ugly as sin BUT they are comfortable, they breathe and they make the best boat shoes (in place of slippers). Josh and Lucas wear theirs out in public *gasp* but mine are strictly on board or in the marina. They double as shower shoes and get the job done for just kicking around above or below deck. We’ve absolutely lived in them since we left. Actually, we lived in them before we left and I can’t think of $20 better spent for our comfort.

Friday, February 17, 2017

toddler on board FAQs.

I figured by this point I might have encountered a few more questions about having a toddler on board than I have. Maybe it’s not as much of a mystery on how we do it as I might have thought. There are a few that keep popping up, and these are it as of now.

How does he do underway? The short answer is good. The majority of the traveling we’ve been doing has been motoring in protected waters. On those he is happy to play in the cockpit with toys or below deck doing various activities. Lately he’s partial to Water Wows and of course, any kind of vehicle. There have been a few times when he’s been seasick. Once on the passage from New York Harbor to Cape May, NJ and once on the Chesapeake on a very rough day. Luckily, his reaction is to just sleep. He doesn’t show any other symptoms besides lethargy. So we wait for calmer days and will continue to travel on those days whenever possible. We do anticipate some actual sailing across to the Bahamas and what we’ve done thus far is to do them as overnight passages and he sleeps like a dream during those times.

Where does he sleep? Fozel sleeps in the quarter berth at the bottom of the companionway on the starboard side. We fashioned a little gate with a mesh panel that we put in place after he’s asleep. It keeps him from rolling out of bed, or getting out of bed at all on his own. It is fastened permanently to the base of the bed and latches with two hook clips in each corner. It’s made out of heavy canvas and a very sturdy mesh. The major concern without the use of the panel would be that he might wake up and climb up the companionway without us hearing him. It’s a small boat, so I don’t anticipate that happening, but stranger things have happened.

What about potty training afloat? We are knee deep in it. It’s certainly more challenging than it was on land. Being able to throw soiled underwear directly into the washing machine was certainly a luxury I had taken for granted. He has a little potty seat that sits on top of the head and we are chugging along. We are to the point of only using diapers at nap and bedtime so that cuts down on waste significantly. Yay! And when we have accidents, we rinse in the sink after dumping the solids in the toilet. I expect he’ll be potty trained about the time all my hair goes gray.

What do you do with him all day? You name it. He is up for just about anything. We love the beach, the park, we take his balance bike to shore and he rides that, we take “hikes” (his word) around the neighborhoods wherever we are, paint, draw, color, play cars, play hide and seek, play pretend, do puzzles, do Water Wows, read, play with play doh, run errands and just about anything else you might do with a kid. We don’t do a ton of things that cost money because we are on a budget, but if it’s free and he might be into it and we can physically get there, we’ll try it.

Does he like the boat? Tricky question. At this age, it’s hard to say. He sometimes says “No go back to boat, momma.” Often it’s as much about not wanting to take a nap or go to bed as anything else. And sometimes, like after the holidays it was about not wanting to leave grandparents and aunts and uncles and being spoiled rotten. For now, he seems to like the boat 90% of the time and the other 10% is pretty much how I feel--sometimes you just don’t love it.

What’s your plan for schooling/will you give up the cruising lifestyle when he’s old enough for school? We have no certain plans for the next phase of Fozel’s schooling at this point. I want to begin researching homeschooling to find out what types of options we have and what the hoops we’ll have to jump through in order for it to be legal and official will be. From my limited knowledge, it sounds like there are plenty of teaching styles/curriculums to choose from and most states have a pretty straightforward hierarchy of regulations/rules to be complied with. I have not begun to research Illinois (because I’m assuming that since we are still technically legal residents of the state that we must follow their criteria—though I’m not even 100% sure about that). The short answer is that we’ll decide once we’ve weighed options and we get closer to that age. For now we do our best to do learning activities as part of our regular playtime. Fozel can name all the letters (capital and most lower case ones—some of them aren’t as obvious to him), knows his colors, and can count to 13. He loves to read and seems to just love to learn.

What’s the biggest challenge with having a toddler on board? Having him respect the rules we’ve put in place to keep him safe. This sort of steps on the next question, but we have strict guidelines for being above deck and at this age, his listening and reactions/responses are not always immediate or purposeful.

How do you keep him safe? Fozel has a life jacket that he wears anytime he is above deck. He wears it in the cockpit, he wears it on deck, and he wears it in the dinghy. The only place near water he doesn’t ALWAYS wear it is when we are on the dinghy dock. Sometimes we leave our life jackets in the dinghy rather than carry them with us on errands or to the park/beach/wherever because they’re bulky/awkward to carry in addition to all our other gear. When we are on the dinghy dock, he walks in the center of the dock only. He is also not allowed to be out of the cockpit alone. Beyond that, when we are underway (moving) and he is above deck, in or out of the cockpit, he also wears a harness/tether. The harness is worn under the life jacket (or as we all call it, boat coat) and has a tether that is attached to some solid point in the cockpit and the same for on deck. On the Erie Canal, Fozel wanted to help hold the ropes in the locks, so he would come with me on deck and I would clip his harness onto the grab rails nearby. The tether is 6 feet long so it doesn’t give him much room to move about, but he tolerates it. He is less a fan of the harness and calls it his “too tight”.

Did I miss any of your other burning questions? I’m happy to answer anything!

Monday, February 13, 2017

holding pattern.

We are raring to go, but we are having a few issues that need to be dealt with before we head to the Bahamas.

The other night I woke up to use the head and realized I hadn’t heard the bilge pump run in quite some time. It’s not a loud, obtrusive noise by any means, just part of the soundtrack of our lives on the boat. And I couldn’t recall when it was last heard. So I got up and turned it off and on (sometimes the switch gets accidentally turned off because of it’s proximity to the galley and all the movement that is constantly happening in there). No go. The automatic setting wasn’t working. Luckily the manual setting works just fine and we’ve been running it every few hours since then. We had just purchased it in October so it was still under it’s 3 year warranty. The new one arrived on Friday and Josh installed it yesterday. 

And the other problem we are having is with the engine. This Yanmar was mostly brand new when we purchased the boat, with only 50 hours on it. Now it has 500 but an engine this new shouldn’t have any issues with regular maintenance being done on it, which Josh is vigilant about. But when we try to start it, we are having some difficulty. After replacing the batteries before we departed, replacing the starter 4 times now, and plenty of sleuthing, we are seeking a professional opinion. Both Josh and the mechanic think it may be a bad fuel injector but hopefully we will see come Tuesday.

Once those things get fixed/replaced, we will be heading south for the crossing. Can’t wait!

Monday, February 6, 2017

a day in the life

When I woke up this morning, I had rolled all the way up against the screen door of my bed that Mommy and Daddy shut after I fall asleep. I told Daddy I didn't want him to open it; I wanted Mommy to open it, but she was at the farmer's market, so I let Daddy open it.

Daddy took me potty on the big toilet, but we put my seat on it so I can sit all by myself without falling in. After that, I put on my big-boy pants and played with Daddy. I got my Roary that I sleep with and made Daddy pretend like he was asleep, then I would ring the bell and wake him up. It was a lot of fun! Daddy gets very surprised when he wakes up!

Mommy came back from the farmers market and brought some fresh veggies and some bagels. I love to eat bagels. My favorite kind is rainbow bagels, but I've only had those once when we were in New York City.

I played with some of my cars while Mommy helped Daddy untie the boat from the dock. After that, I helped Mommy fix a bagel for me and a bagel for Daddy. Daddy was up driving the boat, so I helped Mommy make him a cup of coffee too. I ate half a bagel all by myself and a bunch of grapes. I love grapes. Mommy also turned a movie on while I was eating and she did a bunch of jumping and lunging. She kept picking up her heavy weight and putting it back down. Sometimes, I do push-ups with Mommy.

Daddy told us that there were dolphins jumping, so we went up to watch them play. I like trying to spot the dolphins in the water. We get to see them almost every day now. It was really pretty outside, so Mommy and I decided to stay outside with Daddy while he drove the boat. I had to wear my boat-coat, because that's the rule. Mommy got the paints out and helped me paint a white ball that Daddy got for me. I like to mix the colors and make new colors.

There are a lot of fun things to play with outside on the boat. Mommy and I played with Daddy's big binoculars. I like to pretend like they are drums. Daddy has a shiny bell and I can take it apart all by myself. Sometimes I need help putting it back together again. I like to turn turn turn the bolt on the top of it. I also made Mommy and Daddy some drinks with the lens covers from Daddy's binoculars. They drank lots of drinks that I made them.

After a lot of playing outside, Mommy went downstairs to make lunch and I wanted to go with her to help. I love to help Mommy in the galley. Mommy let me watch a movie while I ate my lunch. The movie had minions in it. I love watching minion movies.

When I was done eating, Mommy went up to drive so Daddy could come downstairs and he took me to the potty so I could get ready to take a nap. I don't like taking a nap. I wanted to keep watching the movie. Daddy went back upstairs and Mommy came down and she laid down with me. We get to take a nap in Mommy's bed. I tried to get Mommy to let me keep playing when we got in bed, but she made me lay down. I ended up falling asleep eventually.

When I woke up, Mommy wasn't in bed with me anymore. Mommy was playing her ukulele. The boat was quiet and it didn't feel like we were moving anymore. Daddy came up and played pillow fight with me and said we were anchored in a new place. I wanted to go for a ride in the gray boat, but Daddy wanted to go for a ride in the yellow boat. Daddy put on his boat coat and I put on my boat coat. I wasn't sure I wanted to go for a ride with Daddy, but then he said there was a new playground, so I decided I should go and check that out.

I went for a long boat ride with Daddy. We saw lots of boats. There were some yucky boats. I showed Daddy all the yucky boats and I counted all the boats. There were one-two-three-four-five.

We got to the dock and Daddy and I went to the playground. I had a lot of fun! I played on the slide and the swings and there was a boat on the playground. I made Daddy drive the big playground boat. When we saw the sky turn rainbow colors, Daddy asked me what that meant. I told him it meant that it's night night time, so we had to say bye-bye to the playground and take the little yellow boat back to the big boat.

When we got back to the boat, Daddy and I told Mommy all about the playground. I got to help Mommy make dinner too. She let me help her with cutting onions with the knife. I can't use a knife by myself yet. Daddy and I played with my school bus and with the great big sweet potatoes while mommy finished making dinner. We watched a movie on daddy's computer while we ate.

When all the food was gone, Mommy said it was time to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, but I wanted to keep watching the movie. Mommy said if I go potty and brush my teeth, we could watch a little more movie while I put on my pajamas, so I went with her and went real fast. I got to watch Lightning McQueen race Doc after I finished brushing my teeth. After that, Mommy said it was time to get in bed. I tried to tell her I wanted to eat more, so I could stay up and watch the movie, but she said it was done for the night.

When Mommy and Daddy finally convinced me that it was time for bed, I gave Mommy and Daddy smooches and snuggles and climbed into my bed all by myself. Mommy tucked me in and covered me with my blankets. Sometimes I play when I get in bed, but I have to do it quiet otherwise Daddy will shut the door and I like to fall asleep with the door open. Mommy and Daddy get to stay up later than me because they're big. I'm going to be big some day too and then I'll get to stay up too. I'm going to be just like Mommy and Daddy when get big.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

provisioned up.

So, let me tell you a little story. I don’t get much time alone. Like ever. I’m with Josh or Fozel every hour of the day. So when I realized that I got to go to the grocery store to do provisioning by myself I was ecstatic.

That’s when reality set it. I had to find, count, purchase, load and haul 2 months worth of food from the store to the lockers and cabinets of our boat. Yep. Overestimated how glamorous this project was going to be. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t have Fozel with me. It was stressful as it was, let alone with a toddler.

I normally abhor Wal-mart, but for these purposes, it worked for us. I needed various sundries and a one stop shop made life slightly less complicated. I eased in and gathered all the odds and ends not on the food side of the Super Wal-mart first. Moisturizer, new toothbrushes, bug spray, sunscreen, Ziploc baggies, etc. Then I dug in. I decided to assault the canned and dried goods first. I literally had a cart full of cans, boxes, jars and bottles full all the way to the top. The cart itself probably weighed 100 lbs easily. By the end, you should have seen my trying to get enough leverage to move that thing around each corner.

I checked out, loaded it all in the back of my cousin’s SUV and went back in for round two: produce and some perishables. I looked at my list and thought it seemed much shorter, but turns out it wasn’t. I had another very full cart that again had to be pushed out to the parking lot and unloaded into an already very full trunk.

I drove back to the marina, pulled out my reusable bags and condensed them as much as possible before picking up about 60 pounds worth of food and miscellaneous stuff onto my shoulders and around my wrists before dragging myself into the dinghy. Several of the bags were so heavy I couldn’t even get enough leverage to pick them up and put them into the boat where I was already sitting. I had to get out of the boat, lower them in, then get back into it myself.

Josh met me at the ladder and emptied my laden arms. Then, bless his soul, the man went back to the car for the remainder while I took on the next chapter of this saga.

I began emptying the grocery bags of their contents and started sorting on every surface on the boat--table, counter, companionway steps, navigation station, and mostly the floor.  All the canned goods were stacked under the table with help from Fozel while I tackled the meats, produce, and other items needing refrigeration. The chicken and ground turkey were measured out into 1 pound increments, bagged and placed into the freezer. Then I condensed the onions, sweet potatoes and peppers I had purchased and hung them in bags under the sink (hoping the fact that they're in a cool place and not sitting will help them wear better). 

After that it was time for the dry goods--oats, flour, pasta, quinoa, lentils, polenta, and sugar--to be divided and stowed. I poured anything into a paper package (flour, sugar, oats and noodles) into baggies and cut off the preparation instructions and placed them in the bags as well. Then anything that was already in plastic bag I simply put the whole package into a baggie. I should have probably emptied those as well but at that point, my energy was beginning to wane. The only dry good left to deal with was the rice. Guys, I bought 10. pounds. of. rice. There was no way that baby was fitting in any of my cabinets so I divided it. What I ended up doing was storing a month's worth of dry goods in an accessible place and then stowing the others in a more out of the way place (I did the same for the canned goods). 

Finally it was time for the most fun part of the whole process: canned goods! Josh had made me space for 60+ cans under the port settee near the centerline of the boat (so they're easier to get to). Before I started putting them away, we labeled the tops with the can contents and expiration date. This makes grabbing exactly what you need less of a wild goose chase! Fozel and I quickly filled that space as well as a drawer in the kitchen with the ingredients I'll need for the first two weeks. I also made some space under the sink for some of the more common ingredients and the rest were stacked on their sides in a cubby behind the port settee. 

When it was all said and done, I was pretty spent. I left the boat at 7:15 am and returned at 12:45 pm. When I was finally done stowing every item, it was 5:30 pm. Talk about an all day affair!