Each age presents different challenges
We raised our children in a marina aboard our 55 ft brigantine. As live-aboard life is arguably most challenging for “mom”, it needed to be a labor of love to make it worthwhile. Luckily for me, it indeed was always that. Everything – water, food, laundry, kids and all manner of miscellaneous stuff required for vessel or family – had to be hauled on a daily basis. No simple dock cart was appropriate for our domestic purposes. Investing in the largest Fearless Flyer Wagon of the day was propitious. Kids and gear together all jumbled in nicely.
Below decks as well as above had to be compulsively organized. My mother-in-law once commented on how this boating essential manifested in the children’s activities. “They are so neat! Their play creations are compact and carefully constructed. They build straight up!” Up on deck and quickly beyond the constraints of the playpen-like safety netting we’d neurotically woven through each stanchion encircled the entire boat – we instead taught them to be water-safe before they could walk – our children’s entertainment became more creative but no less inspired. The ratlines became the high dive, the crows nest the tree house, the furled headsail in the bow net the secret cave, the coach roof the wrestling mat, the raised main deck the ball field, the aft deck and cockpit the ideal children’s mess hall –simply sluice all the droppings out the scuppers with a deck bucket! As they got older, their sailing dinghy’s and shore boats took the place of bicycles and scooters as they engaged in childhood shenanigans such as fishing, snorkeling, and staging crab races on the jetty rocks, with a virtual suburbia of our marinas perpetually well stocked assortment of multinational live-aboard kids.
In inclement weather, we’d shower at the rough facilities in the working boat yard. But as we had carefully chosen the last slip in the last dock in the last marina closest to the cut to the open ocean – on a side tie, no less – we had atypical marina privacy.
Hitching a hose with a showerhead attachment
to our galley sink tap that ran off a 5-gallon hot water heater, we showered right on our dock in the shadow of our lofty yardarms. When the kids were babies, I bathed them right in the galley sink. As they got bigger, we used a large cooler, and then an even larger bait tank as a bathtub, complete with bubbles and floaty toys!
Fifty-five feet sounds deceptively large, and although it was plenty roomy enough for us, our beamy boat was constructed with a traditional center trunk cabin center, an engine room aft, and a focs’le forward. The cabin housed my husband and my full bunk which doubled as the settee during the day, a large chart table which doubled as the entertainment center when not at sea, a galley with a diesel stove and an icebox, a small saloon table and benches which doubled as the crafts table, homework nook, and convertible second bunk for uninhibited sleepover guests. The focs’le was literally the children’s fore castle, outfitted and decorated as such, and they loved it, as they loved every bit of every ounce of life lived aboard.
Pamila Bitterman’s book, Sailing to the Far Horizon, details the four years she spent circumnavigating aboard the Schooner Sofia. Starting out as a novice, she worked her way up to ships Boatswain, and was First Mate, second in command, at the time of her final voyage. She holds a Merchant Seaman’s Ticket.
Click to find out more about Pamela and http://www.betterworldbooks.com/sailing-to-the-far-horizon-id-0299201902.aspxread excerpts from her book.