Thursday, February 2, 2012

Finding a boat that is child friendly.

When we first started boat shopping, T and I had a very specific (although not at all child friendly) picture of what we wanted in a boat.  I could elaborate on all the things we thought we wanted... but I will keep it simple and highlight the features that we realized (thank God) we needed in order to functionally live aboard with kids.
  1. Walk Through Stern - this has made our lives a lot easier.  We are able to easily step aboard the boat from the dock, take an additional step up into the cockpit (with full canvas covering), walk through the cockpit (past the folding table), and then step down into the cabin (via four STAIRS... not a steep ladder).  
    • A walk through stern is typically not considered to be a desirable feature for a "blue water boat" - We had to take a step back from wanting a perfect boat and figure out what works best for our family.  
    • In addition to having a baby and a toddler aboard, we have an 80 lb labrador with a bad leg.  I CAN.NOT. picture rolling the stroller up to a boat, going up slippery dock stairs with a baby/toddler/dog/groceries/stroller in tow, walking along the deck to the stern, climbing down into the cockpit AND.THEN. entering the cabin.   There are far to many opportunities to fall.  I am sure it is possible, but in reflection, I am SO.GLAD. that we have a walk through stern.  
  2. Companionway Steps (STAIRS) -  We were very attracted to Ma'alahi because she has four stairs to get into the cabin.  We were initially attracted to this feature because we figured that we could train Buddy (our dog) to go up an down them (this has never happened).  I am constantly going up and down the stairs with kids, groceries, laundry, etc.  I am thankful that I am not carrying the kids up and down a steep ladder (like you see in a lot of center cockpit type boats).  
  3. Design - We lucked out with our boat design.  There are a lot of things that I did not consider when we were boat shopping.  Ma'alahi has turned out to be perfectly functional for our family.  Here are a few things that I would know to consider now: 
    • Confinement -  We are able to keep the kids away from the companionway stairs and galley with a single baby gate.  We were initially more focused on finding a way to keep K from climbing out of the boat without us knowing.  Although this is (obviously) important, I would highly recommend finding a way to block access to the galley area.  There is something about toddlers having access to a propane stove and the boat's electrical systems.... not a good thing. 
    • Open Floor Space - Ma'alahi is a very beamy boat.  We were able to make a decent sized play space by removing the dining room table (it is in storage).  This has allowed the kids plenty of space to play. 
Every family has different needs and may be willing to sacrifice convenience and comfort for a boat that is known for being more "sea worthy".  A boat that is built for comfort at sea is typically not going to be comfortable for day to day living at dock. 

Thankfully, T and I were able to bring ourselves, and our dreams, back down to earth before we bought our boat.  We have no plans to sail over the horizon in the near future and are keeping our cruising plans flexible.  The truth is that we will be at the dock most of the time for the next few years.


    1. Your boat looks beautiful. I have a three year old daughter who spend many of her early days in our Catalina 42. We also removed the dinning table to gain more floor space in the main cabin. It is amazing how much bigger the boat felt without the table. The majority of the time we ate on the cockpit table. One nice thing about eating outside is that it doesn't matter how much of a mess you make because you can rinse it off with a hose. We will be moving aboard our boat on March and are now thinking about how to make our boat more livable for a three year old. Your blog has been very inspiring and you seem very happy doing what you are doing. Our boat is Seattle.

    2. I just came across your blog after doing a Google search for liveaboard and baby. My husband and I have been discussing moving aboard our 34.5 Beneteau for a year for the experience and to rent out our house as we consider upgrading (either house or boat). We have a 6 wk old little girl and I've really enjoyed reading about your experiences and it's only been a few posts yet.