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!