Let me tell you about raising kids onboard and abroad.
Firstly lets start with the wake up routine. The kids wake up and put on long sleeve shirts and long pants no matter how hot it is, they are then smothered in suncream where the clothes couldn’t cover them. Do you know what its like to have to suncream a toddler up everyday up to 3 times per day. Do you have any idea how hard that is and how painstakingly tedious it is. Have you ever met
a toddler that enjoys being suncreamed ? We are not going to be responsible for there skin cancer later on in life. We live a life outside and are very aware of making sure the kids don’t have a suntan. You might call this anal, but we call it being responsible.
Once they are creamed up they get breakfast on the cockpit floor so we can keep an eye on them. You can never trust a 1 or 3 year old to stay in the cockpit. There minds wander and with in seconds they have fallen over board. Sitting them on the floor reduces our stress level.
After breakfast we pack a bag full of suncream, bandaids, water, bread and head to the beach. Beaches are hard because there is stone fish, so thoroughly checking the area and then keeping them in the designated area is crucial. They also must wear shoes. AK doesn’t like wearing shoes so its an on going battle to keep them on. Beany on the other hand cant seem to grasp the fact that she needs to stay in a certain area and continuly runs around like a wild chook up and down the beach across rocks and reef. If the locals say there is no stonefish, the kids get alot more freedom. Not only do I have to keep an eye on the kids, I need to keep an eye in the water for sea snakes and reef sharks that come in very close. Reef sharks will quite happily swim meters behind the girls, mostly this only happens in reefy areas.
The kids can not pick up shells, shell collecting is ban due to the large amounts of killer cone shells, the pacific is riddled with them. This one we didn’t really take note of, but after being told how irresposible we were by a marine bioligist we stumbled across one day we decided to pay attention. “To let your kids pick up shells is completly irresposible, touch one of those and you got 3seconds to say sorry before your heart stops” The marine bioligist rudely exclaimed.
Kids want to pick up shells, it’s only natural, you just have to keep on their backs reminding them they cant touch the shells in or near the waters edge. After about 20minutes I am mentally exhausted, then if that wasn’t enough its time for layer number 2 of suncream and keeping them dry and sand free for 20 minutes for the cream to soak in.
When it comes to showering we firstly have to find fresh water. Once we find fresh water we break out the soap and attempt to wash several layers of suncream off. Once they are washed it’s a massive challenge to keep them clean until we get back to the boat. AK generally gets several washes because she falls over and gets covered in dirt a lot. If we don’t find fresh water we have 12 fresh water bottles for washing on board. We get 1.25L to wash ourselves and one child. Do you know how hard it is too wash your hair, yourself and a little gremlin all in 1.25L of water. Try it some time, most people would use that to wash their hands only. I get Beany and Slade gets AK that way Slade an I get the same amount of water to wash in, have to be fair when water is so restricted.
Back on board and it’s all about occupying them with games down stairs or letting them draw in the cool of the cockpit, on the floor of course so they don’t test the limits and try to climb out of the cockpit.
When we are on passage it becomes a 24/7 job of keeping tabs on the kids, where are they? What are they doing ? I can see one, where is the other, got her, got two heads all is well.
Being restrained to a life jacket is cruel especially since the life jackets are too big, because we couldn’t find any small enough for them. On passage they are allowed to sit on the cockpit floor in calm weather, anything above twenty knots they need life jackets on, this allows them some freedom. If we see dolphins the life jackets have to be put on in record pace so they can stand up and look out and maybe even go up on deck.
You can not begin to imagine the stress you are under raising two little kids at sea. They don’t have the concept that if they go near the edge of the boat or run around on deck, they will fall over and drown. All it takes is 6minutes to drown and a man over board rescue procedure done at its best is a 20minute excersise. You are tired, living on a 3 hour sleep routine you can not afford for even a second to take your eyes off them. A 24/7 job. At night the kids stay down below and when they fall asleep the boat is shut with a flyscreen, so that if they ever happened to sleep walk they would be unable to get out and wander over board.
We also have a car seat lashed into the cockpit. We used to use this alot. AK was 8weeks old when we went on a two months trek up to Lady musgrave (An Island of the Queensland coast Aus) This was the safest place to have her. She wouldn’t roll around and she was out in the action with the rest of us. The first use of this idea was with Beany when we cruised for 7months up the Queensland coast. She was 8months old and we used the car seat to contain her. She wanted to walk about and hadn’t worked out the movement of the ocean yet. The car seat prevented many of falls and kept her safe in bug seas.
You have to follow them around like a shadow, make sure they aren’t being silly, make sure they are always holding on when they walk around, making sure you know exactly where they are. There is no down time, there is no relaxing, there is no time to read a book, there is no me time, every second of every day is watching kids.
Once they are in bed my eyeballs are dragging on the floor, I pick them up and haul my exhausted heap of a body in to bed, ready for another day. With all these rules and restrictions things can get pretty tough. We are literally a travelling tantrum and instead of trying to settle them down we are lathering them in sunscream. Why would we put ourselves through this ? I will tell you why, the pure excitement of the kids face when they see dolphins or fish or even a whale, the squeals of delight when we sail through a school of jellyfish, the little dance they do when we get onto an Island and the laughter and giggle fits when they splash each other when we are driving along in the dinghy. It’s all worth it, every last bit of stress worth it just to see the joy in their faces, to see that beaming smile that would brighten anyones world. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
After writing this I find a nice surprise AK has been putting all her toys in the toilet and washing them. Getting the salt off them. That’s what happens when you try to multi task and put half an eye on them. No rest for the wicked I think they say.