Ship's Log

January 25, 2011 - St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands:

Pleased to meetcha!

Hi, everyone!  Our son, James Orion Nisbett, was born on November 15th, weighing in at a beefy 8lbs, 15oz!  He’s healthy, gorgeous, and looks just like his dad.  To everyone who said there's no way to prepare for the shock of primal, unconditional, visceral love: you were right.  We love this little guy indescribably.

We had an au naturale home birth at the apartment, which went well, but complications after the birth forced us to head to the hospital.  After a week’s stay there and a friggin’ blood transfusion, Alicia was back on track.  For the long version of the whole crazy story, (very long!) click here.  Let’s just say that on our first Thanksgiving as a new little family, we were very, very thankful.


He's only about 10 days old here.  We went to a scenic overlook called "Drake's Seat" to take some photos.

This guy was there, too, walking his pregnant show goat, Princess.  We all congratulated each other.

With the baby born, everyone home from hospital, and SARABANDE floating back on her mooring, our next task was to get our little family transitioned back to the boat.  We liked our apartment; we had the best landlord, the property was beautiful and we had two major life experiences there: Hurricane Earl and our first birth.  But the boat is our real home, and we were keening to get back.  So with a few calls to the furniture rental place, a few trips in the Jeep, and a thorough cleaning, our ties to land were severed.  We were all back afloat again by Christmas Eve.  With a few twinkle lights, our extensive iTunes holiday mix, a couple of roasted Cornish hens and we had ourselves a cozy Christmas Day, home at last. 

James, pumped about meeting Santa at the Christmas tree lighting.

So, what is it like living on a boat with a 2 month old?  People have been asking us this in tones ranging from amused to aghast.  Loads of people have babies, and a few people live on boats.  People who do both are members of a tiny, elite, admittedly batty club whose members assert that a child can be just as well cared for at anchor as on land.    They can’t be completely off the mark; since we’ve set sail we’ve met lots of boat kids, and not one of them was ever rude, stupid, or dull company.  In fact, on the whole, they are exemplary people.  The values normally shared by cruising sailors, like self-sufficiency, curiousity, an appreciation of nature and free thinking, rub off on these children and make them a pleasure to be around.

We're so mean to deprive our son of a more conventional upbringing.

On the practical side, our experience isn’t all that different from land-bound parents right now.  We cycle through the same “sleep-eat-play-repeat” pattern throughout the day (and night) that really young babies do wherever they are.  Likewise, we’re as sleep deprived as any new parents are.  Our shoulders are covered in drool and spit-up, and we’re getting better at making coffee one-handed, gently bouncing and singing “You Are My Sunshine”.  People do this with babies whether landlocked in Kentucky or floating in the Caribbean.

AMC chatting with Lou while feeding the baby.  He eats like there's no tomorrow.

However, there are several advantages to living on the boat with our little squirt.  The smallness of our living space means that keeping the place clean isn’t nearly as time-consuming as it would be in a larger space.  Things we might need in a moment’s notice (the pile of clean drool rags) are never far away.   SARABANDE is essentially a 44 foot long rocking chair.  Annoying land-based noises that can rob a new parent of what little sleep they can grab, such as the incessant crowing of a neighbor’s insane rooster, are replaced by soothing water sounds.  And if you’re going to have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed the baby anyway, it’s nice to be able to do it in the cockpit, admiring the full moon’s reflection on the water, a warm breeze gently ruffling the baby’s hair.  Also, perhaps most importantly, living on the boat keeps our expenditures low enough to allow one of us to care for our son full-time, instead of having to leave him at a daycare facility while we both work.

Make no mistake, though, the boat also makes certain things harder with a baby.  Our main challenge has to do with transporting James to and from land.  Exactly what is the protocol for transporting a newborn the quarter of a mile to shore in an 8 foot dinghy? This topic has sparked a number of ridiculous hypothetical scenarios involving rogue waves, rabid sharks, and outboard-engine explosions to be posed and pondered.  What works for us so far is a good infant lifejacket (yes, they make such things), an unbuckled car seat, and total paranoia when it comes to harbor conditions. 

Sponge Bob and his father get ready to go.

Ironically, though the dinghy ride might be nerve-wracking for his parents, a good spin in the dinghy is a surefire way to make James stop crying.  He closes his eyes and smiles as his baby drool streaks back horizontally along his cheeks.  We’ll make sure to get him a cigarette boat for his next birthday. 

Drive it like you stole it, Son!

The other challenge has been protecting James’s perfect little hide from the sun.  Every morning he gets slathered with SPF 1 billion, and he’s building an impressive collection of sun hats. We’ve put up the boat’s new and improved sun awning and keep him in the shade as much as we can.  Despite our precautions, James is already sporting a slight farmer’s tan.  This is the Virgin Islands, after all.  Luckily, he seems to have inherited the complexion of his Mediterranean ancestors, rather than the Celtic ones who tend to bubble and turn fuscia.  What with all the talk of vitamin D deficiency that’s going on nowadays, at least we know he won’t get rickets. 

Rickets:  not up in here!

Being insufferable crunchy-granola types, we have chosen to breastfeed and cloth diaper our kid.  Both have turned out to be much easier than expected, and the skivvies are actually quite stylish.

Even though they've got an irritating name (Fuzzibunz), these diapers work very well.
James almost looks like he's doing the Safety Dance.

Because nothing burns jet fuel like a new grandkid, we’ve been lucky enough to see all of James’ grandparents in person over the past couple of months.  Alicia’s mom arrived just two weeks after the birth and was a lifesaver, putting in extra long shifts of babysitting while Alicia was recuperating (thanks, Mom).  A week later, the Brian’s mom and dad touched down, all the way from Oklahoma.  We hadn’t seen them in two years, so we had a lot of catching up to do!  We showed them around the island and they spent hours cooing over their first grandson’s gifted mind and hunky good looks.  Then, for the finale, Tom Collins and his lady friend Peggy flew in for the Martin Luther King holiday.  Grandpa got to know James, and we got to know Peggy.   On their last day in town, a plane almost smashed into their hotel; beyond this, it was a lovely weekend!

As for us, we’re working hard these days, but we were built for hard work.  It’s the beginning of tourist season and Brian’s out on the water 7 days a week, no days off in sight, bringing tourists and sea turtles together.  Alicia stays home to take care of the baby, which is both an endurance struggle to stay sane and a distinct pleasure.  The next few months are designated for busting our butts, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  We’ve purchased the most recent cruising guides for the Leeward and Windward Islands and we’re planning our next escape. 

Next up:  Operation GTFO

So, along with our arduous birth story, we've also added the recipe for James' tasty, tasty first birthday cake and a recipe for homemade baby wipes.  Love to all our friends and family who have birthdays coming up: spunky, hardworking Aunt Irma (2/11), who can make the best pepper and egg sandwich in the world with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back; our salty, funny friend Bruce of TE OIGO (2/15); Randy Lord, who ages ago wrote us a beautiful song about SARABANDE that we're going to share on this website soon if it's the last thing we do (2/22); Alicia's hardworking Mom, a grandma who can do a perfect cannonball off a pirate ship (2/23);  Uncle Tony, who's going to make an awesome grandpa soon (2/24); the ever-glamorous Aunt Jean (also 2/24); and Uncle Joe (2/28), a leap year baby with perfect comic timing who appreciates our dog and our pickup truck almost as much as we do, and wants to buy both of them.  

Also, we heard through Christie that Gran's leg is healing up nicely.  Go, Gran, go!

Alicia & Brian


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