Many parents forgo the traditional hospital routine and give birth at home instead.
But newborn Alexandra Tomoe Okopnik made waves when she entered the world Tuesday morning in her new home: the S/V Ulysses, a 31-foot sailboat.
Parents Kat Tanaka Okopnik, 39, and Ben Okopnik, 47, have been traveling and living aboard the boat more than four years. And their 23-month-old son, Michael, can't get enough of his baby sister.
After weighing Alex in at 7 pounds and 7 ounces, foot-printing her and performing a post-natal examination, Nicole Lavallee, the Johns Island midwife Ben and Kat hired, stepped off the boat at the Charleston Maritime Center. She was curious how other boaters cruising the dock knew to ask her how the birth went.
She was told the yelling gave it away.
Despite the screaming, Kat said she was pleasantly surprised by the experience of having her baby aboard their home. Kat woke at 8 a.m. Tuesday with contractions, called up Lavallee and, after about four hours of labor, she was thrilled to meet her daughter at 12:17 p.m.
Ben said the people he's met in the Lowcountry have been overwhelmingly welcoming.
Hal and Cheryl Baker, a couple staying in a boat a few slips down, brought over a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Another woman they met tied pink balloons to their sailboat.
The Okopniks and their newly expanded family plan on staying in Charleston for about a month, then they plan to head to the Chesapeake Bay area.
But Ben said schedules do not really apply to life on a boat. Most decisions depend on the weather.
Michael already has a feel for the tiller when he gets in the dingy attached to their boat. He loves waving to fellow boaters from the bow.
To afford their wandering lifestyle, Ben edits the Linux Gazette, a technology publication, and teaches computer programming classes to companies across the country — which gives them cause for more traveling.
Kat, who's also tech-savvy, convinced her mother in Los Angeles to upgrade her cell phone so that she can send her pictures of her grandchildren.
The living area in the cabin where Kat lounges with her baby resembles a regular family room. Shelves filled with novels, children's books, stuffed animals and stereo speakers line the wall. A black strap secures the books and other items in case of rocky waves.
Although their lifestyle has its challenges, the thought of living on land doesn't cross the mind of either Kat or Ben. They hope their children's experience offers them the same sense freedom to live an unconventional life if they choose.
For now, the parents said they stick to a nautical slogan to determine their plans: "The time and tide rule our ride."
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