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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 05-29-2011
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Daysailing activities for young kids

Our family (Admiral, Skipper, and 4 year old, 2 year old, and 5 month old) started sailing this year through a local club. The boats we use right now are Rhodes 19s. Eventually we'll move up to J-22 and some other smaller cruising boats.

Our sails this year have been short at 1-2 hours at a time. By the time we're into hour 2, the 4 year old is asking when we're heading back. She's still uncomfortable with the boat heeling the slightest bit. I have noticed, however, that minor distractions take her mind off the motion of the boat.

We sail in a harbor that really doesn't have any place to land, other than the club dock, without sailing for something like 1.5 hours each way, so there's really nothing to do but look at the scenery: other boats (waving to them when they go by), buildings, planes, etc.

Does anyone have any thoughts on good activities to keep the 4 year old's mind off of the motion of the boat?

Thanks.
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Old 06-03-2011
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Hi MIT,

If you read my post on "What's Your Biggest Bone-Head Move Sailing?" you will see that I almost deterred my 6 year old from ever sailing again, due to an out of control heel! He has since accepted that Dad will never let that happen again and is back to looking forward to our sails.

Even at his age we get the "When are we going back?" question out of boredom, not fear! So, we try to make him a big part of each outing.

First of all, he has his own "Pre-Sail" checklist and I let him go around and check all the rigging, safety items, etc... itís very funny because he often reminds me of things Iíve forgotten (such as tying the jib sheets!)

Once under sail we give him the tiller (ready to help if necessary), or ask him to "adjust" the jib sheets.

We get out the binoculars and point out items of interest for him to look at on the water as well as the shore, he ALWAYS looks forward to lunch, sometimes we drop the sails and fish, and his favorite activity is to drop the sails and swim off the back of the boat using a dock line to hold onto and, of course, wearing our life vests. Mom usually stays at the tiller just in case.

Sometimes we let him bring a friend, or cousin and he seems much more eager to stay out. As a last resort, we bring his DVD player or PSP (charge Ďem up at home or in the car, sailboat batteries donít last long powering these things!) and he can go down into the cabin with them and relax, or even nap!

We found that the swimming really does the trick though!
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Old 06-03-2011
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Been there (she's 16 now and INSISTED on a sailing birthday party on the boat tomarrow; something must have worked).

* Swim breaks.
* When a few years older, towing a tube, even very slowly, is fun.
* Fishing. Makes no difference what you catch; think small. Carry a bucket to watch the catch.
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Old 06-03-2011
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Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, swimming is out of the question at this time since the inner harbor (need to sail 1 hour + to get out) is downright dangerous for swimming, and the water is 55 degrees still.

I want to get her more involved in getting the boat ready to go and driving. She did a good job here:

YouTube - ‪Prepare To Tack‬‏

I'm also thinking about some "scavenger hunts" that she can do with papers that we prepare ahead. I'll think about fishing. I've never been much of a fisher myself, so that would be a whole learning curve, equipment acquisition, etc...
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Old 06-03-2011
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My two 9 year old girls have to be pried out of the V-Berth as they love making forts down there for their stuffed animals.

Fishing is a really good idea, maybe I'll try that to get them up on deck- at least for the time it takes me to land the fish!
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Old 06-17-2011
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Like I mentioned in the other areas, ocean, island related adventure books, play doh, coloring books or pages from the Internet related to the ocean, have them color dolphins or try to get the Arial cartoon stuff. Legos are great especially the ones related to the ocean.
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Old 06-17-2011
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Folks, he is sailing in a Rhodes 19!!! No V-berth or cabin.

MITBeta, The reality is that the boat you are sailing in is not especially conducive for longer jaunts with small kids. My best advice to you is limit those trips to about an hour or so for now. As the kids grow or their tolerance improves, you can begin to stretch it out.

Now you understand why so many of us spend what we do to have our own boat with a comfy cabin that can be set-up with all the entrapments of family life. It's either that, or much shorter sails in daysailers.
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Old 06-18-2011
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Have them drive - any child 7 yrs old can drive a boat in moderate conditions - they love it.
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Old 06-19-2011
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they make good chum and poor ballast. once upon a time, they were good powder monkies. strap into a boatswain chair for chores up the mast, my wife is too heavy for that.
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Old 06-21-2011
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I discovered on Father's Day that my 4 year old accepts ice cream bribes and will willingly come sailing, even if she has to make noises like she's scared the whole time.
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