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Go Back   SailNet Community > Contributing Authors > Cruising Articles
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Old 06-17-2000
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Babies on Board

 
Catamarans make ideal craft for cruising with toddlers.
 
Many couples reluctantly give up the idea of adventure travel when their children start to arrive. Worries, concerns, and a seemingly endless series of complications beset them as they contemplate integrating even one infant or toddler into their previously carefree lifestyle. Even those couples who long to travel, but have yet to do so, often mistakenly assume that travel and babies don't mix. Little do they realize that there is no better time to travel than when their children are young, particularly on a sailboat.

With their minimal needs, innate adaptability, boundless enthusiasm, and role as the world's greatest ambassadors, babies make ideal shipmates. There is no need to convince your child that he or she will love sailing, no severing of friendship ties, no education concerns or extracurricular addictions to be dealt with. Introducing your children to the world of travel as babies avoids their dependence upon the entertainment devices relied on so heavily ashore—television, neighborhood playgroups, and an abundance of toys.

Accompanied by a few favorite objects, comfortable surroundings, and a familiar routine, a baby will happily follow its parents to the ends of the earth. Where else could one find such an undemanding travel mate? Yes—babies do need their diapers changed, their favorite foods produced, and their time occupied one way or another, but this is nothing compared to the challenge of convincing a reluctant teenager that cruising is going to be fun—or worse yet, not going cruising at all.

 
A simple bucket of water makes a perfect toy.
 
Some years ago I was approached by an author as a potential contributor to her book Babies Aboard. Always happy to promote cruising with children, I agreed to fill out her lengthy questionnaire dealing with every issue from safety and health to eating, sleeping, and play. As I read on, I quickly realized that almost none of the issues raised applied to us. Why? Not because we had twins, or were experienced travelers, but because we chose a catamaran.

With a cat's high bridge deck, a baby can be playing inside and still be on the same level with you in the cockpit. Accommodations are always spacious, even on a small catamaran, making it possible to sleep an infant away from the center of activity, find room to store baby things, and set up a safe play area out from underfoot. Under sail, the level motion will keep the baby from falling out of bed, maintain food securely anchored to the table, and make playtime a safe activity both above and below decks.

Sailing with a baby, like doing anything with a baby, means a relaxed schedule. Large amounts of territory can be covered, big bodies of water crossed, and challenging situations dealt with as long as you feel able to cope with them. Parents, not babies, usually make the work for themselves. An overambitious itinerary is one way in which a cruise can turn from fun into a nightmare, with the baby blamed for it all.

 
Lifeline netting keeps both kids and toys onboard.
 
Caring for a baby is easier on a boat than with any other form of travel because your home is with you. Not only does a boat have a larger carrying capacity than a bicycle, backpack, or vehicle, but once you're on board the baby's bed, changing place, play area, and paraphernalia can all be arranged and left intact no matter how many times you raise and lower sails or anchors.

Whether your trip lasts a week, a month, or a year, take your baby and discover how simple, enjoyable, and relaxing adventuring under sail can be with the whole family included. Away from the play pens and swing sets, the highchairs and port-a-cribs, the bouncy chairs and walkers that are too often considered indispensable these days, you'll soon be wondering whatever made you think babies needed all that.

Hints for Sailing with babies

While sailing allows more latitude in what you can bring for a baby, it also imposes a few restrictions of its own. Here are some hints, tips, and things unique to sailing with a baby.

 Use a harness. Begin as soon as the baby is mobile and continue until he can swim.
 At bath time, use the dishpan, sink, or laundry bucket. Do a final rinse with fresh water to prevent salt water rashes.
 For toys, make use of any appropriate equipment on board—measuring cups and spoons, plastic glasses, keys on a keyring, wooden spoons, or even toothbrushes.
 Attach netting along lifelines if the baby is at the standing up stage. This will keep both the baby and toys on board. Also use netting or a leecloth along a sleeping bunk to keep the baby from falling out.
 A baby can sleep anywhere. A basket, carrybed, or carriage top allows him to be moved while sleeping, a convenient way to keep the baby from monopolizing an entire cabin each time he naps.
 Use cloth diapers. Keep one bucket just for soaking purposes. Add Borax or lemon ammonia to the presoaking water. Wash in salt or fresh water, but give the diapers a final fresh water rinse to prevent rashes.
 Use both a bow and stern painter on the dinghy so the boat can be snugged alongside wherever you are landing. This reduces motion and keeps everyone's hands free while handing a baby in or out of the boat.



 

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