Cruising With Children Pt I
Introduction & What it is Like
Many apologies to everyone on the delay in starting all this. My life has not been my own since my wifes accident, so this has had to take a back seat. I actually have some time now and would like to start this thing off.
Before I begin, I want to say a few things. I do not in any way portray myself to be the expert on Cruising with Children. I may have a lot more experience than many folks on this site, but there are MANY who have a lot more experience than me. I have not circum'd with my children and have not crossed any great body of water with my children. Truth is that I really have no interest in doing so anyways - at least at this point.
My experience with children is such: Christie and I have been sailing well before we had Chase (my oldest). After Chase's birth, we never gave it up. He was actually out sailing with us 5 days after his birth. With some pauses inbetween, he has spent a good chunk of his life on a boat - and continues to even today. He feels very comfortable on the boat, or any boat, and can spout off bow from stern from port to sheet to T-hull- etc. He is currently 7 years old, but I must admit that he is not as avid a sailor as many children are at his age. You would think it would be different, and that may be my fault. However, part of his responsibility is to keep an eye on his 3 year old brother (Glen) who enjoys antagonizing him at times. However, much of that has been changing lately and he even helped sail our boat last weekend. He is getting there.
We lived aboard and cruised Florida for the most part. It is a nice area (without the hurricanes). The interesting thing about Florida is it can be a crash course in some respects: the water south is VERY shallow and there seems to be a pretty nice storm about every day in the summer. You can almost set your watch by it. As such, Kris and I have weathered a lot of strong blows there - many of them offshore. We have run aground more times than I could possibly count. We have rode out one hurricane on board (not by our choosing - but that is for another thread). Before you get too scared, let me also say we have also seen more wildlife than can be mentioned. Some of the immediate ones that come to mind are black tips (sharks), tiger (sharks), a whale (believe it or not), many manatee, bald eagles, manta rays (a huge one once), sea urchins, sea horses... the list goes on beyond what I have time to write.
Living aboard in general will almost force you to become more in tune with nature. If it does not, you live in the wrong place or need to get out more often. It seems, at least to this dad, that sailing and cruising by nature allows you to leave the confines of observers to being a part of their world. That is probably the best way I can explain it. It is like diving - the fish do not swim from you as you are now one of them. In turn, you learn to take pleasures in the simpler things in life. You are often content to walk beaches in search of some new critter or hop in the dink and motor for hours into some unchartered mangrove (my favorite). By its very nature you become closer as a family (you have no choice).
I learned to relax and find myself while sailing and cruising. Chase and Kris did too - each in their own way. I can confidently say that most of the very best memories of my life are on the water. I can also confidently say that many of the worst were on the water too.
I would like to tell everyone that it is nothing but sunsets and family game nights, but that is not true. It was not for us, at least - nor anyone I have ever known that raised their kids on the water. Life is life. It has its ups and downs. By confining that to 40 feet or less, you do not relieve pressure - you add to it. Think for a moment about when it rains. What do you do? I will tell you: everyone gets confined down below and it gets old pretty quick. I have noticed this was less so with one child than two - but still just one issue you should consider in the reality of living aboard with children and/or cruising with kids. I will discuss this more later.
I also feel it is prudent to touch on the REALITY of children on board a boat (especially living aboard and cruising): When you put your children on something that can sink (which could very possibly take their lives), your level of responsibility and concern goes up exponentially. I have heard the argument that taking your children cruising is less (or no more) dangerous than them going to school everyday. I don't buy it. There were many times we were so remote that we were beyond any kind of timely assistance. Not to mention - your car does not sink. I am not here to debate this point. You can feel however you feel, and that is fine. I simply need to state the obvious that it has a danger factor and there are considerable risks in taking children with you. I have asked myself what I would do if something serious happened to my child while cruising. I doubt I would forgive myself. I doubt you would either. If that reality has not haunted your dreams a few times or given you pause, then believe me: IT WILL AFTER THE FIRST SERIOUS STORM OFFSHORE. You need to come to grips with that before your boat leaves the dock.
Then why do it? WHy go cruising with children?
Every dad and mom have their own reasons, I guess. I cannot tell you this is the right reason or the wrong reason. I sure cannot tell you this is the only reason. I can tell you what our reason is: Life. We feel it is a lifestyle that exceeds the risks. We feel we expose our children to things that very few adults ever get to see - and even fewer children will ever see. I feel that many of natures miracles and the world around us is changing and dissaperaing faster than we can keep up with. I feel that the world I show my kids today may not be there to show them tomorrow. And it is a beautiful world. THere are so many beautiful places, beautiful people, and breathtaking things to see and be a part of. Believe it or not, there really are still places where condos do not line the beach and fish thrive in haromny on reefs. That is why. And you know what? I get to be there with them... exploring it with them... being a part of it with them. I have been blessed with a chance to take my children somewhere many/most children (and adults) will never in their lives get a chance to see. What is that worth to you? It is worth the risks to me. WIth careful planning and the right attitude, you can make it worth the risks to them too.
That at least, is what we believe and why we do it.
This is the first part to discuss many of the issues and concerns that were raised in this thread:
I will try to continue to write them. I urge anyone to jump in and feel free to add comments as you feel appopritate. This is meant to help people and give some realities to living aboard and cruising with kids. We can have fun with it.
Nice writte up. I agree with you, specially on the "when it rains" part.
We had 2 days of that, and the kids were getting really bored by 1 pm...
One big concern I had in my month of cruising was the fact that my youngest, Luis, learnt to climb the companion way stairs, and often would surface outside in the cockpit.
Within a week, he could get in and out of the cabin on his own, which caused serious problems. My transom is quite open, and the access to my cockpit and deck are not very difficult to transpose, therefore we had several moments where the guy could have fallen overboard when we were anchored (as when we're sailing he either fell asleep and went inside or was tethered outside).
This created a problem, at anchor one of us had to be on the lookout 24/7, it gets old and tiresome after a week.
I rigged nets and stuff, but it was never enough..he could allways find a hole and surface outside again...
He felt once down the companion way, so the part where he lerans to grab for life was naturally provided to him...he now knows better and grabs strongly.
We also had the problem....PFD...were we going to have him dress it all the time?? or not??
We opted for PFD on the baby only when we were moving, and if you know my boat you will understand it makes double sense, as I would be 100% ocupied with making the boat move, Giulietta would look aftert the baby, and Fred reliefed both of us when needed. This, limited our sailing times and passages, to a maximum of 4 hour sailing everywhere we went. Luis is heavy and Giulietta would get tired of holding him after 1/2 hour. Sometimes he would fall asleep and we could move....
Its the best thing in the World to cruise (for short periods of time, as I don't agree doing circum's with children and dogs, but that's another story), with your kids, and CD is right its very enriching...it is also very tiring and requires 100% of your time...
The sunset dream never happen...(or lasts 5 minutes) you need to dedicate your time to the boat, the wife, the weather, AND the kids...how big is one's attention span, before an accident happens??
I was happy as a dad can be for spending the month with the kids, but with Luis on board...I was at the limit of my mental and physical strenght....it will change when he grows up...but by then...it will be something different...
There will allways be something between you and the "sunset" dream...I just thank God its my kids....
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