CD I'll participate in this.
We had a baby in March 2006, Little Luis. Now 15 months, and we have Fred, soon to be 10 YO, and a good sailor.
Every year we cruise for about 2 months, or better, we live aboard for 2 months and cruise the Southern coast of Portugal and Spain. I modify my boat for that purpose in June, so cruising is more confortable for the kids and wife, I even have a Lazy Bag and an ugly dodger, to provide shadow for the kids, and shelter for my wife against the wind. (other than that its useless, ugly and heavy).
Can't beat the hapiness in the kids eyes when they go inside the dodger, or "the tent" as they call it. (I admit taking a nap there every now and then).
So I think, before going inside the cabin, and describe what is best for us, or what works best for us, a good decent size (ugly) dodger is a key item. A Bimini is also important. I don't have one (thank God) because my rig does not allow me to have one. Besides, I think it would fly off, anyway..BUT, when we're not sailing I rig a canvas under the boom, covering the whole boat from the mast all the way back top the back stay. If we go sailing, its easly removed. We're all happy with it.
I also rig a Brasilian Net bed (don't know the name in English Hammock???) for the kids to use at the end of the day as a play thing. If adults are using it, I rig it on my spinnaker pole.
Last year, we spent August and September at sea with both kids. The baby was the "chalenge" which in the end was not a chalege.
He was 5 months when we started, and later 7 months old when we finished. it. He must have loved it too!! He's my son!!
First thing was a life vest, those with a thing behind his neck, to keep the head out of the water, otherwise with the diaper floating he turns around and drowns. Must have a handle to pick the bugger up should he go overbord.
Later a friend, a very good friend, but a poor sailor,and very uggly too, gave my son a Mustang life preserver that he now uses.
Second SUN BLOCK, lots of it factor 1.000.000.000 gazzilion, because even with cold air they get sunburn. We used factor 60 in summer. All good, but apply at least every 2 hours, because Luis would eat it of his skin.
We also got one of those cloth chairs, (see in photo, in front of the port wheel), so that he could be outside while we were sailing. It was attached to the floor so when heeling he would be confortable, and not moving around. The chair was moved inside for feedings, and when we needed him still while we were doing something else. Sometimes he felt asleep on it and it was ok, so don't go cheap on his chair. However, remeber, it must be securely attached to the boat, BUT easy to remove should you need to abandon ship.
Get a lot of kids toys and hang them where he will be most of the time. Luis loved the end of my ropes and kept them moist for me most of the time!!!
For his bath we got an inflatable tub!! We have hot water in the heads so if you don't have hot water, get a heater.
We got him several pillows and he used to sleep first in his cot, and because he was 24 lbs then!!!, he was too big, so we covered one of the aft cabins with pillows and sheets, so he could move around. In case of bad weather, my other son would go down with him and keep him company, but he allways felt asleep in bad weather!! Pulls after his mum.
Remember, when alone they move, so cover everything where he might hit his head, with pillows, lots of them.
That was last year. this year he has his own bed room in the boat, I covered the floor with pillows and his bed with all kinds of toys. When he is sleeping I rig a net from West marine so he does not fall from his bed. He learnt how to get out of his bed, but so far only while he is awake. When sleeping he stays inside!!
We got a nice beach tent for him and a sun umbrella, and we only go to the beach after 4 pm, when the risks of the Sun are less.
We used to carry gallons and gallons of water for his bottles, and I allways kept them bellow his bed to keep the water cool. My wife got a blender, and used to make his soups at the marina because it is 220V, then keep them in the refirgerator in small flasks. This year I bought a 12V blender in the USA. So that is also done.
Get him a spare hat, they fly off really easy. And insect repellent.
Sometimes we would cry, and my wife used to get him on a marsupial bag, see photo. This one actually floated!!. She could then seat confortably with him, while we sailed.
My son was too small to move around, but for my other one, when he was small I covered my boat with nets on the railing.
He never stopped us from going anywhere, so do that to yours or you'll regret it later.
Sometimes we would give him RUM, but he would allways fall asleep at the wheel, when it was time for him to take the boat, so he got fired.
And occasionally he was allowed a girlfriend or two so we had a litle boat filled with water to cool them off!!!
remember this. Its a family trip or holiday, not just yours, don't be selfish and want to sail or do only "your" things.
Everyone on the boat is entiteled to do his/hers thing...many days the wind was perfect for a sailing day, but..the kids wanted to play or swim or anything else. Living on a boat is almost 100% of give and take, if its only take take take...you end up alone.
Keep the kids happy, do fun things for them, like this...
Let them drive...
Use the life vests...
and let the wife rest whenever she can....your holidays will go by like a charm...
Visit desert islands and bury treasures...do treasure hunts like I do with my kids...(of course you need to go bury the treasures at midnight, while they're sleeping,) but in the next day, I would leave an old map of the treasure in a bottle, and pretend it was attached to my rudder....they love it.....I would let them find the bottle, and retriev the map...Thre treasure?? Candy, (remove the wrapers, they're not stupid, and crappy stuff I bought in fairs...
I let my kids use the dinghy, after they proved they can row and know how to get by with the engine. Safety first. Fred is at ease in the water, so he drives the dinghy...its his job.
You can't imagine the joy of a child when he finds a treasure and it contains a whistle!!! (thanks Val!!!)