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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest Forums > 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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Old 10-21-2006
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Question Live Aboard, how do you keep the kids from drowning?

We (wife, self, a 2 year old and a 3 year old) are looking at moving aboard a 40 foot cat. Most time would be spent at the T-head, with occasional sailing(day trip, once a week), at least thats the plan now.

Question to others who have done it is how do you keep the children from drowning? I have read the articles about living aboard with kids, but I couldn't find anything about how its done day to day in a slip. I would certainly plan on tethering them underway, but what do you do on a day in day out basis in the slip? As you know, it is impossible to keep an eye directly on them 24/7 (my opinion).

I read one sentence stating that "the children grew up in life jackets". Makes sense, I just wonder how practical it is. Can it truly be done, is it worth it? We will be in an area where the water is cold, short time in before hypothermia.

The kids love the water and they are not afraid of it, we take them swimming and they enjoy it very much, but they are not really at the point yet of bobbing up too well once going under, especially the little one, but we're still working on it.

So, any advice/experience would help, thanks.
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Old 10-21-2006
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It's a question of discipline and attention, really. It's hard to tell kids "OK, you have to put on your life jacket as soon as we get out of the car and keep it on until we leave the docks again" when none of the big folks are doing the same thing. (If there are kids around, I try to *do* just that, so they can see an adult is doing it. And if there are kids with us, I lead by example.)

And it helps if the kids can chose a comfortable PFD that looks pretty to them. Yes, cartoon characters, colors, all that stuff, there's style in PFDs these days. I don't believe in logos but I think I'd exploit that one.

It probably also would help--if the kids are old enough to talk and understand--to take them into the water, off the docks, and be there with them to let them see just how hard it can be to get back out. And then explain how nasty that can be when the water gets cold, so they understand *why* you want them to do this. (Without scaring them.)

24/7...well...in parts of Eatern Europe the kids do in fact wear harnesses when they are out with the parents. You'll see Mom sitting having coffee at some cafe, talking to other adults, and totally ignoring the kid on the end of an 8' lead. In the US you might get arrested for that but until the kids are old enough to understand why they can't run out in traffic, or run with scissors...
Meanwhile, perhaps a nice water rescue dog, like a Newfoundland, to watch over them on the docks?
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Old 10-22-2006
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I like hellosailor's idea of a large water rescue dog...but I'm also partial to newfies...

I don't think that requiring them to wear PFDs 24/7 or keeping them on a leash is really the appropriate way to keep them from drowning. I grew up playing around docks and the water, and having to wear a PFD 24/7 would have driven me crazy.

With toddlers, like your 2 & 3 year old, having them wear PFDs, and keeping them limited in where they can go is probably an excellent idea, but once they are a bit older, it isn't going to work as well. The fact that you have a catamaran makes this a fair bit easier, as the large bridge deck/saloon/cockpit gives them a fairly decent area to roam about in, yet can be closed off fairly well, to prevent them from going forward or falling off the boat.

In generally, once children are older than six or seven, they can usually handle themselves around the water and follow basic guidelines pretty well, better than many adults I know. If you have some basic rules, like you must wear your PFD if you're on the docks/boats at night or in bad weather, and the like, but aren't too rigid and require that they wear them 24/7, it is far more likely that they will listen to the rules.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 10-22-2006
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How did we forget Velcro?

A two foot wide strip around the side decks and patches on the bottom of their feet & behinds, and they'll never fall off the boat. (Works great for adults on race boats, too.)
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Regardless of how careful you are, accidents do happen. My advice would be to ask yourself - Is it really worth the chance of risking the safety of children just to satisfy a dream?
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K1vsk-

Accidents are just as likely to happen at home. Car accidents are pretty common too... Is it worth sacrificing a dream for the possibility of an accident happening...when the accident may happen even if the dream is sacrificed?? I don't think so.

Cleanup-

Take some basic precautions... teach the kids to swim and to respect the water...but go sailing... Life is too short. I've learned this the hard way... my late wife wanted to go sailing with me, but her cancer killed her before she could go.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 10-22-2006
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I have two kids and they are 4 and 8. I was kind of loose on the rules of the Pfd up till one day. All were getting stuff on the boat as well as ourselves. I was on board recieving goods and people when I looked back and saw my baby girl slip backwards into the lake with out a pfd. I never moved so fast in my life. I managed to pull her out... she was scared but ok. Hell I was scared. Now I have rules and I am more cautious. Don't give up the dream just be a good sailor... an ounce of prevention.....

I was lucky. Good thing she likes to swim now and is enjoying it.
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Old 10-22-2006
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Another option

Thanks for all your input!

Wife wants to know if you're serious about the dogs...

I know what you mean about is it worth the risk, certainly couldn't forgive myself if one of them drown, and it seems like the risk would be higher living on a boat than on dry land. Point taken about auto accidents, or getting hit by a bus, but the actual risk of death seems higher to me living on the water.

We are also considering renting a room on shore, where wife and little girls could take refuge from the PFDs, and be able to run around a bit without being tied down.

Good Day
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Old 10-22-2006
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jac-
Absolutely serious about the dogs. There's a newf working beach rescue in England now (named Bilbo) and another one (Mas) who jumps out of helos in Italy with a rescue swimmer. The French, for purposes I've forgotten, actually did tests to figure out that one Newf was sufficient to pull one lifeboat with 20 people on it. Dunno why, maybe because a Newf supposedly was launched to rescue Napolean when he fell overboard way back.

The dogs were once "standard issue" at the original US lifesaving service stations on the east coast, and they are still trained and worked in competition for water rescue skills. They're also very good with children, which is why they were sometimes called "Nana dogs" and why the original "Nana" in Peter Pan was a role inspired by and written for a Newf. Of course, doggie brains being doggie brains, even the best doggie Nana might let the children fly away with faeries, there's a lesson to be learned about hiring cheap help I suppose.

Newfs were bred to be kept on boats, often literally in a closet or locker, so they tend to be very mellow in nature. A kid can pull out their tongue, tie it to their tail, and eat their dinner and the dog will usually make no protest, somehow they understand that no harm is intended. A most unusual breed, bred for this type of role, although there's a certain amount of hair and slobber that comes with having double-coated livestock around.

Check out http://www.newfclubne.org/ one of the clubs that does water trials.
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I'd agree that the Newfies are one of the best breeds for water rescue, and make wonderful, if large, family pets, due to the very docile and good nature of the breed. I've yet to see an agressive Newfie... they're gentle giants.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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