I had a picture in my head of what our life would look like as we prepared to have a baby. In this assumed image I’d be starting maternity leave from a stable job, spending weekends decorating the nursery with my husband, buying adorable little onesies and chic maternity clothes from the shops in town while seeing my family doctor for regular check-ups. The reality so far has been that my pre-baby to do list includes spending three months travelling over two and a half thousand miles to where we want to give birth, preparing our home for the onset of storms and hurricanes, dealing with a medical system in a language we’re only just learning and being an ocean away from our family.


Welcome to our life, expecting our first child on a sailing boat. Which, incidentally, is something that neither one of us could have predicted would happen.


Nearly two years ago we threw off the docklines in Falmouth, England and set out on an adventure. We left thinking that the challenge we had set was to sail around the world in roughly two and half years and then return to London having learned more about life and ourselves. Neither of us had any real reason to leave; our jobs, home and friendships were all ticking along quite contently. We were even planning on building a small extension to our house. In fact, looking back, it’s my fault really. Me and my damn wanderlust, that is.


So we rented out the house, spent the extension money on a boat and off we went, with only a little sailing experience and very limited understanding of boat maintenance but with a healthy amount of optimism. We even joked about returning having got married and had children. And we did learn. Everything was about educating ourselves: sailing better and more efficiently, interpreting the weather more capably, becoming more skilled and less flustered when it came to running repairs. We also had to adjust to a new relationship where we could take orders from one another and know when to trust in each other’s expertise. Believe me, the learning curve was more like a vertical line.


Together we managed to sail the boat from the shores of the UK to the European coast, Morocco and the Canary Islands. Then we had our first Christmas at sea, crossing the Atlantic ocean in just under three weeks. We spent a year in the Caribbean: cruising up the islands in the east, exploring Cuba for a month, then moving onwards to Mexico and down to Panama. All that was in the first eight months, we logged over eight thousand miles and felt pretty confident about what we’d achieved.


And then we stopped. Not completely, but we did stay put in Panama for the following eight months. It’s funny but we only really started to appreciate what living on the boat truly meant once we slowed down a bit. Time ticked by and, having still not yet transited the Panama Canal, we mused over our Pacific crossing and realised that this jaunty little circumnavigation would take us some while longer.


It was then that we faced the question of what to do about starting a family. We had always planned to have children together but that idea of the life back in London that we would return to, the ‘normal’ life with kids, a home and a traditional career seemed to be slipping further and further away into the future.


And it wasn’t purely a question of geographic remoteness; our time apart from the sensible lives we had assumed we’d be leading had made us slightly averse to what childrearing in that context would mean. James would need to be working longer hours to support our family, I would be out of the office and put at home trying to manage the arrival of the new tiny person in our lives. We’d be doing something wonderful, which I thought was meant to be about togetherness and intimacy. But the way in which we’d have to go about it seemed lopsided and contradictory. For a couple who had acclimatised to a life where we were happily spending twenty four hours a day in each others’ company, working as a well-functioning team, this simply didn’t make sense.


Our time so far on the boat had opened our eyes to other realities as well. We had managed to sustain our life, even with all the unexpected maintenance outlays, on a minimal budget. Despite the glamorous exotic locations that we’ve been fortunate enough to stop in we’ve been consistently careful about keeping our costs down. We eat on board almost all the time and the food we eat is always local to where we’re staying, we live at anchor rather than in marinas, we don’t buy clothes very often, we conserve our water and power as much as we can and try to create as little waste as possible. By coping with being on board we had inadvertently developed an ethos, a new attitude towards our sailing existence. Our lives had become simultaneously simpler but richer.


We considered that we had a lucky opportunity to redraw that picture that I’d had in my mind of what ‘normal’ looked like. What were we waiting for?


Well, it turns out that we certainly weren’t waiting for very long at any rate. We decided that if we got pregnant then we’d put off the Pacific crossing for another year. By the time we went through the Panama Canal in January I was already at the end of my first trimester and we agreed that an ocean passage during our first pregnancy might not be wise. So, we turned right, explored Pacific Central America and fought against wind, current and all sailing common sense in order to reach Banderas Bay in Mexico.


Although I’m sure that they were initially surprised our family back home have been nothing but encouraging and supportive of our decision. However, first-time parents having a baby on a boat does throw up a number of valid questions. Health, safety and laundry seem to be the ones that come up most often when people meet us and my burgeoning belly for the first time.


In terms of my own health and the baby’s health I’ve been really pretty lucky throughout. Although I do suffer from the occasional bout of sea-sickness I never experienced morning-sickness at all; our diet on board is full of fresh fruit, vegetables, free-range meat and fish with very little if any processed food; and we were able to consult with doctors in our horrendous Spanish whilst on our passages to get here.


So far our major safety decisions have been to plan the baby, as far as anyone can plan these things, to coincide with hurricane season so that we and our boat would be secure living onboard in a marina throughout the storms, except for the time that we head inland to use the birthing centre, and to keep as open-minded and flexible as possible with regard to how a new baby will live and sleep with us on board.


‘But what will you do about nappies?’ clamoured the family back home. I have to admit, it was the first real obstacle to what had seemed like a brilliantly constructed plan. We knew that we disliked standard disposables as our boat travels have taken us to too many beaches marred by plastic waste washed up on shore. Living mostly at anchor has taught us to reduce our non-biodegradable waste considerably as we simply have too small a capacity to store it. Who wants garbage bags building up on their boat, especially if they’re full of dirty diapers. You wouldn’t want us showing up on your island! Not to mention the long-term financial costs of disposables for a family on a tight budget.


Yet the alternative, which we thought were the cloth diapers that we’d both had as children, wasn’t really going to be practical either. Our home is one where our washing machine is a bucket and we have a total 410 litre (110 gallon) fresh water capacity. We subsidise this by using cheap laundrettes in towns where that is possible but the number of nappies that a newborn could potentially use per day was making that option a daunting prospect. Plus there is no laundrette mid-ocean.


We had no idea that there were other possibilities these days as if you’re not a parent yet then how would you know these things? It was then that some backpacker friends of ours travelling with their 14 month old daughter showed us our first gDiaper. We saw that there was the option of a much smaller cloth insert to launder or to use a biodegradable insert instead and both these methods seemed like they could work for us and our new baby. So, I suppose, we found ourselves most attracted by a route that was a bit of both.


I decided to approach gDiapers directly as there are currently no stockists of their products in Mexico. We were surprised and delighted to receive a very friendly and supportive response from them saying that they were really interested to come on this journey with us and agreed to provide us with a variety of their goods to experiment with. What we like about their reaction is how keen they are to know how each stage of this test goes so that we can all see what does and doesn’t work for a newborn, not to mention it’s parents, on a boat.


Just when we’d got our heads round our last big change now it seems that what we’re waiting for is the baby’s arrival. Perhaps even though we’ll be novice parents we’re at least used to shaking up our lives. We go into this next adventure with that same wild optimism that got us here in the first place.