AK: Setting sail with a tot in tow

Koala and Amelia look over the bow during a sunset sail. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.
Koala and Amelia are both taking the sailing with gusto. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.

This is a story about living the life you want after having a kid.

Listen now:

Full disclosure, the two characters here are dear friends of mine, Devon and Melissa Bradley, and their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Amelia. You can’t see her on the radio, but Amelia is a bright-eyed pistol of a kid.  Also integral to the is story is a sailboat.

Let me take a step backwards for a moment and tell you why I was so interested in their story in the first place. Things slow down after you have a kid. That’s been my experience anyway. I mean, a raging game of peek-a-boo takes about four minutes. If you let yourself live in between peek-a-boo games, you start to feel less like the person you were, pre-parenthood, and more like the generic “parent” caricature you see cruising the cereal aisle. So this is why I really get what Devon and Melissa did:

They bought a sailboat, even though neither was a sailor.

And now they’re learning to sail as a family every weekend in Kachemak Bay.

Naturally, we sent an audio recorder on board to see how this little experiment is playing out. Here’s a spoiler: the Bradleys are happier than ever.

Amelia, Melissa and Koala are three of the newest sailors kicking around Kachemak Bay this summer. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.
Amelia, Melissa and Koala are three of the newest sailors kicking around Kachemak Bay this summer. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.

Here’s what we heard:

“It’s 10:05 p.m. and we’re motoring out of the harbor. Amelia waves ‘bye’ to everyone on the docks,” Melissa says. The family hightailed it out of the city at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday night. Sayonara, work clothes.

Melissa fixes lunch on the boat. Photo: Bradleys.
Melissa fixes lunch on the boat. Photo: Bradleys.

Not long after arriving at the dock in Homer, they start motoring across Kachemak Bay.

“Amelia’s in bed, which is really lovely. She crashed and burned — it was an epic ending of screaming and compulsive sign language… which means she’s really tired,” Melissa laughs. “Now it’s just ‘us’ time, which is kind of magical, because the sky is like this really nice pink and purple at the horizon. And the ocean is calm. There’s a slight ripple over it and big rollers, but nothing to worry about. We don’t have any big waves or motion messing with the vibe right now.”

The next morning, breakfast is on. Dad, aka Devon, hops on the mic: “So, we’re cookin’ some breakfast. Doing some bacon and egg burritos. Last night we had some fresh fish tacos with some halibut we caught last weekend. We just took the big, fluffy dog ashore.”

Koala, we forgot to mention, is another new sailor in the family. Luckily she has four legs to use as sea legs. Devon again:

“We just got a new outboard for the little dinghy off Craigslist — a hundred bucks. The guys said it didn’t work. Turns out he didn’t have the fuel on. Big score.

“Anyway, it’s just a beautiful morning here, boppin’ around Kachemak Bay.”

When they're not sailing, the Bradleys head for shore to explore the different hikes and beaches around Kachemak Bay. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.
When they’re not sailing, the Bradleys head for shore to explore the different hikes and beaches around Kachemak Bay. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.

When Amelia goes down for a nap, the sails go up. The Bradleys are learning how to do this on their own. “When the sails go tight like that that’s exactly what you want,” Melissa says. But a little later…

“The wind died. We’re still kind of movin’, but the sails are loughing. There are a ton of otters.”

“‘Mila the mermaid is awake. So if the sailing gets to be too much with her up, we just power down and motor,” Melissa says.

At this point in the audio-diary, Melissa introduces us to one of Amelia’s favorite things to do on the boat:

“You feeding the fishies? Thank you!” she says. “Uh oh!” Amelia squeals back. They both laugh.

“We are throwing tortilla chips into the water. Since Amelia was little she has always just loved to throw things into other things. I guess most toddlers do. So Dad’s running to shore to get some more rocks. It’s just hours of entertainment when you’re on the boat. But you can eat the chips and not the rocks. Right?”

Before long, the hum of Devon’s new outboard motor is in the background, which means one thing:

“Daddy’s bringing you rocks! Yeah, Daddy!”

“Rocks?” Amelia asks.

“Yeah, rocks!”

Tips for sailing with tots? Throwing rocks overboard is boatloads of fun. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.
Tips for sailing with tots? Throwing rocks overboard is boatloads of fun. Photo courtesy of the Bradleys.

One rock at a time, the afternoon passes by.

We are on our third bucket of rocks and Amelia is still playing. I am just hanging out in my bathing suit, catching some rays — it’s glorious out. And Devon is still playing in his boat. It’s like the perfect Saturday morning,” Melissa says.

“So many people think it’s crazy that we have a baby on the boat with us. But really, it’s a great place for her to explore and learn and for us to kind of grow as a family together.”

“I mean, I can tell you, if we were back in Anchorage we wouldn’t be just hanging out and being so mellow. I’d feel like I needed to be getting something done — like cleaning the house or weeding the garden or doing laundry…. but this is just so perfect. So relaxing for us.”