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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Cruising and Sailing with Children
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Cruising and Sailing with Children All things sailing and kids related, from safety to life aboard.


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  #11  
Old 10-23-2006
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Well, my experience and thoughts differ quite a bit here, so I will outline them. Our oldest has been on a boat since he was 5 days old. We lived aboard in Fort Myers, Florida. We had 2 dogs on board too (Minature Schnauzers). My kids are now 5 & 2, so I will tell you what worked and did not work for us:

1) The cockpit was off limits unless an adult was up there. We rigged it so it was difficult to get out the doors. At anchor, we are lax about wearing a life jacket in the cockpit as long as adults are there. My youngest (2 yrs old) cannot go forward without LJ, no matter what. Oldest can with supervision. At night, offshore, storms, and anchoring/going in slip, kids wear life jackets or stay down below. The last two are becuase it takes considerable attention from me and the wife and you cannot give two things your total attetnion... but that is up to you.

2) Dogs. I love my dogs. They are great. However, I am negative on dogs on boats. They are more trouble than they are worth. It is like having two more kids. Some countries are very keen on you leaving your pets at home too (look back at other threads). I personally would NEVER consider a dog as even another means to watch my boys. I will tell you the truth: My dogs have gone into the water countless times (which is why Scooter wears a jacket too). Scooters jacket never comes off (and he prefers it that way). Think about what happens when your dog falls in the water. They CANNOT get back on a boat, period. No jacket, goodbye Fido. Also, dogs have to poop and pee. Now, let me ask you this practical question that I did not realize until we livedaboard with kids: Who is going to watch your kids when you take them out to pee (which can be quite a walk if you live in a marina)??? Take them with you? Yeah, right. As our Rhode Island friend (young female liveaboard with kids too) said, "Fooogeetabout it!" WHat about when it is raining? Freezing cold? No, no dogs. You will have enough stress without them.

3) Dogs take up a bunch of room. If you have not lived on a boat before, especially with kids, let me tell you things are going to get real tight. It is not like living aboard by yourself/spouse. Thorw a dog into the mix and things get even tighter.

4) Boarding the boat/docks. That is the only time my kids have fallen in the water. That is the most dangerous, in my opinion. Imagine being their size and trying to board the boat. Now, add in a bag of groceries, two dogs pulling at you, it is raining, the boarding ladder is slippery, you have oil on your shoes from the yard, the boat is rocking... you get the picture. Either leave the groceries in the car and get kids on first or other way around. Just a warning.

5) Life Jackets. My kids are very comfortable in the jackets... and they have no choice. Sorry. That is just life. Your kids will get very used to them. I suggest a Mustang with the crotch strap, zipper, and head float. They are the best ones made for young kids. Once they get older, say 7 or 8 or more, consider an autoinflate (made for kids). Until then, they will be fine. They will sceram a bit for a while, but then you will have to pull them out of them.

6) Life aboard. I think someone made a comment earlier about the dangers of living aboard with kids and their dreams versus yours... or something like that. Don't let someone elses insecurities scare you off. Go for it. If you live your dreams you will be a different parent to your kids. Your dreams will likely change into their dreams too. It will change your life and their life for the better, I promise. There are so many beautiful things to see that you can NEVER appreciate until you live aboard and take your kids with you. I may write a book one day on some of the soul changing experiences we have had, and will have again soon. It is not always pretty and it is not easy... but the best things in life never are. Get out of the city. Walk the docks in the evening. Watch sunsets with your kids from the cockpit. DInk around the other boats in the marina and dream. Anchor off an island and stare out into the sea. The best (emphasize BEST) people I have ever met have lived aboard around us.

7) Some cautions. Just a few words of warning, and anyone who reads this, please do not take any of my comments personally. First, your age versus the age of those around you will be very different. This is not all bad and many of our friends are older than my parents, but better be prepared for a generation gap. None of them will have kids either. It is tough to find other cruisers with kids. Few people have the money, even fewer that have the money will do what you are about to. That will give you some frustrations. Really scout out your marinas. Try and find one close to a park or that has a lot of "grass" room to run around, play blocks, ride bikes, etc. The marina will make or break you. Make a LOT of breaks to the parks or outside activities. If your spouse is not going to work (like mine did not) she will need a car or close proximity to a lot of things to do to get her off the boat with the kids... unless you want her to kill you when you get home.

8) Make it work. I promise you that the first few weeks will be heaven, then reality sets in. Make it work by getting off the boat, taking dink rides, getting out of the docks with the cataman... in other words, a lot of activities.

If you have any questions, PM me. I will be happy to help in any way I can. I am always anxious to see other parents out there trying to make cruising with kids work. And as your wife reads this, tell her, "Yes, it is worth it." It has been for us and has made all the difference since.

- CD
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  #12  
Old 10-23-2006
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Comparing the likelihood of an accident aboard vs that living ashore is incredibly short-sighted (read - dumb). Clearly, accidents happen anywhere and it would be a boring life to live in fear of everything, however, the potential for disaster obviously increases.

Citing stories of couples circumnavigating with children successfully changes nothing other than to prove it can be done which isn't the point.
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Old 10-23-2006
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k1,

If that is how you feel, I would strongly reccommend not taking your kids boating.

You are right, just because it has been done does not make it safe. I also think that anyone who feels that boating with children is as safe as keeping their kids in a traditional home environment is just kidding themselves. I also dont buy the argument that they could get killed on land just as easy. It is not just as easy, but very possible.

Now, all that being said, you have to ask yourself why? Why take them out there? Is it for your dreams? Well, there is always a self-serving piece to it, I guess. But I think it is to show them a world that is beyond the grasp of most adults and even more children. It is to show them THE aspect of humanity, nature and the world that cannot be seen through a television, week long trips on a cruise ship, or the National Geographic. Cruising is a lifestyle, and a very expensive one. But I would take my child cruising every day of their life versus raising them in some suberb of some city in some house out of sight of nature and the world we live in.

It is up to each parent to make that decision, though. A child cannot make it. Most parents choose the path you have seemed to portray. Is that path wrong? No. I don't think so. Unless you are committed to boating and all of the positives and negatives it can induce, it is not the right decision. But for many parents, they feel that which can be gained outweighs that which could be lost. I am the latter - and support and encourage anyone else with kids that wants to come along.

We will see you there...

- CD
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Old 10-23-2006
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Nicely articulated, C-dad. About 2 years ago, a professional sailor was washed overboard and drowned during a gale. He was crewing for a skipper who we know well (Dan especially) and has enormous skills. So this *wasn't* about incompetence. We spent a lot of time thinking about risks, after that.

We concluded that what distinguishes an unnecessary, foolish risk, from an acceptable "the price of doing business" risk is the potential benefit you're seeking when you incur the risk. And that each of us must decide for ourselves what that equation is - how much you value the experiences of living aboard and cruising, and, based on your skill level and cruising grounds, how much of a risk your circumstances represent and how much you are willing to take.

We're with you - having decided that in our case, the possibility of disaster aboard is less than the *certainty* that if we gave up the dream, our sense of diminishement would be its own disaster on land.
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Old 10-26-2006
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We live onboard with our 2 sons now aged 3 and 4, we moved onto the boat when they were 1 and 2. The advice given you is all sound. The trick we found is to start them swimming at the earliest stage. In Australia we started ours in the water as babies. The oldest now 4 loves to snorkel and I take him to about 4-5 feet on the octapus of my scuba. The yougest one is not as competent and has fallen in twice, this was a heart pounding moment for us but he learnt respect for the water from the incident. As a parent you will soon realise your sense of sound is accute to the tiniest splash. One of the first things I did with our boat a 42' is put new railing around with a solid cap rail and mesh. I also have a mesh barrier about 4 feet from the bow so the cannot get to wndlass, anchor lines etc. now. The only gate is on the stern which also has mesh on it and a serious childproof lock. Goodluck you and your children will be greatly rewarded by the experience.
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Old 10-26-2006
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Smile

Welcome Cleanup! We are a family of 4 with a 100 lb. lab that live aboard our Transpac 49'. We are new to this live aboard life, but have spent a lot of time with friends that also live aboard with their 2 children. What has worked for us on our boat (and also our friends' boat) is to have the kids where their life jackets whenever on the docks or on the deck of the boat. By the way, our kids are 7 and 4 years old. They do not have any problem with this rule. It's what they are used to and know we will not bend on the issue. We have the mustang pfds. They work great for the kids. Whenever the kids are playing on the docks we make sure their is an adult with them. Our oldest daughter fell in a couple of weeks ago while fishing and it was no big deal. I just scooped her right out by her life vest handle. We also are in the process of putting netting up all around the boat. When we are underway, we are okay with the kids being on deck. However, if the weather turns bad, we have them stay below.

As for putting children at risk...Any drownings that I have heard of have occured because a life vest was not worn. I don't know the percentage, but a much, much higher number of children drown in pools. I believe it's wonderful to show your children what following your dreams is all about. I believe the "risk" is totally worth it. I could really get on my soapbox here, but I'll spare you all!

Even in the short time aboard, I have seen so many wonderful things come out in our girls. Their curiosity and learning has totally blossomed! Feel free to pm me if you have any questions. Best of luck to you!

Shari
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Old 10-26-2006
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Am I missing the boat... but have you thought of teaching them how to swim and blow a wistle. A wistle they can wear around their neck at all times like jewelry. If they can thread water just for a couple of minutes and blow a wistle, most likely, long enough to be pulled out. This is of course as a back up, children above deck or on the dock should have a life vest on... always.

I have no childhood memories of not being able to thread water. I think I was taught at age two. I was a water baby until my mother took us to see Jaws at age 8. Then not so much... LOL

I'm also presuming that you will have netting all around the boat.

Matthew

PS the closeness that your family will have due to living aboard can far out weigh the increased risks. If I had kids I would home school and sail all over. Seeing the monsters that are coming out of our public schools and traditional housing makes me think your on the right track. I get my god daughter for the summers when she turns 10. We're going to sail.

Last edited by mjname; 10-26-2006 at 08:40 AM.
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Old 10-26-2006
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I'd be reluctant to put a 4-year old on compressed air, even that shallow, yet. Only because I'm not entirely sure they'd be old enough to understand they can never hold that breath if they rotate or surface. Our instructor (who may have been overly conservative, or simply very careful) emphasized that an adult diver (not exhaling) simply rotating from horizontal to vertical position, unless they rotated "about" their lungs, could generate enough pressure change to blow out an adult lung, from a 4-6' depth change.

Matthew-
The whistle is a good idea but I'd file it under "more stuff". That is, nice if it doesn't fall off & away as they submerge. Or they don't panic and forget about it, etc. And as long as they don't toot on it for fun, so people ignore it. People also routinely suggest whistles for open water scuba, and I've got to tell you, unless you are downwind from the whistler? No one ever hears it. But it's a nice way to pacify the guy blowing it.
I like the big hairy dog, despite the ah, collateral damage it brings. Even if all they do is bark, the sound of an upset barking dog often brings help.
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Old 10-26-2006
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BTW, there is a nice training program to teach/certify dogs as water rescue animals. They don't have to be standard water rescue breeds like Newfies or Portugese Water Dogs either... If I can find the link to the site, I'll post it.
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Old 10-26-2006
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I'd like to see the link, IIRC some women in CT is running a program like that.

The advantage of the long-haired breeds is that it is easy for a swimmer to grab into the fur. The Newfs seem to go beyond that though, they are repeatedly seen to "instinctively" turn a victim face-up in the water, then seize a hand to pull them out of it. The webbed feet also help.

Years ago my friend & I conned my Newf off a sandspit (she didn't like the ocean, go figure) and when she finally realize she couldn't climb into my lap and that Massa was simply nuts...she took off for the high tide line and two us, standing, couldn't hold her in with a leash.

Then she settled in to swop and eat sand flies that came to check out her nose. Go figure, doggie brains. (UGH.) Dog, frog, they don't spell so good, sometimes they get confused.
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