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We got our big chance to see how sailing with a baby would go down in Maine when we met up with our friends Jenni and Cameron on their boat Velella*. We met them originally in Baja when we were on the Time Machine, then sailed along with them in southern Mexico, meeting up again a year later in the Caribbean. The last time we saw them was actually a year ago in Oregon, when we went chanterelling.
In preparation, we bought Ronin an infant life vest (Pirates of the Caribbean theme!), which she hated the moment we tried it on her. While we went through all of the options in the Boat US store, the clerk poked his head around the corner to be sure we didn’t need help, or rather, to be sure he didn’t need to call Child Services on us for jabbing our poor child with hot pokers, which is what it sounded like we were doing. In any case, it was less than an auspicious start for Sailing With Our Little Monkey.
Jenni and Cameron use kayaks and never had a standard dinghy—a practice which has not only allowed them to save considerable space on their 30-foot sailboat, but made them a magnet for much unsolicited advice: “You’re going to want an inflatable with a motor—mark my words. 15hp at the very least!” Of course, they never needed or wanted a “proper” dinghy and so we took turns kayaking ourselves and the shocking amount of baggage we somehow had out to the boat, which was anchored near the jetty in Rockland. I perched delicately in the forward hatch while Jenni paddled, then Cameron ferried the empty kayak back and Joshua paddled out with Ronin in his lap. She pretty much screamed the whole way (starting the moment he put the life vest on; I doubt she even noticed she was in a boat). By the time Joshua neared the boat, she was sprawled stiffly across his arm and looking totally miserable. I of course ran about the deck snapping a bunch of blurry photos as they approached.
Once aboard, we took the hated life vest off and brought her down below to terrorize the resident kitty. She of course didn’t pay any attention to the cat whatsoever but her mere presence aboard was enough to put the cat totally out.
We left Rockland harbor and headed a little ways south to anchor out at a cluster of small islands—one inhabited by some commune folk, the other uninhabited but with an abandoned granite quarry and possibly some apple trees. Sailing in a monohull is VERY different from our lightweight little trimaran. Everything happens very slowly. At one point I dashed below to hold down the napping Ronin as we rode into a major tugboat wake; I fully expected the motion to launch her clear across the cabin but was amazed to discover that Velella only lolled drunkenly for a few seconds before coming to a dead stop, possibly sailing backwards for a bit, and then slowly continuing on course. Time Machine jerked and leapt at any and all wakes. Large swimmer? Hold on to your cocktail! Tugboat? We generally caught air. Crazy.
Ronin began to teeth in earnest pretty much the moment we set foot aboard and was more or less whiny and inconsolable the remainder of the trip. How wonderful for our friends! “She generally doesn’t just scream like this—well, except when she has to take a nap, or go to bed, or if we take something away from her that she wasn’t supposed to have, or if we try to feed her…” we told them and they nodded politely. We weren’t even sure she was teething really. For all we knew she was constipated, or still pissed about the life vest.
Anchoring was quick and once settled, we were nestled between three beautiful islands with the sun just setting and the sky turning red and drippy. I really miss this part of sailing. Arriving somewhere awesome, getting the sails and all the miscellaneous underway debris put away, and finally getting dinner started, maybe opening a bottle of wine. Decompressing after the sail, being still, relaxing where the wind isn’t pestering you, etc. Of course, our sail to the islands was neither long nor arduous so it wasn’t like we were in desperate need of decompression. But all the same, it was great to relax in the cockpit with our cranky child, sipping wine and basking in the luxury of having dinner made for us. We even coaxed Ronin into eating a few spoonfuls of pureed prunes.
Jenni and Cameron were so sweet and gave us the V-berth, which turned out to be GREAT with the baby. We stuck her in the middle and the V shape gave us plenty of room to lie clear of her flailing limbs. I slept better than I had the entire trip I think. I just had to hold onto her ankle to thwart any upward escape attempts. I highly recommend a V-berth for co-sleeping. Who would have thought?
We kayak-ferried ashore to both the uninhabited island and later to the commune island, which although privately owned, allows visitors to hike around provided they stick to the path (which is marked at every fork with a little sign, “Path.” I of course was on sharp lookout for The Commune Folk but they wisely stayed indoors. Better luck next time.
The uninhabited quarry island had an abandoned mining pit in the middle, filled with opaque orange-brown water. I believe I had my swimsuit on under my clothes, evidently I had something more along the lines of Jamie’s Pond. Ah well. One end of the island had stacks of enormous granite cubes stacked all over the place. It was pretty interesting and I wonder why they never ended up anywhere. We climbed on them and took pictures. On our way back to the kayaks, we found the apples, collected enough to make a pie, and then headed back to the boat.
I guess the boat trip drove home how awkward sailing can be with an infant. One of us would always have to tend to her so we would essentially always be single-handing, there isn’t really any really good place to put her down to just play on her own where we don’t have to worry about her falling or crawling into the engine compartment or something. It’s unlikely we would have an enormous boat where we could pad off one compartment for her to bounce around in. And the life jacket! Ugh. It obviously can and is done—and I even think we could figure out a system that worked for us—but I think it might be more fun to wait until she is old enough to actually enjoy it for herself.
The day we left, I noticed a pucker in Ronin’s gums. She was teething after all! We also learned the lesson of the prunes: it doesn’t take much, particularly if your baby was teething after all. We left Velella with a suspiciously clean spot on her cockpit cushion and Jenny and Cameron secure in their decision to never have children.
*Velella is for sale. We will miss seeing that blue stripped sail on the horizon.