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!

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? 


  1. I don't currently have any tiny humans on board, but this looks like a very practical list! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Things I am impressed by in this:
    1. Reusable diapers.
    2. How much you can fit on a stroller.
    3. That a fridge can double as a changing table.

    Just in general that you are raising a child. on a boat. well done.

  3. Marie Kondo's book is fabulous - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I can't imagine applying it to life on a boat though. Winches that we have to clean ...... out... and the list would go on. As for the baby things, do people put extensions on boats like they do on houses? It's amazing what you can keep on board!
    Regarding the heat - the Wisconsin winter is waiting to welcome you all, so enjoy the warmth while you can :-)

    1. Yes... I have had to apply a practical and necessary clause to her methodology but when I reframe how I approach the question, it's amazing that most things still do spark joy!

      Do the Winches that need cleaning spark joy?
      But do the winches (and especially clean winches) that make hoisting a sail a dream job spark joy?
      Oh yes, they do!

  4. Thank you for this list. A very serious question for you though- how bad is it to deal with cloth nappies?

    1. If I had a washing machine, it be a piece of cake! As I do the by hand, it is more tedious then "bad". Over the years I've learned not to let smells get to me!