Here are my observations on living aboard with children so far:
Crumbs are everywhere! This is probably my biggest pet peeve so far. The kids are naturally crumb makers. On a boat, there is no dog to lick them up, and because the living space is so small, the crumbs seem to be all over the place.
They make anything into an American Ninja Warrior challenge course. There is a deck that wraps around the entire boat, poles that are very sturdy and make good monkey bars, hatches to climb in and out of, and a trampoline. When the kids seem to have a lot of energy (usually just after several hours sailing when we are about to anchor), they make some kind of course.
Each having their own room makes a world of difference. They sleep better, can have alone time when needed, and they seem to be more entertained by going to each others rooms to play.
Three year olds are difficult. This is the same on land or on a boat. Hope hated getting buckled into her car seat on land, and now hates putting her life jacket on. I anticipate this to be an on-going battle (just like the car seat), and I think as she gets older (4 maybe? For some reason I remember the boys becoming a lot more reasonable around 4) and matures it won’t be such an issue.
As long as you have enough food, the kids are fine. This is again the same at home and on the boat. When they whine – “I’m hungeryyyyyyy!”, it is always helpful to have food readily available. I liken our sailing outings to a road trip. As long as they have food and entertainment, we’re golden. This was a lesson learned after our first outing. For some crazy reason we thought the kids would sit nicely at the cockpit table while we got the boat underway. Nope! That turned into a stressful fiasco.
They want to be independent- steering the dinghy, tying us off, throwing line while going through the locks, steering the boat, etc.. This is a great thing and a challenge all at once. Grant asked the other day why Daddy always says the word “critical”. This is a critical moment, go inside the boat. It’s critical we get this done correctly right now, maybe another time. Etc. Etc. Because Pat and I are both learning a lot right now, and many things on a boat are safety issues, we haven’t been able to let the kids learn as much as they want just yet. This has caused some disappointment, but I know it’s just a matter of time before Pat and I feel comfortable enough with what we’re doing to teach the kids without feeling stressed. We’ve tried to find easy things for them to do (steering the dinghy and tying us off, steering when we’re in open waters rather than channels, etc.). .
No iPad/TV = reading to each other, making crafts, playing war with Barbie’s, putting together electrical circuits, etc. This one is similar to home, but it’s so much easier because we don’t even have a TV to turn on so it’s not an argument. It’s been great seeing how they entertain themselves while Pat and I are busy sailing. When it gets a bit rocky, Hope goes into her room to sleep. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Keeping a clean house is just as difficult in a few hundred square feet as it is in 2700. Maybe even more so because the clutter/dirt is right in your face at all times. I feel like all I’ve been doing is cooking and cleaning.
We are getting to spend lots of quality time with the kids and they seem to be excited about having more of our attention and physical closeness. This is by far my favorite change from our previous life on land.
We’ve become intimately aware of each others bodily rhythms. Toilet paper cannot go into our toilet system. This means that every time one of the kids has to use the restroom we stay next to them to make sure they don’t forget this very important rule. The first day on the boat, Pat had to don a pair of rubber gloves and retrieve some toilet paper from the toilet. Now we know we’d rather stand by the bathroom every time than do that again!
Our first couple of weeks have been a bit abnormal as we are spending nearly everyday sailing all day to get back to the states. Our new normal after this long haul will be to anchor somewhere interesting for several days/weeks and I anticipate the kid’s energy won’t be as intense.