We are dancing to the Moana soundtrack in our ‘loungeroom’ (cabin). When I say we, I mean Markito, Freyja and I. Zach is wrapped up in his game on the long couch that runs along the port side of the cabin and barely notices us. Simon is sitting lounging on the other couch catching up on the news of the day online.
It doesn’t take much to fill the small space with music. The speaker isn’t turned up very high but it’s enough to create a dance party feel. As we jump around the cabin and sing to our heart’s content, enthusiastically mumbling through the lyrics we don’t know, I catch a glimpse of some people walking along the Coffs Harbour jetty. It’s dark now and we have the lights on so I know they’ll be able to make out at least some of what’s going on. I know if that was me up there I’d be looking at the yacht wondering about those people. Who lives on a yacht anyway? What’s it like? And why are they dancing to kids music at 6pm on a Monday evening?
Before we left on this trip a few people asked us about how we thought the kids would adapt to living in such a small space. In particular, how would they handle the long sails, when they are stuck on board for 24 or 48 hours? I wondered that myself, too! Now after three weeks living aboard, what I’m finding is that a significant portion of what we do is very similar to our usual everyday lives. We’ve taken our normal lives and are living them in an unconventional setting… kids included! We love dancing in the loungeroom at home – now we love dancing in our cabin on the boat.
So far the kids are playing similar games as to what they play at home. Freyja just walked past me as I was washing the dishes and announced, “I’m going to the hospital to see a doctor”. The bathroom is often referred to as ‘school’ and Zach and Freyja pack their little bags full of toys and head in there, taking turns being the teacher. The twins (3y/o) set up all their toys on the couch and have pretend picnics, do puzzles in bed, take photos on their toy camera, do somersaults along the couch, spend ages tieing bits of rope around things and undoing them, play with torches, collect rocks and shells from the beach. All three of them read books, play with cards at the table, tickle and tackle each other, watch videos, draw and colour in. Markito (8y/o) has school work to do, reads a lot and likes playing on his tablet when he’s allowed. He also helps out just like he does at home but the jobs are different here. He’s in charge of vacuuming, clearing away the table after dinner, being the first one in and out of the dinghy, and he does a lot of the rubbish runs.
We’ve found that while we’re sailing they watch a lot of videos. They can do a variety of activities while the boat is swaying and rocking at anchor because the movement is usually very gentle. However, while we’re sailing it’s harder to move around the boat and if there are things out on the table, like toy cars or pencils, they roll around and fall off, inevitably getting in the way just at the moment when Simon or I are trying to get past. Or, if the kids start playing a game they will end up bumping their heads or falling over as they forget to hold on and the boat lurches to one side suddenly.
Also, while we’re sailing they spend most of their time inside. Initially, only Markito was allowed out in the cockpit while we were sailing. Now the twins are also allowed out there with their life jackets on, but only if Simon or I are there with them. Simon is the only one who goes up on the deck while we’re sailing unless he needs help with something or we are arriving somewhere and I need to pick up the mooring ball. It’ll be interesting to see how these rules and routines change as we all become more confident sailors.
So, in conclusion, so far so good. They are so adaptable and we are really proud of them. They’ve really made this space their home and there is no sense of being ‘stuck’ on the boat, it’s just where we happen to be at the moment. Having said that, I have noticed that when we get off the boat the first thing they always do is run – usually with big smiles on their cute little faces. It’s lovely to watch. It happens regardless of whether we have just finished a big sail and they’ve been on board for a few days, or if we are staying somewhere so are getting on and off every day. They definitely still need to stretch their legs. Luckily we are usually anchored near a beach so there is plenty of space for that. Lucky kids hey!