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jobberone 02-26-2013 11:22 AM

Raising very young children
My son wants to join us on our first sailboat which will likely be a cat. We are planning on sailing the Carribean for a year until settling down probably Panama, Belize or Costa Rica where we will still use the boat. The baby will be several months old. That makes me nervous.

I guess this has been done before so I would like all the input I can get.

jimgo 02-26-2013 03:34 PM

Re: Raising very young children
So your son and his child will be with you aboard the Cat? Did you have a question about raising kids (e.g. your grandson/granddaughter) on sailboats? If so, you might check with CruisingDad to get his feedback. He usually has some great information. He'll probably weigh in here, but if he doesn't, I'd PM him.

jobberone 02-26-2013 11:06 PM

Re: Raising very young children
Thanks for replying. I have a lot of questions many of the first ones revolving around safety but I'm open to an open discussion. Since I have no experience living onboard I have a great deal of questions with no experience to filter with.

jimgo 02-27-2013 12:00 AM

Re: Raising very young children
Well, since no one else is responding, I'll at least keep the conversation going in the hopes that one of the "regulars" will see the thread. I don't live aboard, but that doesn't make me any less concerned about safety for my kids (7 and almost 5). How old is your grandkid? If less than 2, you'll have it somewhat easy in that the baby won't be super mobile yet. So, that means you can keep him/her in sight most of the time. Sure, he/she can crawl, but you'll pretty much always know where the baby is. Once they hit 2, though, things change a LOT. You're dealing with someone who will be fairly stable on their feet, and who will want to explore every nook and cranny. Baby proofing will be a must. On the plus side, though, much of baby proofing would be advantageous on a boat - you're ensuring that cabinets close and lock, that things like bug spray and motor oil are stored safely so they don't spill, etc. The bigger issue will be loose wired that are tucked behind something, or just hanging down - those are very tempting hand-holds, or teething toys.

One real advantage of having the baby/toddler aboard is that you get them used to the boat, and the boat's rules, from the start. No being on deck, or in the cockpit, without a life vest, especially until he/she can swim. We stretch this a bit, and when we're at the dock, our boys can come into the cockpit without their PFD's, but they can't go forward without one even at the dock. We had lifeline netting on our old boat, and I'll be ordering some of that for the next boat when we get it. The netting is NOT a substitute for good adult supervision, and you should never rely on it. But it sure is nice to know that it's there, because accidents happen in an instant, and always at the worst of times.
Now that the boys are getting older and getting better at swimming, and now that we're getting a bigger, more stable boat with a larger foredeck, we'll be letting them go forward when the boat is underway, but I'll be running jacklines and they will be clipped in. We have the Mustang life vests with the crotch strap for them, and they always wear it completely zipped/snapped. I'm leaning toward adding a mil-spec strap through the back of the life vest so that any forces from their fall are dissipated through the vest, rather than just a harness. I think that's less likely to result in broken/bruised ribs than a harness.

The big thing, as with any child in any space, is to ensure that the baby has room to play, explore, and roam, including off the boat. It's an important developmental time for the baby, and you want to be sure it is as rich as possible. But, realistically, the 40' boat is going to have something in the neighborhood of 300 or so square feet of living space, plus an 8x10 "patio" (cockpit), and a swingset/playground (the spinaker halyard, forestay, etc.) - that's as good or better than some apartments in big cities. So it CAN be done.

Cruisingdad 02-27-2013 12:31 AM

Re: Raising very young children
Please give me a day or two to respond. Sailing south.

jimgo 02-27-2013 12:36 AM

Re: Raising very young children
Wow, you're really usin that tired old excuse AGAIN?!?! ;)

Safe travels!

jimgo 02-27-2013 10:20 AM

Re: Raising very young children
I just came across this and thought you might find it interesting:

jobberone 02-27-2013 02:26 PM

Re: Raising very young children
Reading with interest and passing along to my son.

Cruisingdad 03-06-2013 10:12 AM

Re: Raising very young children
Nice writeup Jimgo. I pretty much agree with everything.

Sailing with young children is actually pretty easy. Boats are already pretty kid-proof. Exceptions are: Electrical panels and switches, companionway, and electric heads.

Some people attach a locked cover over their switches that prevents the kids from touching them. Just a warning that mine were attracted to them until the learned the rules. Not sure there is anything there that they can really hurt or hurt them, but it is frustrating to find out your nav lights had been on all day!

The companionway kept me awake at nights. At about 3, they can crawl up the ladder (sometimes younger). If you can find a way to secure the companionway, that would be best. We had nightmares of our boys crawling up through it and slipping out when we were not looking. That being said, it NEVER happened with either. Neither even had much of an interest. But it still bothered me. Of note, the only times either of my kids have accidentally fallen in the water was at the dock.

I have no reason why, but my boys were attracted to the head. They loved to throw things in it. On one less than memorable occasion, Chase threw in a tiny matchbox car and beganst to macerate it. The result was a trip to the marina and a bucket until them. I was NOT a happy camper. Most of these you can turn off at the panel until they learn not to touch.

Definitely go with Mustang vests with the crotch strap and head flotation. The jackets float the child right side up and give you a strap to grab them with and pull them up without them slipping out the bottom. Kids will not like them at first, so you know. They even look uncomfortable. But taking them off is not an option unless they want to stay below. That brings up another issue: heat. When you sail south, you will have a problem with days that are very hot and little wind. Fans only help to a point. I think you should consider an air conditioner and if you are cruising, a generator. Others get by without it, and that is fine. But for us and how we spent time on the water, living without a generator would put us at the docks.

You will need a good place to put the child where they can play in safety. For us, it was the Vberth. We fashioned a "crib side" across the head of it and patted the rest with cushions. It worked very well and as the v berth is generally the coolest part of the boat, also helped with the heat issues.

What other questions can I answer? I am happy to help.


jobberone 03-06-2013 12:39 PM

Re: Raising very young children
Thanks Brian. Nice of you to respond. I'll pass this along to him. Next time we talk I'll get any questions he has.

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