Raising kids on boats

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.


Will the Seafair Ever Return?

The two oil miniatures of Italian seaside scenes immediately captured my eye, and the more I looked at them the more I had to buy them. Chances are I never would have seen these paintings, or been exposed to works of the artist, Francis Gilbert, a 19th century French painter, had I not been invited aboard SeaFair last month for its maiden Newport appearance.

Marie Younkin-Waldman on board the Seafair

SeaFair graced Newport Harbor this summer with a floating art gallery housing twenty-eight exhibition spaces and gourmet indoor and open air restaurants complete with a caviar bar. The impressive 4-million-dollar craft with its graceful contours sails to ports and docks along the East Coast of the U.S. where affluent art lovers tend to spend their summers. She docked in quiet pomp on a smallish wharf that emphasized her imposing presence. There was a charge in the air as guests were met by the captain, his staff, and a photographer with a fanfare of clicks. Once on board, beyond the hubbub, the world of sound gave way to that of the eye, the imposing length of the corridor – almost as long as a football field – with galleries, each with its own design, flanked the length of the expansive corridor. To my relief, this really was a true “art” gallery and far above the level of what I’ve usually seen in my years of traveling on cruise ships. Anyone who has taken a cruise knows that the art auction is part of a ship’s daily life, like the gift shop, bingo and buffet dining. More often than not, I have struggled with the word, “art,” on board, as opposed to “decoration” as in a souvenir, a or charm bracelet one buys in the glow of a vacation. Too often, too, the word, “investment,” is a lure to a passenger. On a cruise ship, you can’t get off. You’re a captive audience, surrounded by a watery boundary, but SeaFair is more of a true art gallery which moves from one maritime location to another. I was impressed. Each gallery offered its own unique style and quality. The vendors were gracious, and sometimes, invisible. You could float down the corridor and enter each side world gallery and be surprised – Oriental art, glass works, traditional work in the style of old masters, fun new art, furniture …

The vendors and directors themselves sang the praises of the ship and its owner. Glenn Aber, owner of AiBo Fine Asian Art, loved being able to enjoy a fantasy voyage while taking his gallery along with him. David Brooker, of David Brooker Fine Art (who offered the two miniatures I had my eye on), told me that he was enjoying the bay of Newport, far from his homes in London and Connecticut. I smiled as he talked to me, glancing at the wall where Gilbert’s brushstrokes were still moving between the frames.
I didn’t buy them. My only hope is that they will not sell before the SeaFair returns, or perhaps I’ll venture to Greenwich where she docks from September 15th to the 19th.
By Vin Fraioli, author, and song writer

There’s a First time for everything

The tail of two dogs.

This is a story in two parts. This is part one. Next month we publish part two. If you are really curious and want to the rest of this story, email us for a copy.

You finally have that new boat; your family is excited, happy and ready to go out.  On a whim, you decide to take Rover, your five year old Retriever/Shepherd mix with you.  He’s so excited he pulls you down the dock, his claws making score marks in the dock’s wood.

When you get to the boat he leaps from the dock to the deck of the boat, hits the transom and balances precariously before pulling himself on board.  He proceeds to run from one end of the boat to the other while you and your family are about to realize your dream of going out on the water.

You manage to get out of the marina and start on your first voyage.  Everyone is excited, none so excited as Rover, so excited in fact, he starts to pee on the deck.

You are now rethinking of having Rover on board and really, thinking of giving Rover up… wait… let’s rewind.

You finally have that new boat, your family is excited, happy and ready to go out.  You decide to take Rover, your five year old Retriever/Shepherd mix with you.  You make sure he’s ID’d and micro-chipped, his medical records are with you and that you have a PFD for him.

You made sure that he is up-to-date on all his immunizations and that you know that, since you are going to a new area, you have a copy of his Rabies certificate and you know the name of an emergency veterinarian in the area where you’re going to be staying.

As you take him down the dock, he walks quietly beside you.  You have him sit and then after you pull the boat closer, you ask him to walk on board.  He stops and turns

and sits down on the seat in the cockpit, waiting patiently for you.

You call your dog to his mat, an old bathmat draped over one of the cockpit benches and he settles down for a nap while waiting for the boat to move away from the dock.

You smile as you look at him sleeping, watching the fur being ruffled by the light breeze caused by your passage out the channel toward your destination.

Why the differences between the “two” dogs?

Read the rest of the story in next month’s column.

Annie Sires is the owner of “A Thing for Dogs” and
the author of 40 Dog Gone Days: a self-guided journey
to a delightful home companion.
She can be reached at

Most Marinas offer the Basics: Getting more

Did you consider this…

By Liz Boardman

Most marinas offer the basics – fuel, pump-out, laundry, restrooms and showers. Point Judith Marina, 360 Gooseberry Road, Wakefield, goes beyond that. Need engine repair? There are five certified diesel mechanics on staff. You can refuel – seven days a week – with either diesel or gasoline, and if you purchase 20 gallons of fuel, your pump-out is free. Safety is a top priority here. The floating docks are made of cement, so they are stable, under foot. Closed-circuit cameras keep the area secure, but because there are many returning customers, there is a sense of small-town neighborliness. The people here look after one another, and lend a hand, especially to those who are less experienced. Point Judith Marina is also committed to keeping Narragansett Bay clean. The marina is a state-certified Clean Marina, using innovative pollution prevention practices in their day-to-day operations. Being clean and green means Point Judith Marina is well maintained. The restrooms and showers and other public areas are clean, and the marina offers solid electrical connections – 220V/100A one-phase power for docks that accommodate vessels up to 110-feet, and 220V/50A power for crafts up to 95-feet. Families, groups and pets are welcomed, and boaters and their families can enjoy the pool, gas grills, and picnic area at a marina that is both easy-in, easy-out, and close to nature. A clean marina is usually less prone to accidents that can mar an otherwise perfect cruising weekend.

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Secrets of Picking an Excellent Marina

Transients look for location, amenities

By Liz Boardman

When Jim Tafferien is sailing off the coast of Rhode Island and needs a transient boat slip for a night, it’s all about location, location, location. “I want a quick in and out,” Tafferien said. “Sometimes you go into marinas, and you have to go all the way up Narragansett Bay. This is like pulling off a rest stop on the highway. I am looking to stop for a night, or a couple of nights. I want something that makes it easy to get in and out of the open water.” Many boaters still carry a cruising guide on board, but more and more, as the weather turns, or the sun gets low on the horizon, they turn to their smart phones to look up boat slips, tide charts, sunrise and sunset calculators, and harbormasters on the Web or via apps, according to Don Vivenzio, of Point Judith Marina, in Wakefield, Rhode Island. “A lot of people do not want to travel at night, and they are running out of time,” Vivenzio said. “If you are traveling by boat west to east, Point Judith sticks out – it’s an easy spot to find. So anyone running out of time will look for us.”As a transient, Tafferien looks for services, like showers and restrooms, fuel, pump-out facilities, a mechanic, and the Clean Marina recycling program.But now that Tafferien has a new boat, he plans to spend more time cruising Rhode Island’s waters, exploring both water and land. “Destination boaters are looking for a different atmosphere,” said Anne Killeen, of Point Judith Marina. “Amenities are important.”They want fuel, pump-out and recycling, along with resort-like amenities, like swimming pools, grilling areas, and perhaps nearby restaurants, shopping, and other nightlife. But not all destination boaters are alike.

Some are well provisioned and want to get away from it all – and seek out spots like Point Judith Marina, that offers easy access, but a sense of seclusion, with more nature than nightlife.  Whichever type they are, transient boaters want to see the marina is well maintained and secure. “A place like Point Judith has primarily concrete docks, as opposed to wooden ones, and the trash is taken care of,” Tafferien said. “When you plug in, the electricity is working. Some marinas don’t have the best quality electricity.”And while security often comes in forms of closed-circuit cameras and good lighting, the best marinas have loyal customers and staff who look after each other.“During the season, people live on board, and it’s a close-knit community,” Vivenzio said. “People will tell me if there’s a problem – unlike the big city.”“We have docks that are very family-oriented, very close,” Killeen said. “They are taking care of each other, looking out for each other.”

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Seafair on a Fair Day

If only I had an extra $43,000…

By Marie Younkin-Waldman. author of “To Hear the Birds Sing

We boarded the Seafair in Newport on a beautiful day in July during the week. The scorching, record-breaking heat would hit the following week. We took an afternoon off from work, traveled over the two bridges from Narragansett to Newport, about a twenty minute trip and entered another world.The Seafair is a mega yacht venue that is presenting an ArtNewport this summer at Perry Mill Wharf. After parking adjacent to the yacht for $15., we entered the ship, were greeted by some fine looking young professionals, mostly with British accents and immediately were aware of the high end incredible art in various forms surrounding us in the different “rooms”. There are three decks available to the public and we were on the main deck. I think I fell in love with work of the first artist there, Susan Swartz, whose huge abstract work of acrylic on linen impressions from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah of bold colors surrounding her treatments of birch trees and other natural scenes drew me in. If only I had an extra $43,000. Nevertheless, this artist had a spiritual hold on me. I couldn’t move away from her work. I found out that we had much in common as she is about my age, has paintings on permanent collection in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I used to live and has nine grandchildren. (I have seven and my husband has seven.) I look forward to seeing her work at a solo exhibition being shown at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.After tearing myself away from Swartz’ work we looked around at some of the other art including: incredible pearl and natural sapphire jewelry from Israel, antique silver punch bowls and other silver carved incomparable antiquities from 1910 Japan, original Warhols and Dalis, real fossils from Wyoming encased in limestone slabs designed for backsplashes, wall murals and tables, Murano glass multi colored fish and sailboats and many other styles and forms of elegant art. We checked out the art on the second deck also. Then it was time to take a break. We looked at the Sapore restaurant with the white linen covered tables and the elegant wine displays, a lovely place to dine at night. Then we climbed up to the top deck where the outside bar was facing the boats going by in the harbor and the sailboats and yachts coming in from their days’ cruises. It was five o’clock, cocktail time. Our next appointment wasn’t for awhile so we sat down at the bar and ordered some drinks and snacks. The air was clear, the sky a light blue, the live music mellow that was drifting in from the other side of the deck and our minds were relaxed as we drifted off, focused on the views in front of us and felt the warmth of the late afternoon sun.After our day in Newport we returned home via the Newport Bridge, driving into the sunset and when we arrived back in Narragansett the full moon was coming up huge over the bay. It was a lovely afternoon, an impromptu escape from the everyday into a perfect summer episode.

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Do You Cruise or Sail Rhode Island Waters?

Growing up on Narragansett Bay, every cruise was an adventure. My memories go back several decades but they are still filled with joy and wonder. Today, there are more boating adventures just waiting for us to discover. RIMarinas.com will help you plan your next adventure. We make it easy to find a marina for short term or transient use. If that is not enough then click on our harbormaster contact list to secure a mooring in Narragansett Bay and other Rhode Island waters.

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