FAQs: Pregnant Life (on a boat in Portland, Maine)

31 weeks in, there are a few questions that have come up repeatedly, so I thought it’d be fun to document…

Are you STAYING on the BOAT??

Of course we are!

How have you been feeling?

I don’t think this is a unique-to-pregnant-on-a-boat question; it feels more like the default question that you ask pregnant women. I’m sure I’ve asked it myself a hundred times.

The hard part is deciding how much honesty to include in your answer. I don’t think my honest answer has ever been “I feel great!”. Because even on days that I feel physically great, I feel a low-lying level of worry about all things pregnancy / baby / parenthood. And on the days that I feel like I’ve got this, and maybe I’ll make it through pregnancy and we’ll be half-decent parents and we won’t have the world’s worst baby, I generally feel pukey or like my feet have gotten even FURTHER away or tired or emotional or weepy for no real reason.

So. I don’t have a great answer to this one, but you can keep asking and I’ll keep trying to figure out how to answer 🙂

Has your morning sickness been worse since you’re on a boat?

I don’t know! I have nothing to compare to, but in general I’d say no. I did throw up once while we were sailing in the fall, but at that point I’d been puking weekly regardless of where I was, so I don’t think it was Brio’s fault.

(Side note: trying to puke quietly in a bathroom stall at work is literally one of my least favorite life experiences and definitely way worse than tossing cookies over the side of the boat!!).

Are you feeling better / has your morning sickness passed?

At this point I’d just like to say that not enough women talk about how pregnancy is really NOT that much fun — it’s not always this glowing-wonder-filled 9 months, and it’s not the same for everyone involved! Personally, I was definitely so focused on *getting* pregnant that I forgot to actually consider the realities of *being* pregnant!

Case in point: I did not wake up at the 12-week mark and magically stop throwing up, like everyone promised me. Nope, instead I kept merrily puking through to about 24 weeks. Awesome-sauce.

And then to make matters worse and keep the worrying going, I’ve had persistent spotting through almost the entire pregnancy — finally diagnosed as a “friable cervix” which you can Google if you’re interested but the cliff notes will tell you is essentially harmless other than it causes you to freak the f* out very frequently throughout your pregnancy. Double-awesome-sauce.

So as much as third trimester pregnancy has been physically harder (literally, where did my feet go and just HOW much weight am I actually going to gain?!?), it’s also been way more fun to not puke / spot all the time, and more peaceful to feel a little human creature reassuringly digging his pointy toes into my ribs at all hours of the day.

Pregnancy is weird, I think that’s my key takeaway 😉

Do you need a crib / changing table / rocker / playpen / highchair / other baby paraphernelia?

Nope. Also, you should come over and see how well a rocking chair would fit inside Brio, just for a laugh.

The amazing thing about boats is that they’re really rather baby-friendly already — all our cupboards have doors, loose items have generally been secured, corners are rounded, and there’s only 3 stairs in the whole joint. Yes, granted, there’s a lot of ocean around to worry about — but on the inside, the boat is pretty great.

(Or at least that’s what we think, and we figure that if we’re ignorant and the baby is ignorant then we can all just live in ignorant bliss of all the things we should be worrying about / buying / doing).

That said, there are three modifications we’ve made:

1. Decluttering

I read somewhere that usually when people have babies they rush out and buy a whole bunch of stuff, but when you have a baby on a boat it means you need to rush around and GET RID of a bunch of stuff, to make room for the new babe. This feels especially true on the boat where every cupboard has a purpose and every item has a home; the only way to add some of the new (essential) stuff is to get rid of some of the old (less essential stuff).

So any time someone says “oh but you couldn’t possibly own too much stuff, you guys live such a minimalist life” …I just laugh and invite them to look inside some of our cupboards. I’m a terrible minimalist!

2. Baby Cupboard

Along the same lines as above, we’ve been looking around our cozy little space and re-evaluating how we use it all. In the process, we “found” a cupboard that we really don’t use very efficiently and Jon has been building us baby cupboards.

I’M SO EXCITED about this, it’s hard to explain — but I think it’s akin to a home-owner renoing their kitchen. Or something like that 😉 Anyways, it’s literally doubled our most useful storage space and allowed me to indulge in some nesting dreams, so I’m happy.

Before – giant open empty space behind the cushion that you could technically make into a bigger “bed” (ha!)

After! Divided cupboard space to match the Starboard side with a locking hinged cabinet door for easy but secure access

3. Baby Bed

I also made a new custom cushion for the “baby bed” — more on that below.

Baby bed in the vberth on a Nor'West 33 sailboat

Where will the baby sleep?

Nor’West 33’s have these interesting offset vberths, meaning the bed is to the left and there’s a deep sail locker to the right. This locker is super deep and can generally be a black hole of “stuff”, so we long-ago added a shelf to the top of it to divide it in half and try to keep a little more organization going.

With a little guy on the way, this shelf has taken on new importance — and with the addition of a new custom-made mattress, we’ve got a baby bed that’s literally as close to our bed as possible without actually being “in” it. Which I think will be helpful for the late night feedings and diaper changes, especially since I usually sleep on the outside so Jon will actually be closest to the source of the noise 🙂

Anyways, this is where we plan to have the baby sleep (for the beginning while at least), and eventually we’ll move him into the quarterberth.

Was this planned?

I think this one is hilarious. Like, are you REALLY asking this question?? What if I say no?!?

(Interestingly, I’ve been asked this question the most from dentists and dental hygienists. Is there something about the dental world that causes more “oopses” or are dental hygienists just especially looking for new gossip / conversation topics??)

Anyways, this baby was absolutely planned — and long hoped for, in fact.

This is another one of those “I wish people would talk about this more” topics for me, because I really never expected that it wouldn’t just be an instant thing for us. My mom has forever been telling me the story of how she was “sooo disappointed when she wasn’t preggers the first month they tried for me, but then she was pregnant the second month so it was all okay”, so I guess you could say that my expectations were maybe a tad high 😉

Anyways, we were so, so, so lucky to only need a little bit of help from the (eastern + western) medical world, and while I’ll spare the general public the full details, I just want to say that struggling with conceiving is on my list of the darkest, hardest things to go through — and that’s *with* a positive outcome and a pregnancy well underway.

I do think “the journey” makes us appreciate pregnancy a little more, and when I’m feeling especially worried about how this will all turn out I say “I am so thankful to be pregnant today” over and over and over to myself. Because I really truly am, no matter what.

Maine Liveaboard Life in the Winter - DiMillos Marina - Portland, Maine

How much longer?

Great question! If we believe the “due date”, then he should arrive in 9 weeks!

Personally I’d be very happy for this little guy to hang out well into late April, mostly in hopes of the snow melting and the warmth showing up — but I think we’re as “ready” as we’ll ever be, so we’ll leave it up to him.

– LMK

A third winter living aboard (in Portland, Maine)

Our third winter living aboard at DiMillos Marina in Portland, Maine - With Brio

There’s 12″ of new snow on the ground and forecast gusts of 45+ knots. The docks have snowdrifts and the ducks are doing a funny little dance on the ice floes floating around the marina.

Ice in the marina - DiMillos, Portland, Maine - Living aboard in winter

Outside, the marina staff are busy shoveling and snow-blowing the docks (quite the sight, actually), and we’re thankful that our marina faired well at high tide and we didn’t have any issues with flooding (the neighboring wharf had a ramp underwater, so tenants couldn’t get to their boats!).

Ice in the marina - DiMillos, Portland, Maine - Living aboard in winter

The marina showers are toasty warm and there’s a flurry of friendly faces waving and laughing as the snow continues to blow.

Ice in the marina - DiMillos, Portland, Maine - Living aboard in winter

And inside? Aboard Brio, we’re cozy by the Dickinson, reading books, watching shows, listening to the gusts whistling over the shrinkwrap and enjoying the slower pace that blizzards bring.

Pregnant liveaboard on a sailboat in Maine winter

95% boredom interrupted by 5% sheer terror — a perfect description for sailing in general, but equally applicable to winter in Maine 🙂

Christmas lights in the cockpit aboard Brio

While I’m hoping this ‘bomb cyclone’ (the official weather term!) blows over quickly, so we can get back to our quieter nights, I also don’t mind the occasional blizzard to remind us that living aboard through Maine winters is still a legit adventure 🙂

Ice in the marina

Although our latest dream card (made entirely of borrowed images) features noticeably less snow and ice… 😉

– LMK 🙂

Building a New Dodger – Stamoid and Makrolon and Sailrite Woes, Oh My! Sailboat Dodgers are Fun?

Sewing a Stamoid and Makrolon dodger for our sailboat

I almost called this “sewing a new dodger”, but let’s be honest — the actual sewing part is maybe 10, 15% of this project? The other 85% is patterning and taping and cutting and binding and taping and stitch-ripping and taping and binding and swearing and binding and taping.

Case in point? This baby took 215 feet of binding. TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN FEET. I ordered 300′, because it was cheaper to order 300′ than 200′ (go figure, Sailrite) and thank God I did or we would have been short!

Anyways, other than pictures the only thing I really wanted to share about this project was some of the debates we had with ourselves…

Sewing a Stamoid and Makrolon dodger for our sailboat

Makrolon vs Strataglass vs Other

So the old dodger has some super cheap plastic vinyl windows, and while they looked *really* good when we first added them (we replaced the windows and the zippers in the old dodger before finally declaring it dead last winter), they didn’t hold up at all. They turned yellow, they fogged, and then finally last year they ALL cracked when we took the dodger down. So we knew that going the cheap route wasn’t the answer.

Next up, we ordered a roll of Strataglass. At $200 a roll (small roll!) this stuff isn’t cheap, but it comes highly recommended. That said, when it arrived we felt… disappointed? The edges were delaminating a little, and even when it was completely flat it wasn’t completely wave-free. Given the price and the reputation, I think our expectations were maybe just too high — but if we were going to all the dang hassle of building a new dodger, we wanted something that would look AMAZING.

Side note: Jon and I had many conversations about this before I finally gave in and agreed that he was right, Strataglass wasn’t the amazing product we’d hoped it would be.

Enter Tim, the awesome owner and face behind Canvas Tek — a local marine canvas shop here in Portland. Jon ran into Tim on the docks and got chatting with him, asking what he’d recommend for window materials. This was how we learned about Makrolon — a super thin Lexan-like glass, that you can sew. It’s CRYSTAL clear, and hard as nails. Tim told us we might have to cut it out with a jigsaw. We were sold.

Final verdict: Now, in all fairness, I need to warn you that sewing this stuff is NOT fun. It definitely took a toll on my Sailrite sewing machine, and it absolutely added some gray hairs to my poor streaked head. BUT — and this is the important part — it looks SO good, and is SO clear and completely unwrinkleable, that I would absolutely without a doubt use it again.

Not that I’m ever sewing another dodger!

But if I was going to, I’d buy this stuff.

Sewing a Stamoid and Makrolon dodger for our sailboat

Stamoid vs Sunbrella vs Other

So again, the old dodger (which we really liked, by the way — if it wasn’t cracked and literally falling apart we would have kept it!) was made from an interesting vinyl-fabric hybrid. We never figured out exactly what it was, actually — but it was kind of plasticy on the outside (aka: waterproof) and then a darker green canvas on the inside.

We’d seen Sunbrella dodgers and liked how they looked, but we also really loved our vinyl-like old dodger. In talking to Tim again (he was a wealth of knowledge throughout this process!) he suggested we consider Stamoid. Stamoid kind of feels like a cheap table cloth material (but don’t worry, it costs WAY more 😉 ). We decided we liked it, and bought it.

Final verdict: I’m still undecided on this one. It’s really nice to work with — there’s zero fraying or strings to deal with, and it looks super clean and crisp — but it also has zero give so it needs to be sewn *very precisely* or it looks like wrinkled garbage.

Patterning a sailboat dodger

Adjusting the old frame vs Buying a new frame

The old dodger shape was great — we loved the protection and look on the boat. But it was 2″ shy of being able to fit two solar panels on top side-by-side (we could fit one panel the opposite way no problem), it was at *precisely* Jon’s eye-level (so he couldn’t see over it or under it comfortably), and given how much we found ourselves hanging on to it in rough seas, it wasn’t necessarily the most sturdy thing ever.

We briefly debated starting from scratch with a new frame, but in the end decided we could modify the frame ourselves. By cutting the aft supports down 3″, we lowered the overall height of the dodger and lengthened the top — giving us the room we needed for two solar panels. Then we added two additional forward struts, making the whole thing wicked rugged.

Wicked rugged, I say!

Final verdict: Complete success. Modifying stainless bits is surprisingly fun.

Sewing a Stamoid and Makrolon dodger for our sailboat

Doing this ourselves vs Hiring a professional

Okay, true confession time — this was a project I’d been dreading since the day we bought the boat. Dodgers are intimidating! Dodgers are big projects! Dodgers can change the whole look of the boat! But after Jon installed a new engine AND painted the topsides this year (the other two projects I was terrified of), I pretty much had no excuses left 🙂

In fairness though, because we made some mistakes and wanted to do this the most “right” way we could, doing it ourselves didn’t save us quite as much money as we’d originally hoped — and it definitely took a lot of time.

Quick comparison

  • Quote #1: $5000 (I don’t think they wanted our business though), zero time
  • Quote #2: $3500, zero time
  • Doing it ourselves: $1080 plus approximately 55 hours of our time.

Our costs broke down as follows:

  • $400 on Stamoid, Makrolon, double-sided tape and zippers
  • $110 on binding
  • $70 on the Sailrite Swing-Away Binding Accessory — literally my FAVORITE sewing machine accessory. If you are doing ANY binding, do yourself a favor and buy this.
  • $100 on stainless struts and fittings
  • $150 on a white leather hide – completely not necessary, but I really like using leather to reinforce critical points, and having a whole hide around to do chafe protection is super handy. Plus who doesn’t like leather??
  • $50 on snaps
  • $200 on Strataglass – complete waste, but we’re keeping it for a future bimini and cockpit enclosure

Time:

  • Patterning: One FULL day. But this made everything else infinitely easier
  • Cutting out fabric and windows: Two days. Insane, I know, but it’s a ton of work to even transfer the patterns to the fabric, and we were being super careful.
  • Installing snaps: half a day. Why do the little things always take longer than you expect??
  • Rest of the time was sewing

Cutting out Makrolon windows for a sailboat dodger

Other random lessons

  • Buy the stupid patterning material from Sailrite. I tried to use some cheap vinyl from Joanns but it was too heavy and stretchy
  • Put regular painters tape down before you put the double-sided tape down on your frame (when you’re patterning) – makes it infinitely easier to peel it all off later
  • The Sailrite video on dodgers is not that helpful – the dodger they make is pretty ugly, and way simpler than most cruising dodgers. We did much better walking the docks and looking at how other people did things, as well as how our old dodger was constructed
  • Mark EVERYTHING – once you take the patterns off the frame, they stop making sense at all. Especially pay attention to where zippers will start and stop, and where fabric pieces will all join together
  • Dodgers absolutely need brims. We thought brims might be an old fashioned thing, but realized they do the critical job of keeping water from running on your face AND keep zippers protected from the sun.
  • Zipper pockets around the frame work well to tension everything
  • You can cut Makrolon with scissors. But then you will need to throw out those scissors.
  • You can sew Makrolon with a Sailrite (mine is an old LS-1, and it did just fine) but you will absolutely need to buy needles (I’d never replaced a needle on my machine!) and you may have to play with the timing if the slamming throws everything out of whack.
  • Sewing Makrolon sounds like elephants are stampeding
  • A large living room is a huge plus – we did the top and part of the sides out of one long piece, and it was over 14′ long! Luckily my mom-in-law didn’t mind us taking over her living room!
  • Double-sided tape is a miracle
  • You can’t install snaps in one layer of fabric – they’ll tear out. So we added a 3″ strip of leather to the entire inside bottom edge of the dodger, and that turned out really nice.

Patterning a sailboat dodger

At the end of the day

We’re so happy with how it all turned out, and I learned a LOT about sewing and about dodgers in particular. We’ve had quite a few compliments on the dodger, and Tim the canvas man even offered me a job 🙂 So I take that as a pretty good sign that it turned out well!

Here’s the full gallery of pictures I took

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