Prepping for a passage with a 6-month old baby

Funny enough, it’s not always that easy to find information about sailing overnight with a baby in New England in November… so I thought I’d share what I’ve compiled, what we’re trying, and how it’s working (so far!).

I have to add the *extreme* caveat that absolutely zero percent of this is “American Association of Pediatrics” approved, so please don’t take this as the gold-standard of parenting… it’s not. This is just two people’s attempt to answer “how do we pursue our dreams while also keeping our little treasure safe, warm and happy underway?”


Zephyr's boat bed in the vberth - 6 month old baby on a sailboat

Zephyr has a small bunk that is directly adjacent to the vberth bunk. It has a wall to hold him in / stop him from rolling out, and is the coziest little spot to sleep.

We also have a leecloth across the whole vberth, so even if he somehow escapes his little bunk, he’s contained in the vberth. We’re very lucky that he sleeps 6:30-6:30, so while I hope to transition him to the quarterberth eventually, for now it’s super convenient and feels safest to have him right beside us.


Lee cloth across the vberth to keep the baby in

We want Z to be able to explore and play on his own as much as possible (he is a seriously independent little man, and does NOT like to be held or cuddled all the time, much to my regret!!) so we’ve built a series of lee cloths to “baby proof” different areas on the boat.

We sleep in the vberth, but added this one so he can have a bigger area to roll around during the day and practice his crawling-attempts in.

We also have leecloths on each of the settees, so he can be on the “low” side when we’re heeled over sailing.

With that said, we’ve also found that on calm days, the cockpit well with a few cushions and toys (and Z in his lifejacket!) is a good option too.

Being outside

Makrolon windshield attached to bimini and dodger

It’s been a bit of a white stamoid-palooza around here lately, primarily in an effort to make the cockpit a nicer place to spend time with Zephyr, regardless of the weather.

I knew we wanted a bimini, and once we had a bimini, a windshield was an obvious addition. We had a small piece of Makrolon (clear acrylic) left over from the dodger project, so decided to use that to give the windshield some extra structure and shape.

It works *beautifully* and is so clear you really don’t notice it… other than how much it traps the heat pouring out of the companionway, and pushes it towards whoever’s standing at the helm. Super nice!

Strataglass and Stamoid weathercloths

We also added weathercloths with clear Strataglass windows… a project I had wanted to do for years, but didn’t get around to until we had a few extra weeks of pre-departure prep time 🙂

I loved the protection our old (super grungy) weathercloths gave us, but hated that I couldn’t see the horizon from a seated position… hence the windows! These we will most likely keep up the majority of the time, and I think they will also help keep more of the toys that Zephyr flings around contained in the cockpit.

Staying warm

Keeping Zephyr warm has been my number one concern about this whole adventure, especially as we continued to push our departure date later and later, with lows more consistently below freezing and “highs” in the 40-50°F (5-10°C) range. I’m always interested in staying warm and dry, so I have lots to say about the topic!!

Silk and wool balaclava for a baby and merino wool base layers for winter sailing

While the Dickinson Newport diesel heater runs beautifully when we’re motoring, running it while heeled over sailing is a bit of a challenge! Making me even more of a motor-boater than I’m already inclined to be 😉 No one’s ever accused me of being a sailing purist!

Full fleece suit over merino wool base layers for the coldnest nights on the boat

Aside from Googling “how do the Inuit keep their babies warm”, “camping with a baby in the winter” and any other mildly-related search terms I could come up with, here are a few things we are trying:

  • Ella’s Wool base layers — these are 100% merino wool and were recommended by our awesome NY friends who hike with their babies year-round. While pricey ($60/set), we ended up ordering two full sets so we can alternate when one gets dirty and double-layer on the coldest nights
  • Merino Wool / Silk Blend Balaclava — knit hats and hoods are obviously great, but I wanted something extra to keep his little neck warm and to cover more of his face. His chubby cheeks still stick out and need to be monitored for temperature (especially if we’re outside in the wind for a long time), but overall I’m super happy with this
  • Junior-size wool socks (to be used for socks AND gloves) — another tip from our winter-hiking friends. Z rips mittens off almost immediately, but these junior-size socks fit his little arms perfectly (his elbow goes where the heel is) and they don’t come off his feet easily either.
  • A 12-volt dog-bed heating pad — did I mention we aren’t AAP-approved parents?? Many things marketed towards pets work really nicely for babies on boats! This 12-volt heating pad draws around 3 amps, is waterproof, low-temperature and has a “chew proof” cord (quite useful for Z actually), and while it is explicitly NOT made for human use, it makes a huge difference when we aren’t able to run any real heat overnight (ie – while sailing).
  • A winter-weight sleepsack and fleece snowsuits — there are lots of these on Amazon, and the fleece snowsuit (with feet, mittens and a hood built in) works especially nicely to keep our little bundle warm. The sleepsack (without sleeves) has been perfect for nights we’ve got heat running too.

I’m hopeful that some combination of the above, in addition to all heat sources we’re able to safely run, will keep everyone warm 🙂 I’m sure things will continue to evolve over time, so I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime… here’s hoping for some nice sailing weather!

– LMK 🙂

One step forward (in Portland, Maine)

I’m sure there will be a “two steps backwards” to follow this up, but for now I’m just seriously psyched that we made a tiny little step of progress in the right direction! 13 miles, to be precise 😉

It was 40°F (5°C), overcast and we motored the entire way… but the Dickinson diesel stove ran the whole time, we all stayed warm and toasty (my #1 concern with Z is keeping him warm enough!), and now we’re tied up at our old marina in Portland, making pizzas and celebrating a little step in the staircase to progress.

Zephyr spent 90% of the time attached to me in the wrap, keeping us both warm and happy. He loves watching the waves and seeing other boats, and when all else fails a round of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” never fails to please. Especially since this McDonald has dolphins and seagulls and whales on his farm. I do a pretty great dolphin, if I may say so myself.

When he/we needed a break, Z rolled around on his rug inside, exploring the corners of the floor and looking for any crumbs I missed in my sweeping 😉 He could see us outside, watch the fire in the Dickinson, and move around at his own free will… the already baby-safe nature of boats (round corners, everything stowed away, etc) is one of the best parts of life aboard 🙂

Now we wait for a weather window, I work a little, and we finish trying to find places to store everything while enjoying a few days in the Old Port. Life is good!


This dream is a staircase (in Bailey Island, ME)

I’m realizing I’ve had it wrong all along… as our friend Bonnie pointed out, “after the last 5%… there’s just another 5%!”

Because this isn’t a one-time, one-and-done thing. It’s a lifestyle. A whole way of living. A whole heck of a lot of work right now. It requires compromise and flexibility and an acceptance that we are really not in control of anything. And it may not *actually* be possible. But while we’re still trying, we’re at the mercy of the winds, the waves, the weather, the boat, and now… Zephyr! 🙂 So having high expectations is pretty much a guarantee for disappointment. See previous post about plans 😉

Anyways, today Jon made a comment that stuck with me — that if we could make just a tiny step of progress towards our dream, we could count the day as a success.

So today we finished moving back onto Brio.

We’ve been living in my incredibly understanding mom-in-law’s house (actually, in HER bedroom!) for the last bit while we had bad projects going (epoxy, fumes, torn apart boat bits, etc), and it was time to make the official move, and say goodbye to hot water, our vehicles, the pack-n-play (although Z loves his little boat bed!), thermostats, washing machine and general house-comforts that we sooooo appreciate!!

Doesnt sound too bad, right?

Well my poor husband literally made the trip from the beach to the boat with a fully-loaded dinghy TEN TIMES to deliver all of the food, water, fuel, clothing and linens, our liferaft, my sailrite sewing machine, our spinnaker, and all the other random boat bits we’d taken off. He’d deliver a load, I’d try to find a corner of the cockpit to stash the bags in, and Zephyr happily self-entertained inside on the floor, discovering the wonders of clothespins and rug edges. He’s the best baby ever. And I’m not biased at all 😉

Anyways. In my imagination we were going to accomplish all of this moving & organizing & storing & smushing (we live on a 33’ boat… smushing is definitely involved sometimes) yesterday morning so we could sail away today to far away places… but yesterday it poured and stormed and we visited Z’s great-grandma and made waffles and sat by the wood stove with Jon’s mom instead, and sailing to far away places requires your stuff to be more stored than just smushed in the cockpit, so that plan changed.

And now we’re onboard, Z is happily snoozing in his boat-bed, half-ish of the stuff is put away, the Newport Dickinson is keeping us all toasty warm, the stars are twinkling outside our new Vetus hatch (which was one of last week’s projects) and I’m feeling pretty damn happy with our tiny little baby steps of progress towards our dream today, regardless of where we actually get to this winter 😉


Do you see it?? The dot is afloat! This is progress, people!!

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