An ocean later – Eight months afloat with a baby
Once upon a time a lovely and expecting couple sent us an email that went something like this, “Hello. We’re pregnant and we live on a boat. We’d like to travel the world and use gNappies. Can you help?” We said yes and launched our gNappies: On Location blog series, a space dedicated to showing how we can all live smaller in order to live bigger, one family at a time. Jess, James and their baby girl, Rocket, have been traveling the world and riding the waves of parenting and sustainable living. We are so honored to be sailing with them through their adventures. Read on for where they’ve been, and what (and who) lies just up ahead on the horizon.
We’ve done it, We’ve arrived safely into New Zealand. It took us 8 months total to sail the 7,225 miles all the way from Mexico, cruising the South Pacific islands. It’s a trip that has taken us through all sorts of environments: the lush green mountains of the Marquesas islands, the turquoise waters and white sands of the atolls in the Tuamotu archipelago, the bustling city life of Tahiti, the laid-back island charm of Rarotonga, the spookily beautiful caves of Niue, the coral gardens of the Kingdom of Tonga and the diverse vibrancy of the Fijian islands.
Our ears were filled with French, Tahitian, Tongan and Hindi as well as hearing New Zealand and Australian accents more and more often. We’ve journeyed in convoy with other boating friends who left Mexico with us and been lucky enough to meet countless other sailing families en route. And the wildlife has been spectacular, allowing us opportunities to snorkel with manta rays and sharks and to sail alongside migrating humpback whales. We were even greeted by orcas and penguins in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.
And, of course, we’ve been gNappying the whole way. We saved our disposable inserts for using on the long passages between island groups but have used mainly cloth for everyday. This has not been without its challenges. Our freshwater capacity is limited to 450 litres or just under 120 gallons. When you’re crossing oceans or on long passages between far-flung island groups with restricted water availability you really need to conserve every drop you can. That can be rather tricky when you need to launder dirty cloth nappies every day. Fortunately, the South Pacific is not short of rain so each downpour gave us a chance to save extra water by catching as much as possible. It also means that you look at every shower in a more positive light as it’s providing so much for the family.
We’ve also had our fair share of milestones during this time. Rocket learned to crawl on our 26 day passage from Mexico to French Polynesia. She finally cut some pearly white teeth at 10 months, in Hiva Oa. We celebrated her first birthday in Borabora and she had her first ever chocolate cake. By the time we got to Tonga she had even mastered her first clear word, which was “banana.” By September she was walking and the baby netting that we had strung up all around the outside guardrails of the boat really came into its own; allowing her a certain amount of freedom on deck, when the boat was sitting stationary at anchor. She even helps me rinse out the gNappies cloth inserts or hand me clothes pegs to dry them out!
But, before you go thinking that our trip was idyllic, I should point out that cruising with an infant is definitely hard work. Since leaving England in 2011, James and I had got used to being a pretty competent and efficient sailing team of two. Adding an infant to that mix pretty swiftly turned our boat dynamic into him having to do most of the physical work whilst I managed the baby. This isn’t always so much of a problem but the passages in the South Pacific proved to be particularly demanding this year. The level of attentiveness needed to maintain sail trim and performance when combined with a rapidly growing and time-consuming baby, broken nights and less than ideal weather conditions meant that it was no longer going to be as straightforward to manage it all as a couple.
The answer we found was in admitting the need for additional help. As luck would have it these countries are full of travellers hoping to use the seasonal boats to hop from island group to island group and we were fortunate enough to meet a young Californian guy, called Chris, who we tried out on board to give us an extra pair of hands. It turned out to be a fantastic decision, as he soon became part of our sailing family, proving himself to be a fast and competent learner-sailor as well as a natural with Rocket.
He was also instrumental in helping to develop Rocket’s swimming abilities and encouraging our confidence as swim-trainers to her, as he had a previous job teaching young children to swim. Her skill and enjoyment of being in water is very important to us; as a boat-baby she will inevitably be in and around it a lot. So far I think that our enthusiasm has rubbed off, as she always seems happy when playing in the sea, even when we coax her into going underwater.
The Fijian islands were our last stop before travelling to New Zealand ahead of the onset of cyclone season. Our time there saw us saying our goodbyes to our extra crew, Chris, and welcoming a new stage in our own lives as James and I decided to get married, tying that most significant of all our boat knots in a quiet and intimate ceremony in Savusavu.
Now that we’ve safely sailed into New Zealand we’re officially over halfway round the globe from where we set off, over 3 years and 18,000 miles ago. We’re planning on sailing up and down the coast here and also hoping to do some exploration by land. But, it’s going to be a little while before our next ocean crossing as we’re delighted to be able to share that we will be adding again to our permanent crew with our second boat baby due in July. However, we have no plans to stop our sailing life anytime soon. We’ll simply adapt our adventures to what will work best for our growing floating family.