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UrbanChicago 03-18-2009 10:06 PM

Minimum age for children on a 6-month cruise?
My wife and I are already planning for the time when we both leave our current jobs for something new. The last time we did this, we went backpacking all over Europe for a few months before returning to the working world. This time we are thinking about cruising the Keys/Bahamas/Virgin Islands from the end of hurricane season until the start of the next. We'd try to liveaboard as much as possible (following our European model of hostels and pensions until we couldn't take it any more, then checking in to a 5-star hotel for a few nights until we're recharged and ready to rough it again).

The only difference this time is that we'll have a child. We're due this summer and are thinking perhaps doing our trip in November of 2010 or 2011. Now, neither of us have any reservations about an infant on a boat, but I was not sure if an extended trip like this would be good for him.

I've seen a number of threads about cruising with kids, but they all seem to be at least 5 or 6 years old. Anybody have any opinions on a 1 or 2-year old on a 6-7 month cruise?

JohnRPollard 03-19-2009 09:20 AM

My feeling is that infants and pre-schoolers are a lot easier to manage on a boat than toddlers.

If you are first time parents, you will soon learn that when your kid begins to toddle around (anywhere between 9 months and 14 months, typically), you have entered one of the most difficult times of child-rearing. They tend to be pretty wobbly for about a year while they master the art of balance. So there are lots of wipe outs and bumps along the way -- and that's on solid ground.

It is a period where parental attentiveness is nearly all consuming. Very different from the infant stage when they pretty much stay wherever you put them and their needs are mostly limited to eating/sleeping/diaper changes/ and stimulation via parents' voices etc. So if you bring your toddler aboard ship, expect that one of you will be very occupied minding him or her -- just like on land.

The good news is that once they pass through that toddler stage (which lasts until they are about 2 1/2 - 3 years old), they adapt very well to life aboard and will soon be running all over the place with no need for help from the parents.

Anyway, that's our experience, based on having three kids in 2.5 years. Others may feel differently.

P.S. So as far as schedule/planning goes, 2011 would probably be a better target date than 2010 for a kid that will be born this summer. 2012 even better.

imagine2frolic 03-19-2009 09:25 AM

The earlier the better. My lady had a 4 year old, and we put a tether on her.....i2f

svHyLyte 03-19-2009 09:41 AM

Think Safety First
Our daughter, now in her teens, began sailing with us when she was only 6 weeks old, in a basket suspended from the overhead in the main cabin. We carpeted the floor and put the back-rest cushions on the faces of the settees at floor level (we have straps to hold them there when the settees are being used for sea berths) and she was quite happy crawling around there. When she was a toddler, below deck, she would hang out with her toys in the V-berth that was fitted with a lee-cloth "pillow stop" along the foot so she couldn't fall out. Above deck she sat secured in a car-seat that was fastened in place against the bulkhead at the front of one of the seats. Later, when she was first walking, we got a tiny life vest and safety harness that was attached to the boat with a 4' strap so she could move around, somewhat, in the cockpit. We also strung rope mesh along the lifelines around the entire boat, except at the bow-pulpit, just in case she got out of the cockpit, which was not permitted unless an adult was with her. She adapted very quickly and was quite happy.

The only thing you have to remember is "Safety First" and enforce it ruthlessly.

s/v HyLyte

Cruisingdad 03-19-2009 10:51 AM

Chase, my oldest (now 8) was on board at 5 days old. Within 12 months of that, we were living aboard and cruising.



There really is not a bad age that we have found yet. Each one has its difficulties and its positives.

On the infant side, wherever you put them, they stay. The positives (all of this from a boaters/cruisers point of view) is that you do not have to worry about them wandering off. THey are happy and content wherever they are put. The negatives is that they cannot speak for themselves and you have to watch out for them geting too hot/cold. You have to make sure that during a tack they do not roll somewhere that they could get hurt or that something could fall on them. Also, they will not be able to swim. As such, you must keep a close eye that their location is safe. I will add another negative that we have found: it is hard to find any lifejacket that will work. I realize they make these infant lifejackets... but they are horribly uncomfortable. Both our kids hated them.

The biggest issue for us at this age really was the heat/cool aspect. They are especially suscptebile to getting too hot. Since you are considering cruising south, that will be especially true. On the nice breezy days, the cool ocean temps and breeze actually makes the "down below" quite comforable. But when the wind is not blowing and when it is in the 80's at night - it is very hard for everyone to sleep.

This was one of the principle reasons we went with the boat we did (a Catalina 380 at that time). We had to have a generator and a/c because we HATE being at the marina (contrary to what you read here!!!). We were always anchored out and the weather began to limit us. This was especially true in S Florida where during the summer there are rainstorms every day about 2:00 and you have to shut up the boat (and cook down below). So, I feel that if you are going to go cruising with kids under 5, you really will want a generator and a/c. We knew MANY people that did not have that and they will laugh at us for saying this. Many of the old timers that raised kids on their boats especially will laugh at me. But when it comes to the comfort and safety of my kids (and let's face it, a good night sleep for mom and dad), we felt that it was a worthwhile purchase.

When cruising with an infant, you also have to be conscious about forumla and baby food. The baby food comes in glass jars are horrendous when they break and a real liability on a boat. The forumla is not easily and readily available in anything but large grocery stores so you must direct your cruising and destinations as such (and plan on buying it and be happy if you can breast feed the whole time... Kris got mastitus (sp??) and could not). You also want good, clean water to mix with the formula and that is not always what you get out of your tanks. We used a Britta water fileter (and still do), but it is yet another pain to put up with.

Once they reach the two's-3's, they can be a bit more vocal about being uncomfortable and can push themselves up if they fall over in a tack (face down), etc. From that point of view, they are safer. However, they now can walk. They also do not listen any if at all. OPur biggest fear was always, ALWAYS, that Chase would sneak out of his bed in the middle of the night and go up the companionway. You will want to put a lock on it or something to keep them from being able to exit the boat at night. Luckily, boats in general are pretty child proof. We added a "crib side" that went across the V-berth for Chase that kept him very secure and in his bed. You can see a picture of that on the right side below. That is my mom holding him.


There was not a lot of other things that concerned us other than the electrical panel which is always open on almost every boat (with few exceptions). THere were many times he would get up there and play with the switches. Glen (my now 5 yo) has done that too. We were at the point of putting a plexi-glass cover over them before they finally started leaving them alone. However, many other people I know have rigged up something similar. You can see the panel here and how easy it is for kids to access it and start flipping switches.

At age 5-8, things really become a lot more "fun"... at least for us.

The kids enjoy swimming. Here is a pic of them swimming off the back of our boat and mom and dad's boat rafted up beside us.

They can take care of themselves. They can tell us when they are uncomfortable and now follow rules. The only "negative" of this age that we have found is that they also get boored and want a lot more interaction. You have to plan out your destinations as such. Long, all day sails are not fun for kids. Sometimes you do not have a choice, so you need to come up with board games, letting them steer, stand watch, etc. In other words, come up with things to help them spend their time and be a part of the boat. Still, they will get bored after a while and will want to go swimming or go out in the dink or something that does not involve boring old sailing (remember, my kids have done it since birth). Chase has really gotten into fishing and that is another great passtime to help the kids enjoy their sails or time at the boat. Hopefully they can even help feed the family!!! Here is Chase kissing his first ever "real" catch... nice one too!!

There are millions of other things to discuss. I know we really need to get that cruising with Children thread back on track. But at any rate, I hope this answers some of your questions and helps you out. I do not mind helping more.

- Brian

PS Sailing, boating, and cruising are some of the best things we have ever done with our kids. They will mature faster than their peers, they will be vastly better readers, and they will learn a love and respect for nature. You will be close as a family. I have never met a cruising-kid that I did not like. It will be a life changing experience for you - more so than backpacking (which I did for all of my youth).

Faster 03-19-2009 10:54 AM

The answer to this question has more to do with the parents than the child.... Confident parents can manage their children in almost any situation. Obviously their safety is paramount, and children sailing from a very early age tend to do better than those dropped into it later on.

Many of us on this board have started their kids sailing at weeks old (or less!) and many of them have grown to be owners and sailors themselves.

I remember a cute story - a couple sailed the Pacific from North America to New Zealand, leaving with a 6 month old child. Over the course of the voyage the child learned to walk at sea..... upon the first subsequent landfall, when they went ashore the poor little guy fell over like a drunk on solid land!

You need to be certain that you won't stress with worry for the children to the point that you can't function. Confidence in yourselves, your boat, your kids, and your choices is what will make this all work.

Valiente 03-19-2009 11:58 AM

I agree with pretty well everything said here. Our kid went to sea at five days old...well, went for a daysail, anyway...and is now seven and half and is going into his first White Sail/Optimists classes this summer. Our friends were amused to hear a three-year-old refer to "down below" and to push his stroller "hard to port, skipper!", but it's all second-nature to him now, as is his habit of donning a PFD automatically when coming on deck.

I also agree that the "danger zone" is 10 months or so to 2 1/2 years, because the kid won't have the ability to stay upright or to climb up the companionway easily, and, perhaps more importantly, won't have the mental or linguistic wherewithal to understand or obey instructions.

We actually erected a playpen in our V-berth during this time and stuck our son in that (it was a tight fit!) so that he'd be safe on passage, but we just did single-day runs on Lake Ontario.

So I would say you should either take your kid-to-be sailing from zero to nine months, or wait until he or she is three years and has plenty of co-ordination and at least a basic understanding of parental authority and some basic laws of physics (see Luis, Alex's tumble-prone son!).

Lastly, put a load of padeyes around the boat. My kid knew the meaning of "clipped on" before he ever heard of "Barney the dinosaur". A clipped-on kid can't slide off the boat in a broach, and in fact will learn to associate Mummy and Daddy's strained exertions with great humour. "Boom goes BOOM! Ha ahhahhahhhhahha! Helm's a-lee, Papa!"

GreatWhite 03-19-2009 12:54 PM

We have not full time cruised yet. We just finished 3 weeks on the boat with a 3 year old and a 5 year old. A truely awesome experience. Now looking back, in all the photos the kids look sooooo happy in every single photo. The passages were not really the part that was most enjoyed by the kids (although seeing a huge school of dolphins sure was an enjoyable experience!) But beaches, the dink and fishing where the things the kids loved.

I agree that kids can cruise at any age, if the parents feel comfortable. There are definitely unique challenges with each age that comes. (We have lake sailed with our kids since babies)

Personally I am waiting until our youngest is 5 years old so that he can remember our cruising, as we likely might only do it once. For us the trip is really about the kids after all... (although sailing was my dream to start with.)

We are spending the next couple of years planning, refitting, learning, practicing, taking shorter trips, lake sailing and getting the kids planning the trip too so they know it is THEIR trip as well.

Of course the kids are learning too, life jackets on docks and deck at ALL times, tethers when out at sea (we use jacklines all the way up and down the decks.) One hand for the boat - one hand for you. Going down the companion way facing the stairs. Etc Etc...

All the best and good luck!

UrbanChicago 03-19-2009 09:39 PM

Thanks for the comments. One thing we hadn't considered was a toddler never sitting still and always needing attention. I suppose we'll have to deal with it if the timing dictates.

We certainly plan to take the baby out on Lake Michigan this summer/fall and next year as well, so we will learn about safety and other requirements for dealing with a kid on board.

bubb2 03-19-2009 10:54 PM


Originally Posted by GreatWhite (Post 463975)

Of course the kids are learning too, life jackets on docks and deck at ALL times, tethers when out at sea (we use jacklines all the way up and down the decks.) One hand for the boat - one hand for you. Going down the companion way facing the stairs. Etc Etc...

All the best and good luck!

I have had the misfortune to jump in the Hudson River after a 3 year old who fell off a boat with NO Life jacket on. I got hold of the kid and everything turned out fine.

I Can't agree MORE!

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