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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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Old 02-22-2010
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Seeking advice: How to sail with young children......

My wife and I are fairly new to sailing and have been looking for the right boat for quite some time. We live near a large deep inland lake where we would keep the boat.

After months of searching for the right boat, we found a late 80's 30 foot Catalina at the right price. Last weekend the PO and his wife took us out for a water trial.

In our opinion, we were buying the boat until the po started to hoist the sails. As we watched, it was hard for me and my wife to see how we would be able to hoist the sails, steer the boat, and manage our two children ages 6 and 2 1/2.

As I began to think about this more, I am beginning to question the timing of our purchase. I am wondering if this is a purchase that I should hold off for another 2 years or so.... I don't know what we would do if we were hoisting the sales and my 2 1/2 year old were to fall overboard.

does anyone else sail with young children? If so, how do you manage the kids while you sail?

Thank you in advance for any comments.
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Old 02-22-2010
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The Kid Thing

Sailing With Kids, etc.? Manhattan08, I feel you on this.
-“I am wondering if this is a purchase that I should hold off for another 2 years or so?” Yes>>
-“I don't know what we would do if we were hoisting the sales and my 2 1/2 year old were to fall overboard”: Then a definite “yes”, hold off.>>
-“Does anyone else sail with young children?” Yes, in the past tense.
>>
I feel you on this because I see couples (dads, in particular), wanting to re-capture their sense of freedom and adventure when the kids are your kid’s age. I know, ‘cause I felt the same way.

For example, I saw a dad at the Annapolis Sailboat Show with an infant, and the dad just had to have that catamaran so he could take his kid sailing! NOW! He’s drooling over the boat while the kid is drooling on him.
Resist the urge, you and your wife take classes to make yourself knowledgeable and safe sailors, take your kids to the boat yard and let them play around, while you stare at the water, look at boats, look at similarities and differences. You can learn a lot about small sailboats by talking to people.
When you’ve learned how to sail or become better sailors, and feel safe, and when you can compare the pros-and-cons in regards to boats in the size range you’d consider, then you can make both smart personal and buying decisions.
Keep reading Sailnet to get your boat fix knowing that you have the rest of your life to get good at sailing. In time, you’ll make the right decision for you and your family; a safe decision.

Regarding sail raising, a tiller tamer or auto pilot can hold the boat while you raise the sails and your wife can watch the kids; one solution.
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Old 02-22-2010
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Problems with children on board while sailing start when they don't have something to do. Keep them involved with what is happening. A 6 year old[I use my 5 yr. old] can be taught to steer the boat into the wind while raising sail. Although they may not totally grasp the concept,[difficult for some of us adults as well] they respond to instruction to turn the wheel or pull the tiller to the left or right. It's like having a biological autopilot that responds to voice commands.A 2.5 yr old [I use my 3 yr. old] can hold winch handles while waiting for you to ask for it , help tail a line , read numbers from the fathometer display, or watch for other boats,dolphins,seaturtles, etc.... Although it doesn't seem like much help, it does keep them busy, makes them feel part of it all, and as they grow and learn it will be part of the foundation of their sailing knowledge.I involve my kids in the decisions on daysails of where we go. We have beach destinations for swim call, restaurants they like to sail to for milkshakes, and a fort that fires cannons that they love to be scared by. We started our kids on board when they were less than 1 years old. My oldest with a sail to Charleston from St. Augustine. Feel free to e-mail me if you have specific questions at scott@seaworthysolutions.net
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Thanks for the help Yado and xsboats.

The only thing that is making the decision of putting off the purchase of a boat by 2 or 3 years is that I have a friend that asks me to crew on his 34 ft Catalina at times. There is also an older lady who would like me to crew on her 28 ft Pearson every Wed. night for the local club races.

This will probably allow me to get my sailing fix for the next two years, but I do look forward to the day when I can get my own boat.....
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Old 02-22-2010
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Just be sure that their life jackets fit and are the kind that they can play in with ease.
Also Netting along the life lines (we called that snaking in the Navy).
And if they love to run around, tethered to the boat... A few toys, lots of kids books and envolve them in sailing... as said they can tail a line, hold a wench handle and steer some what...
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Old 02-22-2010
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manhatten,

There are quite a few of us here that have sailed or are sailing with young children. You've come to the right place!

Your questions and hesitations are certainly valid and understandable. But the short answer and good news is: Your kids are a perfect age for getting out on the water.

As far as addressing sail and boat handling under way with kids aboard, you will find methods that work for you. In my opinion, an important part of making this successful is to begin with "baby steps". In other words, start small, acclimate the kids (and yourselves) to the boat before shoving off on an extended trip. Try some short day trips first, for a couple hours at a time.

Maybe begin by motoring around and familiarizing your family with the home waters and how the boat handles/behaves/moves. Next time out, motor upwind for a bit, hoist or unfurl a single sail, point the boat downwind, cut the engine, and ghost along for a while (i.e. don't make your first sail a long beat to weather). Stow sails, motor back. Maybe drop anchor and enjoy a picnic.

Spend your first night aboard at the marina slip/mooring. That way, you can get used to sleeping aboard with a lifeline to shore in case you've forgotten some necessity. Pack quick meals and easy snacks, so you can spend more time sheparding the kids and less time with "chores".

Make sure your kids have and wear properly fitted PFDs at all times when on deck/dock/dinghy. This firm rule will go a long way to easing your nerves, knowing that you will have time to react/intervene if one of the kids goes overboard. In another thread I recounted the sad story of a young family that lost their 2 year old overboard in a squall, who was not wearing a pfd. Learn form this and make the PFD rule ABSOLUTELY non-negotiable. Toddlers especially will fuss about wearing PFDs, but they eventually acclimate if you invest in a good quality/properly fitting life jacket(hint: Mustang L'il Legends).

I will also say that I think you've chosen a great starter boat for your young family. Catalina 30s are the Honda/Chevy of sailboats and it's a good fit for many coastal sailors that are starting out with young families. There are some known "issues" with older versions of that particular model, so be sure to check out the info we have here on Sailnet before completing the purchase (survey a must).

I'm a bit all over the place here. Sorry about that -- in a hurry. I will try to dredge up some old threads where folks have asked questions similar to yours. And I'm sure others will chime in as well.


P.S. Despite what some might suggest, kids and boats go together like milk and cookies. Trust me, I speak from experience. We had three kids under the age of 4 when we got our first boat (two in diapers). Boating is a big part of their life, and has enriched them in countless ways. If you can give your kids that experience, you are giving them a true gift that they'll carry with them all their lives.








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Old 02-22-2010
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The pfd issue was easily dealt with on our boats by letting our kids pick out their own. We wear ours now as well to provide an example to our kids. No "How come daddy doesn't have to wear his?" on board that way.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRPollard View Post
manhatten,

There are quite a few of us here that have sailed or are sailing with young children. You've come to the right place!

Your questions and hesitations are certainly valid and understandable. But the short answer and good news is: Your kids are a perfect age for getting out on the water.

As far as addressing sail and boat handling under way with kids aboard, you will find methods that work for you. In my opinion, an important part of making this successful is to begin with "baby steps". In other words, start small, acclimate the kids (and yourselves) to the boat before shoving off on an extended trip. Try some short day trips first, for a couple hours at a time.

Maybe begin by motoring around and familiarizing your family with the home waters and how the boat handles/behaves/moves. Next time out, motor upwind for a bit, hoist or unfurl a single sail, point the boat downwind, cut the engine, and ghost along for a while (i.e. don't make your first sail a long beat to weather). Stow sails, motor back. Maybe drop anchor and enjoy a picnic.

Spend your first night aboard at the marina slip/mooring. That way, you can get used to sleeping aboard with a lifeline to shore in case you've forgotten some necessity. Pack quick meals and easy snacks, so you can spend more time sheparding the kids and less time with "chores".

Make sure your kids have and wear properly fitted PFDs at all times when on deck/dock/dinghy. This firm rule will go a long way to easing your nerves, knowing that you will have time to react/intervene if one of the kids goes overboard. In another thread I recounted the sad story of a young family that lost their 2 year old overboard in a squall, who was not wearing a pfd. Learn form this and make the PFD rule ABSOLUTELY non-negotiable. Toddlers especially will fuss about wearing PFDs, but they eventually acclimate if you invest in a good quality/properly fitting life jacket(hint: Mustang L'il Legends).

I will also say that I think you've chosen a great starter boat for your young family. Catalina 30s are the Honda/Chevy of sailboats and it's a good fit for many coastal sailors that are starting out with young families. There are some known "issues" with older versions of that particular model, so be sure to check out the info we have here on Sailnet before completing the purchase (survey a must).

I'm a bit all over the place here. Sorry about that -- in a hurry. I will try to dredge up some old threads where folks have asked questions similar to yours. And I'm sure others will chime in as well.
I agree with John completely. My kids were on the sailboat at about 5 days old. We live aboard now.

The kids will get bored at times while sailing... but they will also come to love it. My kids will often sit down below and play matchbox cars or legos while we are underway. If they want, we let them help sail. I would also add that the kids will really enjoy the destinations, especially if you get a tender. Other than motoring around (and leting the drive the tender under your super), you can also get them to the beach to swim. Just remember that sailing all day is no fun for kids - they want to get somewhere and swim or adventure, so plan your trips appropriately.

John and I are both huge advocates of getting kids on the water. Be conscious of weather, learn your boat, get the rules on board down (and be very firm about wearing a Mustang Life Jacket and not leaving the cockpit except with permission), and I believe that sailing can be as safe as anything you will do with your kids.

Feel free to ask questions...

Brian
(two boys, 6&9).

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Old 02-22-2010
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The pfd issue was easily dealt with on our boats by letting our kids pick out their own. We wear ours now as well to provide an example to our kids. No "How come daddy doesn't have to wear his?" on board that way.
My kids were forced to wear a Mustang with crotch strap and head-rest until they could pass MY swimming test, at which point I let them pick out their own jacket. Which reminds me, get your kids to swimming pronto. It could save their lives (whether you decide to boat or not).

Brian
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Old 02-22-2010
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Sailing with kids

Hello,

I stared sailing in 2003 when my kids were 9, 5 and 2. My wife and I were total novices. I had been on a sailboat a few times years ago. I don't think my wife had even been on a sail boat. My first boat was a Catalina 22, a small boat with a good sized cockpit and a small cabin.

I don't know your level of experience, but before you take out the kids, you and your wife should be able to sail the boat. If the two of you are not confident doing that, then you should go out a few times without the kids, preferably with an experienced crew.

Sailing with young kids can be safe and fun for everyone. IMHO, the key is to have reasonable expectations and to pick your weather carefully. The first few times you take the kids on boat be sure that the weather is just right - wind around 5 kts. Before your 'crew' gets on board, prepare the boat by removing sail covers, place cockpit cushions, turn on electronics, start the engine, etc. Then get everyone aboard and motor out. Head to somewhere you will be by yourself. Instruct your kids to sit still for a bit, or maybe send them below. Then head into the wind and have your wife take the wheel (or tiller). Raise one sail (preferably the headsail on a roller furling unit) and then cut the engine. That operation should take less than 1 minute. Now you can call the kids back into the cockpit. In 5 kts of wind, with 1 sail up and drawing, the boat should move in a slow gentle manner. You should have enough speed so that the boat responds to the helm, but doesn't heel, pitch, or scare anyone. Just sail on a beam reach. Trim the sails, steer the boat, enjoy the feeling of the boat moving through the water powered by wind alone. Let the kids crawl around the cockpit, look out over the water, and enjoy being outside. After 30 minutes send the kids below, have your wife man the helm, start the engine, and lower the sail. Head back to the slip or mooring and call it a successful day.

After doing that a few times you can try both sails. Be careful to not go out in 10 kt winds or higher. You don't want the challenge of sailing in those conditions and you don't want to scare anyone with the boat heeling.

It should only take a minute or two to raise the sails and be sailing. Same thing to lower them. If you have an autopilot, use that for those times. If not, and you aren't confident the kids will sit still, send them below.

When sailing, my wife and I agreed that one of us would watch the kids and the other would operate the boat. If the two of us needed to work together, like during a tack or jibe. we would either have the kids sit on the cockpit floor or send them below.

We also agreed that if a kid went overboard, my wife would go in after them, and I would operate the boat. We practiced MOB procedures often (my wife didn't jump in, but didn't help me either).

Personally, my kids could tolerate SAILING for only 30 minutes to an hour before they would start to complain. In the summer we would sail for an hour and then anchor. Then we would swim, eat lunch, play etc.,. After that we would up anchor, sail back and be done.

The next year we moved up to a 28' boat and that was better all around.

Good luck,
Barry
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