Buying a house in the suburbs, raising a family in the suburbs then retiring to the suburbs has never been my thing. I have always been drawn to the ocean and fell in love with sailing on my first experience. When my husband and I met, we already shared the same dream, to explore the world by sailing boat.
We worked hard, rented fairly cheap houses, drove standard cars and holidayed close to home.
Every spare cent we had went into building our sailing experience and knowledge or into savings for our ‘dream’ boat.
After eight years of saving and messing around in our little trailer sailer we found our dream boat, Medina. Medina was out of our price range but we just had enough to pay cash for half and borrow the other half from the bank.
The plan was to live on Medina in a local marina while we continued to work and pay off our loan while continuing to save.
But then, thirty minutes before we were to meet with the boat broker to discuss the finer details of the purchase, we found out I was pregnant.
We had to re-evaluate our situation – quickly! We had two options:
- Raise our baby in a house and postpone our dream
- Raise our baby on Medina and make our dream a reality
We chose the second option.
We would rather give raising a baby on Medina a go than always wonder if we could have done it. We kept our meeting with the broker and were successful in buying Medina.
The Backup Plan
We moved Medina into a local floating marina with good liveaboard facilities. Our backup plan was to keep ‘a basic house’ in storage in case raising a baby on a sailing boat didn’t work out.
Our ‘basic house’ included the essentials that would allow us to move back to a house quickly with minimal financial outlay.
In a few weeks, we were living on Medina and I was madly researching how to raise a baby on a sailing boat. Looking back, I think the naivety that comes with a first born is a blessing!
Five months later I gave birth to a healthy son, Edward aka Orbit.
The doctors and nurses at the hospital were extremely supportive of our ‘lifestyle’ choice and gave us some good tips based on the experiences of other sailing families.
Harder at Sea?
Parenting on a sailing boat can be different to parenting on land, but we also have the same challenges, feeding, nappies/toilet training, bathing and sleeping.
From my conversations with land based mums, I would say there are more similarities than differences. We still have routines to develop and manage and the joys of tantrums.
I have found that the perception of the physical risks of raising a baby on a sailing boat is quite high but this is because the strategies to manage them are not as well known.
Once I explain how we manage the risk (stopping Orbit from falling in the water) most people are more at ease with our decision to raise him on a sailing boat. We know the risks but we also know the benefits and the opportunities.
Our Big Launch
After four years of living on Medina and having little adventures, we have just left our home marina to begin our travels.
Orbit is now three and a half. People are asking how he will go making friends and maintaining friendships, particularly as he is an only child and we will be ‘on the move’.
Our plan is to slow travel, connect with other sailing families along the way, stay connected with family and friends and remain flexible with our plans.
We are not going anywhere fast. There is so much to see and people to meet.
Although we have our ‘long term’ destinations identified, we are pretty flexible around when we get there and how long we stay. Our two main considerations are the weather and Orbit’s schooling.
Although he is only 3, he is a social little chap, so our first major stop will be for six months.
This will allow him to maintain relationships at home (we are only four hours drive away), get settled into a day care/kindy/play group and other activities that provide the opportunity to be around children his own age.
Our second major stop will be for Orbit to finish kindy and start school, but this time for a longer stint, maybe 2 – 3 years (if it’s all working out) so he can get a good foundation of schooling and friendship network.
After that, well we don’t have a plan yet – we have to get there first!
Other Sailing Families
There are some great resources on the internet for sailing families to connect and meet up in Australia and for overseas, these include:
- Women Who Sail Australia – a Facebook site where families can organise to meet up (there is also a Women Who Sail Facebook page)
- Kids4Sail – a Facebook site dedicated to sailing families discussing issues and organizing meetups.
- farkwar.com - a mapping site where families can identify other ‘kid boats’ in their part of the world
Spotting a Kid Boat
There is also the old ‘how to spot a kid boat’ trick that was explained to me at a Women Who Sail Australia event.
It’s pretty simple – just look for the netting around the safety lines!
Not every sailing boat that has kids on board has the netting, but if there is netting, then there is usually kids.
Other families are raising their children on sail boats, power boats, and houseboats.
Whenever I am feeling out of my depth or have a specific issue relating to sail boat parenting, there are a number of blogs I refer to. You can find lists of these blogs:
I get a great deal of comfort knowing that there are other people out there doing exactly what we are doing. Meeting up with them and/or reading their stories helps to keep things in perspective and allows us to make informed choices.