Raising children on a schooner

In 1938, “Better Homes & Gardens” magazine ran a feature on Ann’s family. Here’s a second excerpt from that article written by Doris Hudson Moss:

A better home at sea

On a wind-ship there’s a small room for non-essentials. I felt that the Tompkins had achieved an atmosphere of very great charm by their adherence to the sincere values of simple beauty and necessity.

A worn little rag doll peeked out from behind a cushion on the bunk and watched me with her shoe-button eyes. “How,” I questioned, “did you ever manage when the babies were tiny? Or perhaps they didn’t come aboard when very young?”

“The Commodore sailed when he was 2 weeks old, Ann came aboard when she was 3 months. We’d have come sooner but the Bird was away on a voyage,” said Mrs. Tompkins.

My mind few back to those confused days when my own children were babies, to the endless laundry, to sterilized bottles, to drying flannels, to formulas, and the almost daily advice from a pediatrician.

Gwen smiled her slow, winning smile. “I know that you’re thinking that we had a difficult time of it – but don’t. It was as natural and easy as living ashore. The children slept in those little quarter-berths when they were tiny. Bottles were boiled as easily in a galley as in a kitchen, and laundry was no problem at all.

“A sailor, you know, never uses clothespins. So we knotted soiled laundry around a rope and dragged the rope through the sea from the stern of the ship. In almost no time the clothes were clean, bleached snow white – and sterilized, of course, by salt water. I never had a chaffed baby. Our clothesline was on deck and the constant breeze dried flannels quickly. We had one minor tragedy, I’ll confess. Once, way out in mid-ocean, a shark ate the Commodore’s laundry and I was furious. Imagine having half your supply of baby things eaten at a gulp.

“Then, too, the children were a joy because I had plenty of time for mothering and was with them a great deal. They were never seasick, and the wind and rocking ship soothed them like a lullaby. They were like little monkeys because they learned to cling so tightly to the person who carried them.

“Most babies lie limp in your arms, but our ‘water babies’ clung tightly to avoid falling or being bumped by the pitching ship. Nature always rises to the occasion, you know.”


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