I just hope you're aware that small open powerboats are the most dangerous form of boating, statistically speaking. In Canada 37% of boat-drownings happen in small open powerboats. with only 4% being in sailboats, which are even marginally safer than paddle boats. http://www.redcross.ca/cmslib/genera...wn_english.pdf
In the US it's much more bleak with 7/10 boating deaths in US are in power boats under 21 feet. Boating Accident Statistics
and about a third of those open-motorboaters die of causes other than drowning (I don't even want to think about what those might be) http://www.uscgboating.org/assets/1/...Statistics.pdf
Though ultimately it's up to you and your kids. I see they aren't wearing life jackets on the boat, so perhaps safety isn't a priority. Though personally I'd rather see both you and them to have safe, long and happy lives. :-)
In terms of our kids, when they come of age i.e. 16 or as soon as they are ready afterwards, planning on getting them liveaboard sailboats, likely without engines -- they usually only cost about twice as much as a dinghy used. Then they'll be ahead of the pack in terms of having the resources to start their own lives and live independently.
Wow. Sobering statistics. But I would be interested in knowing how many of those were from inflateables? I also wonder what percentage boats under 21 feet make up? I susepct many of those deaths are ski boats or small fishing boats as they have a lot of power and are small. In essense, in this example, I suspect the statistics are misleading. You simply cannot go very fast in a tender (especially that tender), you are limited in your range, and your waters must be pretty calm.
We are full time cruisers and my kids have been on a boat all of their lives. I actually had them steering around three years old (with me right beside them). They probably have more time at sea than most of the folks who post on this forum. And because we live aboard and cruise, it is important to give them some freedoms built upon responsibilities. Would I rather have them under my thumb all day and watch everything they do? Well sure. But that is not what is really best for them. I give them some freedoms which expand or contract based upon the matuirty they show with it. The number one maturity is safety. THey have a very small circle that they can go outside of when on the tender, and I always know where they are and they have communication (both HH VFH and cell phone). Contrary to what you might perceive, safety is and always has been my #1 prioity with them. It has to be. I'm sorry doesn't cut it.
Regarding life jackets: They ALWAYS wear them in the tender. THe pic you saw was them sitting in it for a picture tied to the docks. Not only is it against my rules to have them go out without a LJ, it is against FL and USCG rules. You only saw a photo op which we caught while they were tied to the dock. Minutes later, they had a jacket on (before they left the dock).
Under way, our rules are that if they are outside of the cabin, they wear a jacket. The exception is when anchored or when at the marina. I do not make them wear a jacket when walking around the marina. I used to, before they could swim really well. Of interest is that the only time they have gone in the drink (four times total between them) is at the marina. But they can swim well now and they know what to do when they fall in. I think in WA, they are required to have a jacket on even at the marina docks. At least, that is what I recall from our time on the sound. Different down here - the water is warmer which doesn't make it so critical.
I hope that clears some things up?
On a completely different subject, I personally would not put my kids on a sailboat without a motor. A motor is a serious safety item. Reality is that up in the PNW (yes, we lived there for over a year and sailed the sound), the winds are incredibly light, the currents are very swift, and the water is deadly cold. I can think of a thousand reasons to have a motor, but can't come up with a single reason not to have one. If a thunder storm or cold front were coming, or if someone was injured or man overboard, having a motor that allows you to quickly turn around or make way without the need for wind is imperative for us.
We do own a Compaq 16. I would not live aboard it, but it was fun to teach the kids the basics of sailing. However, I would never put them in the sound by themselves with it. That water is deadly cold. I think in Vancouver, we lose like 6 people a year in the summer when they fall into the Columbia. I think that was the statistc. They literally go into shock and don't come back up, or not for long. And how long do you have to turn that boat around and get them out of the water before Hypothermia kicks in? Was it 5 minutes I think? I would hate to think I had that little of time and the only thing that would allow me to get back to them was the wind. Not to mention, the problem with small sailboats is that most of them are notoriously tender. One good Sport Fish on a half plane can swamp them. I know this from experience.
Like you said, everyone has to have their own comfort zone. I am giving you my opinions from someone who had their kids aboard at 5 days old and who has always cruised with kids. It does not make my opinion correct, just experienced and based upon our location and time on the water.
Thanks again for the feedback and time. Look forward to seeing you on the water with your kiddos. Honestly, I cannot imagine what it would be like being without mine on a boat!! I don't look forward to that day.