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Old 16-04-2016, 09:19   #1
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How young is too young?

We spent a year sailing the Caribbean and Bahamas with our Labrador on a 39' Beneteau. (if you're a tiny bit interested you can see our blog here: twoandahalfsailors.com) and here is our general track:



We've been living on the hard for 2 years now and we're getting the cruising bug again (now that we're catching back up on bills.. lol)

We're starting to plan our next "big trip". This time we're planning 3 years of Pacific sailing (well, 6 months or so to get to the Pacific from the USVI or somewhere in that vicinity). Planning to buy the boat in the Virgins (since good deals are usually to be found there) and then south through the Panama Canal and Pacific bound.

Here's the catch.

We're hoping to have a baby by that point.
Are we crazy?
When we were on our last cruise we saw plenty of couples with children ages 2 months to 18 years.
How young is too young?
What challenges can we expect to face with a tiny infant?
Would it be better to wait until they are older?
If so, how old?
Obviously, we're pretty clueless except for what we heard from the couples on our last cruise.

HELP!
Thanks ya'll!!
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Old 16-04-2016, 20:30   #2
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Re: How young is too young?

Who bears the burden of child care?

Who is going to be on watch, when?

Going into the Pacific is not like island hopping. The passages from Panama to the Galapagos and Galapagos to Marquesas are both usually pretty long an slow, and there's no 7/11's along the way. Your water and food provisioning will be different.

Check out the Rebel Heart thread, 2 small children, boat not really ready, led to loss of boat. On that voyage, one of the CF commenters mentioned that infants are more prone than 2 or 3 yr. olds to sudden fevers that have to be brought down--the fever itself can be life threatening.

However, we have some members here who were born on a boat and their parents kept on cruising with them, I believe "atoll" is one of them. We have known a number of kids whose parents had them while on cruises, and worked it out, even in a very small (26') monohull.

Consider the diaper issue. If you go with cloth diapers, you have a huge water necessity; if you go with disposable, you have a huge disposal issue.

Usually, the woman has the hardest time with this, she is taken away from the pleasures of the sport she has recently learned, hubby gets all the fun; she gets all the work. Depends on the woman if that'll work out, although, obviously, the husband can lighten her load--but someone's gotta be on watch all the time......

It can and has been done, whether you and your good lady are up to it, no one can tell you, but your chances for successful cruising are better if you go into it without illusions. Also, it is a valid decision to choose to not have children; that gives you a great deal more freedom. And to balance that, all the island people you meet will love it that you have children with you.

Ann
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Old 16-04-2016, 22:21   #3
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Re: How young is too young?

I'm all for encouraging people to live their lives and YOLO and all of that, but...


COLREGs require a person on watch at all times while underway. For the first 3 or 4 yrs of their lives (in some cases like my neighbor, the first 32 yrs of his life) kids need pretty much constant adult supervision, especially in a potentially dangerous environment like a boat.

So it's pretty obvious that one of you is going to be full time watching the kid and the other full time on watch. Even if you trade off, that's still port and stbd watches, and believe me, after a few days of that you're so exhausted you don't know which end is up much less making rational, rapid, life saving decisions. I did a couple 6 month stints at port and stbd watches in the Navy (6 on, 6 off) and it was grueling, not something I'd do for fun or voluntarily.

My recommendation is no, wait until the kid is 6 or 7 or 8 and fully capable of feeding and clothing itself, capable of helping rather than being a burden. Depending on your style of parenting and the child itself, you'll know when you're a crew of 3 rather than a crew of 1 with a full time babysitter.

I think living on a boat is a great thing for a kid growing up, but if they do it too young, they don't remember any of it and are just a huge burden that eats every 4 hours and fills up diapers nonstop while someone perpetually single hands the boat, which is unsafe to begin with. Why risk the entire family's safety over it? Like Ann pointed out, the Rebel Heart story is a cautionary tale with a lot to learn from it. I'm sure if I'd been a member at that time, I'd have cautioned him against it, and he'd have gone anyways.

There were also a lot of what I would consider to be flaws in judgement for leaving port with a vessel in such a state of disrepair. Read some of the threads discussing the aftermath (people are too polite to speak the unvarnished truth while the disaster is unfolding for fear of looking like a soulless ghoul) but afterwards, there is plenty of discussion. Sure, a lot of it is with 20/20 hindsight, but my experience in this world has proven to me that if one imagines the worst that could happen and prepares for it, you won't get caught with your pants down when the seas get a little rough and decide to scuttle your boat and take a ride home from the USCG.
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Old 16-04-2016, 22:33   #4
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Re: How young is too young?

This may be an unpopular opinion, but back in the day, mothers took care of the kids and dad went to work. He might have to smack a kid around a little when he got home depending on what the kid did and mom's level of exaggeration, but his life consisted of mostly working, eating dinner, popping open a beer and watching some boob tube then going to bed.

A friend of mine had 3 kids, he traveled so much he basically met them when they were about 8 or 9. He never saw a diaper, never saw a bottle. He says having 3 kids was the best thing he ever did. If you ask his now ex-wife, she'll say, "That @#$%@# never watched a kid in his entire #%^@^# life!!!!!"

Draw your own conclusions, but I think there's a lot to be said for having a very demanding full time job when the kids are in diapers. It worked out well for my friend, who now has 3 kids out of college, a new Corvette and a smokin' hot trophy wife.
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Old 17-04-2016, 00:35   #5
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How young is too young?

This family with three young children are doing a circumnavigation the hard way, on an open 40 around the capes. The youngest was born mid journey in NZ.

http://anasaziracing.blogspot.com

Admittedly they are stuck in southern Chile after losing a mast.




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Old 17-04-2016, 07:18   #6
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Re: How young is too young?

The good news is babies grow FAST. Im not sure I woulnt do it, but I would probably do a lot of little hops and take on extra crew for longer passages. The exhaustion factor is a big one. Exhaustion can lay a new family low even without the extra stress of passage making. My own son was colic, two or three months of constant crying pushed me to near breaking. One cant plan for that kind of thing.
I would, seriously, at least consider giveing yourseves 6 months to adjust to junior before making your break.
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Old 17-04-2016, 07:31   #7
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Re: How young is too young?

We don't have kids so take my comment with a grain of salt... but my feeling is... what is better for the child? Is your desire to go cruising in the Pacific your desire or your unborn child's choice? Is it the best choice to head out across an ocean with a baby?

I know you may be burned out by the Caribbean and the Bahamas but I suspect that you will find your energy renewed and your experiences very different cruising those areas with kids. You get the chance to train up new watch keepers!
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Old 17-04-2016, 08:17   #8
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Re: How young is too young?

Since unborn children, babies and toddlers can't voice an opinion about much of anything, that is a silly argument. What small kids want is simple: food, diapers & parents to care for them and entertain them.

The major plus when cruising is that children have both parents present. That is huge, in my book.
And while they may not remember cruising, the way they grow up will have a huge effect on the rest of their lives; usually, with 'cruising kids', in a very positive way.

Two couples I know sailed with kids; one circumnavigated with a toddler and one had a baby half way through their 6 year sail.

Both are very happy they did, but agree it is very different from sailing with older kids (or no kids) - they both are living on the hard now and won't be back at sea until their children are all grown up a little (side note: for Dutch folks, taking kids out of school is not as easy as it is for many other cruisers as we have find our way around the laws that prohibit homeschooling).

- Avoid longer passages whenever possible. The couple with the baby had mom and baby on a plane while dad took on a crew member for the crossing had to do.
The couple that sailed with the toddler accepted it would all take longer as mom needed help with the kid and dad would pretty much be a solo sailor. Sleep was as much an issue for both as it is for solo sailors.

- Be aware that small children need supervision and care 24/7/365. Beach BBQ or pot luck? Too bad, someone needs to stay with the kid(s). So damn tired after a 2 day sail that you see things that aren't there? Too bad - there's a kid that needs to be fed and changed. Need help reefing, docking or whatever? Sorry - baby comes first.

I'm a single mom, and even on land I can't begin to tell you how exhausted I was sometimes ... but there is no taking a break from a baby or toddler. My kid cried (screamed!) for three months straight a few months after birth, for unknown reasons. Longest 3 months of my life, and honestly, I barely made it through that one with my sanity in tact.

I didn't even buy a boat until my son was around 6 yo. We did go on day sails (as guests) right from the start, tho I was usually too busy with my kid to really enjoy it much - but I was happy to just be out of the house. When he took his naps ... so did I, usually, just to get some sleep myself.

Having said all that: plenty of couples happily sail around the world with small kids, or even have kids while cruising. I know people who gave up cos it was hell at sea, and I know people who loved it. It very much depends on what kind of parents you'll be, and on the kid. Some babies are easy, some are .. well, NOT.

My 2 cents: if you want to go for it, choose a cruising area that's great for day trips / island hopping -- short sails are key -- with plenty of anchorages where you can enjoy yourself on and near the boat. I'd probably opt for the Caribbean (again).

Make sure you give it at least 6 months after birth - that way, your wife will have time to recuperate and you can both find a balance with the new baby before you take things to the next level. Make sure mom has help during those 6 months so she can start the cruising life somewhat rested!

For some reading on a young couple living aboard with 3 small kids (!): Windtraveler.net.

And on a final note: a Dutch couple that circumnavigated with two small children ALWAYS had another couple (friends they knew well) on board for longer passages to help with both the sailing and the kids. If you want to sail the Pacific, I'd strongly suggest doing the same if at all possible.
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Old 17-04-2016, 09:00   #9
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Re: How young is too young?

We started with a 1 and 4 year old. Ended up in NZ and lived there for seven years. Great experience. Didn't mess them up too bad :-) 18 and 15 now. See blog for pics. Have a ball and lots of Costco diapers!
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Old 17-04-2016, 09:02   #10
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Re: How young is too young?

I have met a couple in Fiji on circumnavigation with two small children, one born underway.
When we met them the kids were aged 2&4.
The major complaint of the parents was that the kids need constant attention not allowing rest for the parents.
However, on the whole, they were very happy with what they were doing.

For the long passage from America (or Galapagos) to French Polynesia, you may take additional crew aboard to share the watches (and maybe share the care of the baby if so inclined...)
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Old 17-04-2016, 09:24   #11
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Re: How young is too young?

Quote:
Originally Posted by akprb View Post
We started with a 1 and 4 year old. Ended up in NZ and lived there for seven years. Great experience. Didn't mess them up too bad :-) 18 and 15 now. See blog for pics. Have a ball and lots of Costco diapers!
How did you handle the watchstanding and babysitting chores? Trade off, or extra crew, or...


Where did you store all of those soiled diapers while underway? I imagine there was quite a pile of them on the longer passages.
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Old 17-04-2016, 09:30   #12
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Re: How young is too young?

I don't believe there is such a thing as too young. We took off across the Pacific with a three month old and I delivered our second daughter on the starboard, midship bunk. We gave her three months before setting off from the ABC Islands for Panama.

Being prepared for pediatric medical emergencies is a must. High fevers in the middle of the ocean are scary but these, along with most common infant ailments can generally be dealt with if you have an extensive med kit.

As to diapers, we used cloth most often. We tied them to a line and dragged them astern for hours at a stretch. They came back aboard as white as snow. We rinsed them in fresh water (about a 1/2 cup per nappy) and hung them up to dry. More often then not the kids went butt naked. Learning to use a little potty chair was a challenge when it slid back and forth six feet across the cabin sole during the wing & wing down wind death rolls.

Besides breast feeding, we shared equally in the time we spent caring for them. With the windvane doing all the steering, we usually had our days free to play with them. We found it helpful to separate ourselves, I in the forecastle, Lettie back aft and the kid(s) would roam between us which gave us a few minutes break from them.

There's nothing like a little toe headed baby to smooth the experience in the customs and immigration office. In remote villages the baby would disappear and be carried and spoiled throughout every house only to be returned to us covered in shell necklasses and stuffed with treats.

The biggest challenge was getting them through the surf from exposed anchorages or diving to retrieve the many items they tossed overboard at anchorage.

We found that cruising as a growing family was an amazing and wonderful experience. The kids have grown into wonderful humans with bulletproof immune systems.
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Old 17-04-2016, 10:06   #13
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Re: How young is too young?

The sap of the coco palm is collected twice daily from bottles that have the stem of the "flower" of the tree trained into the neck of the bottle. Throughout Kiribati this sap is known as Kamaimai (sp). We weaned our kids on a diluted mixture of equal parts water and this syrup. The kids loved it and they as well as most South Pacific infants, thrived on it.
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Old 17-04-2016, 11:01   #14
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Re: How young is too young?

When I shared what I had written about washing diapers with my wife this morning, she reminded me that we didn't use any fresh water to rince the diapers. When they there hung to dry, the wind effectively shook the salt out of them. The kids never suffered from diaper rash but we as parents did. I. It was called "cruiser butt" from always being in a wet bathing suit when at anchorage.

Later on our two sons came along to round out the crew. By then we owned and operated a sail training vessel and so had a compliment of youngsters to entertain the kids and share in their homeschooling duties.

I recommend all cruisers obtain at least a general class ham radio license. Being able to get the advice from pediatricians in emergencies was very helpful. We carried a maunual of emergency pediatric medicine but the reality was that our children were very seldom sick.
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Old 17-04-2016, 12:05   #15
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Re: How young is too young?

Ours (twins, followed by two single births) were born aboard - and we cruised from day 4. Practically, we had very few issues. We used washable nappies and invested in nappy liners as they really saved on water. We came up with a practical way to solve the water issue until we bought a water maker. Until the infants immune system is strengthened they are more vulnerable then older children but generally life is far healthier on a boat. We cruised the Indian Ocean during this time. If you want any specifics please PM me.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann T. Cate View Post
Who bears the burden of child care?

Who is going to be on watch, when?

Going into the Pacific is not like island hopping. The passages from Panama to the Galapagos and Galapagos to Marquesas are both usually pretty long an slow, and there's no 7/11's along the way. Your water and food provisioning will be different.

Check out the Rebel Heart thread, 2 small children, boat not really ready, led to loss of boat. On that voyage, one of the CF commenters mentioned that infants are more prone than 2 or 3 yr. olds to sudden fevers that have to be brought down--the fever itself can be life threatening.

However, we have some members here who were born on a boat and their parents kept on cruising with them, I believe "atoll" is one of them. We have known a number of kids whose parents had them while on cruises, and worked it out, even in a very small (26') monohull.

Consider the diaper issue. If you go with cloth diapers, you have a huge water necessity; if you go with disposable, you have a huge disposal issue.

Usually, the woman has the hardest time with this, she is taken away from the pleasures of the sport she has recently learned, hubby gets all the fun; she gets all the work. Depends on the woman if that'll work out, although, obviously, the husband can lighten her load--but someone's gotta be on watch all the time......

It can and has been done, whether you and your good lady are up to it, no one can tell you, but your chances for successful cruising are better if you go into it without illusions. Also, it is a valid decision to choose to not have children; that gives you a great deal more freedom. And to balance that, all the island people you meet will love it that you have children with you.

Ann
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