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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 02-16-2011
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Your experiences with a baby and a boat

Hi there,

So we own a modest 19' open bow power boat. We've always thought about learning and obtaining a sail boat but we think of it as a 5 year plan.

Yesterday however I came accross a potential opportunity to swap an even trade with our boat and a 25' bayfield.

Our son will be 6 months at the start of this season.

So, what are your experiences with that age group and beyond?


I figure, if we changed course and got a sail boat (obviously, classes and additional research is given), I would be at the helm leaving my wife to care for our baby.

We feel that, because the sail would be under way nearly the entire time and that a sail boat tilts and shifts it would be difficult for her to take care of our baby, let him sleep in the cabin when tired without holding on to him etc.


What are your thoughts on that? give us your stories of your best and worst days out.


We would be day sailors, sail around in the morning/afternoons, and also fishing.
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Old 02-16-2011
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We raised our children on board since their birth. We still sailed; however, we were aboard at thw dock too. We practiced the old axiom, "You can't fall off the floor", frequently with infants and, of course, we also made sure higher items couldn't fall to the floor. Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 02-16-2011
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A Bayfield 25 would be a nice, gentle intoduction to sailing. With one small child you'd have a pretty good setup for a while.. learning the 'ropes' and it's an easy boat to singlehand (essentially) with one person primarily child-minding.

Non toddlers are actually easier to deal with than toddlers. They sleep more, more content to sit/lay in one position for a while, and can't yet get themselves into potentially worrisome places. Add a good leecloth to one of the settee berths and he/she'll sleep contentedly and safely while you sail along. Babies that age don't get bored, aren't scared of 'new' situations and as long as their needs are met there's rarely a problem.

Once they're more mobile the challenges get bigger, but are totally manageable with some forethought. Our 3 year old granddaughter is totally content to play in the V berth while her parents are doing a local beer-can race - they holler 'tacking' below and she scoots to the new low side and continues to amuse herself. She's been sailing since she was a week old.

Starting at this young an age is truly best... they grow up with it and don't know any different. Introducing 6, 8, 10 year olds to sailing is much more difficult. They can be frightened, bored, confused by the environment... kids that grow up in it - it's just normal.

Typically it's a bigger issue for the parents than for the child.

As kids grow they need more space, and you have a built-in rationalization for the occasional bout of '2-foot-itis' as you look for a larger boat. With luck they'll grow to love it and carry on as adults, as our son has done....

Good luck!
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As strange as it sounds, our son, from around 5 to 8 years old, would spend hours "sailing" his one foot plastic boat towed by a string off our taff rail. For that age, imagination trumps the real world! I could put him at the helm for a watch if I taped the cardboard core of a paper towel roll to the bow pulpit so he could site through it and fire upon suspect clould formations. There's plenty for a child on a boat. Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 02-16-2011
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Glad to hear so many folks had good experiences with babies on boats, as I'm in a similar predicament to the OP, except I've already got the boat.

For us so far it's been satisfying Mommy more than any concern about the baby herself. Mommy is worried that the interior of the boat does not provide any comfortable place to feed her or change her or for her to sleep in. I admit that the dinette layout doesn't really answer well in this regard, but I think either the v-berth or the dinette berth with a lee cloth might work.

Anyway for one reason or another, our 5-mo old has not been aboard yet. Looking forward for the variables to line up soon to convince mommy to give it a go.

One thought I've had: we use a front carrier most of the time for transporting her around. We use public transit and it's way more convenient than a stroller. I think it will come in handy on board as well, as it keeps your hands free. I wouldn't go up on deck in anything but the gentlest conditions, since it can throw off your balance, but tending sheets or helm should be fairly easy. Also a baby kept close to her parents feels more secure and confident, so I think she would get used to the novel situation more easily.
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Last edited by AdamLein; 02-16-2011 at 08:53 PM.
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Old 02-17-2011
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I have 1 year old twin boys who were out on our 27 foot sailboat starting at 5 months. Like other posters noted, they spent most of the time in their infant seats and though our sails were shorter than they used to be it generally worked out quite well.

We always go out with at least three adults (usually me my wife and a grandparent) so there is one person for each kid and one for the boat. I'm a bit more nervous about the coming sailing season because of the toddler factor, as noted by Faster. The kids don't sit still any more (ever!).
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Old 02-18-2011
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Nat was 1 at the time of these pics.Now, at 6, he wants to live aboard again more than Mom.
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Old 02-18-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamLein View Post
Glad to hear so many folks had good experiences with babies on boats, as I'm in a similar predicament to the OP, except I've already got the boat.

For us so far it's been satisfying Mommy more than any concern about the baby herself. Mommy is worried that the interior of the boat does not provide any comfortable place to feed her or change her or for her to sleep in. I admit that the dinette layout doesn't really answer well in this regard, but I think either the v-berth or the dinette berth with a lee cloth might work.

Anyway for one reason or another, our 5-mo old has not been aboard yet. Looking forward for the variables to line up soon to convince mommy to give it a go.

One thought I've had: we use a front carrier most of the time for transporting her around. We use public transit and it's way more convenient than a stroller. I think it will come in handy on board as well, as it keeps your hands free. I wouldn't go up on deck in anything but the gentlest conditions, since it can throw off your balance, but tending sheets or helm should be fairly easy. Also a baby kept close to her parents feels more secure and confident, so I think she would get used to the novel situation more easily.
We are vastly experienced in this field........now being the proud parents of a 2 week old
However I can attest that the front baby carrier(we have a baby bjorn) for me is an absolute miracle onboard.

Prior to our daughter I have had other infants onboard and have found the same thing. It makes getting in and out of dinghies, going up and down companionways etc, actually just about anything quite easy. Being careful not to whack a head here and there I have completed most sailing functions(inshore) with the bub attached.
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Last edited by chall03; 02-18-2011 at 06:26 AM.
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Originally Posted by chall03 View Post
We are vastly experienced in this field........now being the proud parents of a 2 week old
However I can attest that the front baby carrier(we have a baby bjorn) for me is an absolute miracle onboard.
Great to hear that things have worked out for you. A comment about the Bjorn, though, which we have/used/loved for the first couple of months with our daughter (now 6 mo). Eventually (don't remember exactly when, the Bjorn gets to be too small, as in the part that she sits on is not wide enough to support her weight properly. Once her legs are hanging down, it's no good; you want her legs to splay out sideways as they would if you carried her on your arm. Unfortunately as you adjust the Bjorn for a bigger baby, the seat actually gets narrower.

We've switched to an Ergo, which has a super-wide seat, but one major downside: it buckles in that spot right in the middle of your back that it's hard enough to reach as it is. You can't put it on or take it off while wearing a jacket, unless you're wearing it over the jacket, but one of the great things about carriers is you can keep the baby under your coat. Come summertime, I expect the Ergo to be a lot easier to use.
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We took our now 16 month old sailing when she was 2 weeks old. Both mother and baby seem much more relaxed on board. We would use the front carrier when the baby was on deck and use the car seat when she was down below unattended. I wedge the car seat in the quarter berth so it was easy to get to, well anchored in place, and safe for the baby. My daughter rode out some pretty rough weather in there.

As said before infants will sleep most of the time. We found that changing an infant on board was not an issue... except for storage of dirty diapers. That one is rough on an overnight trip in the summer.

My wife said the only place she was comfortable when she was at 40 weeks was on the boat. She fell asleep as soon as the sails went up.

I can't wait to get the boat going again this season and to get the family back out.
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Last edited by nickmerc; 08-18-2011 at 07:23 AM.
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