Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Never Fear

Those of you who subscribe to our blog via email received an update for this post in your inbox this week. This is an old post from more that two years ago and though I have been posting some old stories… this was not one of them. We have just migrated our mailing list to a different provider and something must have happened in the transfer that caused this post to be resent.

But rereading this story… woah! I was right there reliving those horrendous few days and THEN imagining them with a baby on board. No. Not happening. Just stop! So all of you who sent emails and messages making sure that we were ok and that the baby was ok, rest assured, we are snuggly tucked into our marina berth. The closest we have come to waves is when someone jumps in the pool!

We did have every intention to go sailing but the wind and weather just didn’t come together with our timing to allow that to happen. We wanted to get out there just once this season and see what it was like sailing with a wee one and be reminded about why we do this… live the cruising life, but we just couldn't pull it off this season. We are now wrapping up our boat time for this year and flying south to Brisbane for a couple of weeks before “summering” in the northern hemisphere winter. 

We have a long list of jobs to do before we can leave the boat… so we better get cracking!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Baby Must-Haves on a Boat

Since we shared our big news the other day, the congratulations have been flying in! Thank you so much! We love hearing from you! With the well wishes have come a lot of questions and comments. The comments have generally been a variation of: “Wow, you have a baby on a boat,” “You guys should get a medal,” or “I could never do that.” To be honest, on a boat or in a house, I think all people with small children deserve medals! 

One of the more common comments we’ve heard has been about how much stuff babies need and how on earth we fit everything on the boat. By living on a boat, we live a pretty minimalistic life so we really evaluated what items we did or didn’t need to have with a baby on board. Space is at a premium in our floating home. For something to make it’s way on board it has to actively add something to our lives.

I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo. I had seen a lot of talk about this book and Marie’s method of organizing all over the place, so as a lover of all things organization, I felt compelled to read it. The major take away was to ask this question of items, “Does it spark joy?” I have found myself asking myself that of things we already own and have been surprised at what we have that doesn’t ‘spark joy’ nor serve a practical purpose. Out it goes! 

That all being said, here’s our list of must haves and not-so must haves for having a baby on board! This is just what we have found worked for us. There are definitely reasons why you may or may not need other items but it’s just about figuring out what works for you. And remember… we are only 4 months in, still a long way to go!

Essential
Carrier - We have three carriers. Excessive? Maybe. But wearing our child has been a game changer in our parenting experience so far. We have a stretchy wrap that we were gifted which was amazing with a tiny, tiny newborn. Once she got heavier, we upgraded to a woven wrap which is more supportive. The wraps are great for being at home and on the go, when she will stay put for awhile and we want to be comfortable in many positions (sittings, standing, lying down, etc) while I am wearing it. We also have an Ergo Performance which we use for more in and out purposes and hot days and activities. Babywearing is hot no matter which carrier you use. There is no way around that but the Ergo performance is wonderfully breathable for both of us.

Cosleeper - Certain members of our crew (who shall remain nameless), do not cope well without sleep. As such the baby and I cosleep and Bryce (oops… Did I say nameless?) sleeps in another cabin. Our entire living space is about the size of one bedroom in a regular house so this isn’t such a big deal. A cosleeper is great for my peace of mind during the night. She has just about grown out of this so we will be looking at other options in the near future. This could also just read as: a safe place for baby to sleep. 

Swaddles - Muslin swaddles are great in this hot weather and we use them similarly to the cloth nappies below as a catchall, do anything and everything item. But as a swaddle, our little Houdini was able to escape from them from birth. We REALLY love these ones and these velcro ones are like straightjackets and are super easy to put on. Even now that she doesn’t want or need her arms pinned down, we still wrap it around her under her arms as a blanket.

Cloth Nappies - Old school cloth diapers… just the terry cloth squares, though you could just as easily use old towels. We go through these at an insane rate. Floor time, burp cloths, picnics, towels, blankets, you name it! They are a catch-all, do everything item. 

Diapers and Wipes - We use Best Bottom Reusable Diapers with shells and snap-in inserts. I made our reusable wipes myself from some old microfiber towels. We have enough diapers for three days so I need to wash them every other day. So far these diapers have been great. (Downside: extra water and energy. Upside: saving the world and maybe her skin!) We have both organic cotton/hemp inserts and microfibre inserts. The microfiber inserts are more suited to our lifestyle since we don’t have a dryer and the microfibre ones dry quicker. We also have large wet/dry bag, a few small wet bags and a reusable swim nappy.

Clothes - Our baby clothes are a mix of second hand clothes and gifts and hand-me-downs from generous family and friends. I honestly don’t think we needed to buy a single article of clothing. Clothes are great but in reality, often times she just wears a diaper. A good hat is essential! For now though, we have just been keeping her out of the sun (under my umbrella, ella, ella), but next year we will take more interest in sun-protective fabrics.

Books - Spare no expense when it comes to books but thankfully, they are very easy to find secondhand. Fostering a love of reading is super important to us. Even at 4 months, our little girl LOVES to “read” and be read to. We were thrown a baby shower where everyone brought their favorite children's book so we have lots of wonderful classic books in our collection.

Toys - Toys are really where things can easily get out of hand. Thankfully, we don’t have the space to let that happen. We currently have a few select toys which are mostly made out of wood or organic cotton. I have my old American Girl doll (Samantha anyone?) lined up to join us board at some point. Obviously the requirements for toys will change as she gets older but we can work with that!

Diaper Bag - A good diaper bag is essential. For our constantly on the go life style, I would recommend a good backpack. Any good backpack, it does not need to be an actual diaper bag. I have been looking but have yet to find one that fits all my requirements. The one we have currently is an no longer made, LL Bean travel bag and it’s great but it can get heavy to carry so a backpack would do the job better when you are walking around town all day. I’ll keep you posted if and when I find the perfect backpack for the job. 

A seat - A bouncer, hammock, swing*, something, anything to put the baby in where it can entertain itself to give you a break. We have one like this one that we are borrowing from friends which has worked perfectly. In another life, I would have loved one that collapses since they do take up a lot of room. The fold-down ones are not cheap though. *would not fit on our boat!

Carseat - We initially did not buy a carseat. The thinking was that we don’t have a car, so we don’t need a carseat. But as it turns out, we were with people that had cars often enough that having a carseat became necessary. It will be especially important as we are traveling over the next few months. 

Highchair - We have a great ‘high’ chair that is a booster seat with add-on bits to make it compatible with a smaller baby. We wouldn’t have a chance of fitting a real high chair on the boat. This is great because we can put it absolutely anywhere and it all wipes down with a cloth or hose.

Disposables: Castile Soap, Coconut Oil and Homemade wipe spray are all we use around here. The wipe spray is made of Castile soap, jojoba oil, aloe vera, a couple drop of essential oils and water and we just spray it directly on the wipes before we use them. We do plan to use disposable wipes and diapers when we are in transit in our travels. 

Not essential but nice to have
Feeding Pillow - I do use this for feeding and we also use it for tummy time and sitting up. While it is great, at the end of the day, it is just a pillow. So if you are picking and choosing what you do and don’t need, you could probably give this a miss. 

Collapsible bath tub - We have given our baby baths in all sorts of containers. Tubs, showers, buckets, sinks. We bought a small rectangular tub but it was just too small from the time she was born.  Currently in the marina, we have access to a wonderful bathtub (read: best bathtub in the world) but at least in the beginning, it’s easy to make do with whatever you have around. We will see what we come up with for next season. 

Changing Mat - Our changing table is the top of our fridge. There is already a padded cover for our fridge so comfort-wise we didn’t need the pad but for the sake of having separate surfaces we threw a changing mat on top as well. 

Stroller - I would not say that a stroller is essential for our baby (others may disagree) but it’s a pretty amazing addition to our lives and not in the way you may think. We did not have a stroller nor did we intend to get a stroller but we found one by the side of the road one day that was in pretty good condition so we grabbed it. Clearly we needed to have a kid so we had an excuse to have a stroller.
Photo credit: Bruce Madsen
———

Rereading this list, it still feels like ALOT of stuff and sometimes seems like it in our tiny space! No doubt there are more things that we will find we need in the future. 


Do you have tiny humans on board? What would you add to this list? 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Recap!

So we switched things up a bit this year. After last year’s cruising season was spent sans Aquabat in the US and PNG, we wanted to be sure that we got some cruising in especially since we knew that this year wouldn’t involve much sailing either (more on that later). So we sailed around the Whitsundays over the summer. It was a different place then it is in the winter. 
The hot northerly winds meant that we had access to anchorages that we didn’t have access to in the winter (cruising season here), it was definitely a lot cooler being at anchor (most days) than being stuck in a marina and there was lots of rain which made for some fun walks and swims, waterfalls, kept our decks clean and ensured we didn’t run out of fresh water. But there was also the downside of cruising in the summer: it was hot, we had to worry about cyclones and stingers, it rained a lot (closed up boat = hot), there were march flies and did I mention it was hot?! But we were glad we did it! 
By now I’m sure your question is “Alissa, why aren’t you cruising this season?” To answer, a couple of months ago, we gained a crew member. She’s currently rather useless as crew but always good for morale with endless smiles and giggles. That’s right another girl in Bryce’s life to join myself and Aquabat. At the risk of giving birth whilst at sea and in the interest of making our lives easier after the fact, we decided to attach ourselves to land for several months. We were fortunate enough to have several stints housesitting in the area thanks to very generous family and friends, mixed in with some time on the boat in a marina. We have been back on the boat now for about three weeks and it’s been a fairly easy adjustment (made slightly more difficult by a heatwave that came through). 

As the cruising season rapidly comes to an end, we are hoping to get out for just a little bit to explore some nearby islands. We will even be happy just to explore our island. The northerlies have been set in for the last few weeks (source of said heatwave), but we are hopeful that we will get some southerlies and cooler weather soon. 
So stayed tuned! The adventures of the Aquabats continue!


P.S. We won’t be sharing information about our daughter on the blog or other social media sites for many reasons, but you can know that she will be experiencing all the joys of being a boat kid! Thank you for respecting that!!!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ready... Break!

Hello good people,

We've had quite the adventurous off season but the time has come for us to take a break from adventuring and cruising for a couple of months! We will be back... so stay tuned!

Until we speak again,

Alissa & Bryce

****UPDATE: Read all about why we took a break here.****

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Adventure to Cedar Creek Falls

I had the opportunity to take exactly one picture before I had to get in the water to escape the mosquitoes. They were thick, beastly and swarming, jumping on every exposed bit of skin. But this is where we went the other day. 
A friend took us for a drive, away from the ocean, to visit Cedar Creek Falls. It was gorgeous and green and the water was clear. It was lightly raining which meant we had the place to ourselves. Swimming around the base of the waterfall, there were small fish that joined us which seemed to find me, and only me, tasty. I am also, much to other’s delight, a mosquito magnet. 

We filled up our diesel tanks yesterday, which is not noteworthy in itself but it took us half a day so that’s where our time goes! Today we are headed back out to the islands and slowly going to be heading north over the next week. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Run in with the law

More often then not, our days are pretty boring. We will spend three days servicing winches (and still not be finished with them) or a whole day doing laundry by hand with other assorted household tasks mixed in there. When things go wrong, they tend to go really wrong or we are so deeply invested in a project that the disappointment that comes with its failure or our inability to finish the job, leaves us down for awhile. But on the good days, it’s like the universe aligns itself to give us a day or even just a moment of perfection that makes it all worthwhile and leaves us giddy for days to come. After our last post, several people commented that our life seemed hard sometimes and that’s true. I’ve heard cruising described as extreme highs coupled with extreme lows. But then there is just the in between, the everyday life. For us, it’s normal that grocery shopping takes an ENTIRE day, that we have to be conscious of every iota of electricity that comes in and out, likewise with water. I’m not going to lie… on occasion it can be frustrating but for the most part it’s just our normal. But then there’s days like this one (see below!) that while seemingly benign, make it all right again!
On the 3rd winch... only 6 to go!
Last month, we were holed up in Driftwood Bay on the south side of Hamilton Island for a week or so to protect ourselves from the northerlies. With the exception of the extrusion of runway and the two jets that land and take off each day surrounded by a smattering of small planes and helicopters, this side of the island is relatively untouched. This is in comparison to the other side with a marina, shops, resorts and high rises. As much as we prefer the untouched side of the world, we learned that there was a free shuttle that went around the island so we wanted to make some time to check it out.

There were several beaches where we thought we could land and get us close to our destination, the bus stop. One of these beaches happened to be right next to the airport runway. The runway was surrounded by a fence plastered with signs that said “Forbidden” & “Unauthourised Access Prohibited.” We had absolutely no intention of crossing the fence but this beach was on the ‘safe’ side of that fence. There was an additional huge sign on the fence above the beach next to a locked gate that said “Airside Area. Authourised Access Only. Fines exceed $5000.” and a big Australian government emblem. But it was attached to the fence and again, we had no intention of going near the fence so we felt we were fine. So we were strolling along watching the planes land, waving at the trucks going by (none of whom waved back!), when all of the sudden from the other side of the fence… “Hey, how did you get in there?!” Apparently… we were still on airport property. This poor guy was clearly frazzled, umm-ing and ahh-ing over what to do with us, when I suggested we could just leave??? With the threat of a $10,000 fine looming, he finally escorted us back to Dingbat and told us where we could land to have access.

Call us stupid but we have thought through our decision to land on that beach multiple times since then and still feel as though it’s pretty clear, at least to us, that the beach was an ok space. All of the signs were on the fence, a barrier which we had no intention of crossing. When we were escorted back to the beach, the guy banged on one of the signs (on the fence) to make clear to us that we were in the wrong we kept our objections to ourselves as he was letting us go so we weren’t going to argue with him about the ambiguous location of the sign.

In the process of walking back down the beach to Dingbat, Bryce’s shoe broke. Thinking that our day was doomed before it had even really started, we faced the prospect of having to head back to Batty and find shoes for him. But randomly, and fortuitously, there was one spare flipflop in the dinghy for the correct foot. So we were back on track.

We headed around to the other beach, pulled Dingbat up and set off to town. The ONLY downside of landing in this location over the other was that now we had to hike up and over a mountain… but we did it! I won’t call it the most pleasant experience in the world but it got us where we wanted to be. On our walk, we even saw a spotted deer, which I didn’t even knew existed on the island! We caught the shuttle and headed into town.
Oh hey Batty!
The inhabited side of Hamilton Island is technically one giant resort, made up of many smaller resorts and shops that try to create the village feel. It has a post office, fire service and even a small school. But everything is the same. Everyone is driving around in the same electric buggy, all of the shop fronts are the same, all of the bottled water came with a Hamilton Island logo and every one was carrying around Hamilton Island Bags. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it seemed almost eerie, quite Stepford.

That being said, we had a lovely day exploring the Island via air conditioned bus (it was really, really HOT!). When we made the decision to get off the bus, it was to spend the afternoon relaxing in the pool to try and beat the heat. The pool was like bathwater it was so hot. Faced with a hike to get home, we wanted to try time our departure so that we were hiking in a cooler part of the day, but didn’t want to be caught in the dark and also wanted to stop by the bakery on the way bake to replenish our stash. Someone (me!) read the sign wrong and we missed the bakery closing by 15 minutes… major bummer.

Reading back over this, this day doesn’t seem like a huge adventure, but when you compare it to servicing winches, it sure takes the cake!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Rain, Rain go away!

For the past week or so, we have been subjected to the remnants of ex-Tropical Cyclone Winston. Basically what this translates to is strong winds and torrential rains. We were able to get off the boat a couple of times (not without getting absolutely saturated, of course!) but otherwise we were pretty boat bound. It took about five days for cooler temperatures to come in to accompany the rain and that brought welcome relief, i.e. we were no longer sweating inside our aluminium can!

And while this rain brought an abundance of water, a week plus without seeing the sun meant that our solar panels weren’t able to do their job and our batteries were suffering. 
Last April, when we rewired our boat we added two more solar panels (for a grand total of four) and did NOT reconnect our Wind Generator. There was an issue with regulating the intake of power from the Wind Gen and was thought that it could’ve been hurting our batteries. Since we had just replaced our battery bank, we wanted to keep it from harm as much as possible and so did not reconnect the genny. So that left the Solar panels as our only option to naturally replenish our power. When the sun is shining, we have an abundance of power. More power then we know what to do with! But since we hadn’t seen the sun in awhile, we were struggling and our only option was to run the engine to recharge the batteries. We are a sailboat, we don’t like running the engine. It’s noisy and smelly. But we figured that rather then sit in Airlie Beach running the engine, we may as well go somewhere and that was how we ended up motoring across to the islands in the middle of a downpour. 

Bryce was a champ, navigating Batty through it all, while I was (and will probably forever more continue to be) a fair-weathered sailor. Luxuriating down below and coming up, wrapped snuggly in Bryce’s rain jacket, on occasion when the rain eased up. Bryce had just accepted that he was going to get wet so the jacket was superfluous! 
As we approached Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island, we watched as a giant front of torrential rain passed directly through the harbour in front of us. We willed it to move faster so that we didn’t have to anchor in the middle of it. By some miracle, the rain let up to a mild spit just as we were ready to let the anchor down and no sooner then we were snug down below did the clouds open up again! 

What we were lacking in power, we made up for in surplus water. As long as it was raining, we literally had an unlimited supply. We had buckets out in the cockpit that were overflowing with beautiful fresh water. The only caveat was that it was ice cold. 

We were each able to take long, might be a stretch to say luxurious, showers and wash our hair, throwing water around without a care in the world. I could hear Bryce chuckling down below every single time I doused myself with a bowlful of ice cold water and squealed. I returned the favour when it was his turn! I did the dishes in an entire sinkful of water… absolute luxury. 

Though the forecast still looks grim (90-95% chance of rain everyday)…. hold on, it’s just started raining, I’ll be right back! Well, the weather people win today but what I had been about to say, was that we woke up this morning to sunshine and blue skies and were looking forward to getting off the boat. We can hear the rivers running on the island that we have previously only seen dry so we are looking forward to exploring them. 


Hopefully it clears up later so we can still head ashore but in the meantime, we are working through our library! Perfect rainy day activity!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Turtle Bay

We awoke this morning at 5:30 to the crystal clear waters of Turtle Bay. Even in 10 metres of water, we could still easily see the bottom. But this was not a morning we were going to get to enjoy it. We had plans. Our early waking hour had been planned so that we could get several big jobs done before the sun was blazing. Going up the mast is hard work for both of us and the heat makes it that much worse so we were keen to get it done early. We had several jobs on the list while I was up there:
  • Retrieve the Jib halyard and Furler upper bearing assembly. These were stuck up there from when we lost our jib on our overnight trip down from Magnetic Island to Bowen. 
  • Change the lightbulb of our tricolor masthead light. 
  • Put up the collapsible steps. The steps up to the second set of spreaders are fixed however the last set to the top are collapsible and need to be pulled out on the way up and put away on the way down. The last person who went up the mast was a rigger and he forgot to put them away. I would use them anyway but needed to remember to put them away.
  • Lastly, was not originally on our list but once I was up there Bryce remembered. Our steaming light has never worked. The steaming light is a white light on the forward part of the mast that is on when we are motoring at night. We have constantly been trying to figure out why it won’t work, to no avail, but figured I would have a look at it anyway. 
We got all the jobs done easily and magically, the steaming light just worked. Turns out it must have been a wiring problem inside the boat that was fixed when we did our rewire last May. Props to the skilled electrician who did that job! 
The view from the top was amazing. From the boat we could see the bottom around the boat but from the top of the mast, I could see the bottom of the entire bay! There was nothing in it though. No coral, no fish, nothing. Thanks to my reconnisance though, I would happily have swam in that water knowing there were no big fish nearby! I don’t like having regrets but one big regret we have right now is not picking up some Stinger Suits! Summer is jellyfish season in Australia so you have to suit up even for a swim. 
Once I had retreived the jib halyard, we were able to put our newly mended jib back up. Most of the stitching on the sacrificial sun cover had worn off, which is how the webbing holding the sail up had detached. All of the stitching had been sewn over and some patches had been put on. Good as new! We so missed having it and are glad to have it back! 


Now we sail!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hi - Remember me?!

Those who follow us on Facebook know that I am a tiny bit better about keeping our page over there updated than I am with updating the blog. Though realistically I’ve been quite lax with both! Those of you who are blog-only followers… Sorry! Unfortunately last year didn’t actually involve a large amount of sailing for us but we are trying to make up for it now! So let me give you a bit of an update…. starting about oh… a year ago!

So, last year we spent the summer on the boat docked at the marina on Magnetic Island. We had an air conditioner that we borrowed from friends which took a small amount of the heat out but overall it was just H-O-T! We were made some wonderful, lifelong friends on the island and their friendship was integral to us being able to be “locals” while we were there.  In March, my mum and Grandma came to visit for a week and we had a lovely time exploring the Island with them. We then flew down to Adelaide with my Mum where the rest of my family met us! We were down there for a couple of weeks for an amazing family wedding that included a few nights stay on a houseboat (quite the upgrade for us!). Bryce and I then scored a relocation deal on a camper van and drove from Adelaide to Brisbane with a couple of night visiting friends in Coolamon, NSW and a few other stops a long the way. We got to experience a lot of beautiful (and similar) Australian countryside and saw lots of Kangaroos. We stayed in Brisbane visiting family for a couple weeks and then headed back to the boat on Maggie!

Once back at the boat in April, we undertook a complete rewire of our boat with the assistance of our friend and electrician, Damon (of Cruising with Cid). Towards the end of May, I took off again to the US (supposedly) for three weeks. Bryce stuck around working on the boat. Shortly thereafter Bryce was offered and accepted a job in Papua New Guinea, so I decided to extend my trip to three months and had an AMAZING (North American) summer in the midwest. Fast forward three months to September, Bryce and I met back at Batty for two weeks, hauled her out, got a new hydraulic steering pump and then we headed back to PNG together. PNG was, as always, interesting! Beginning of December, we came back to Australia and we’ve been living aboard and sailing ever since!


Phew! And that my friends, is how we spent the last year in about 300 words! Stay tuned as we will be updating more frequently now that we are back on the boat and going places!