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NauticalFishwife 12-12-2007 12:36 AM

I'm preparing a seminar to present at Strictly Sail in Chicago on Kids/Sailing and safety. I plan on covering basic knots..knowledge of boat...and safety. I'd love suggestions from others who have sailed with children. Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.

starboardyacht 12-12-2007 12:48 AM

try and make it cool to wear lifevests, put funky funny names on the vest (permenant marker) so the kids will want to wear them without being told......
i taught at sailnewport for a summer and loved every second of it....

Faster 12-12-2007 01:35 AM

There are 3 rules:

Rule #1: Stay on the boat
Rule #2: Stay on the boat
Rule #3: Stay on the doggone boat!

Pfds should be 2nd nature - luckily today's Pfds are way more comfortable than those in my childhood.

Get them involved in helping with the boat as soon as possible - make them feel part of the crew, not just passengers, even at a young age. (and even if they just think they're helping!)

Teach them to row early, and get them into a small sailing dinghy as soon as they are able (6 or 7 yrs) Tremendous self confidence can be gained by "skippering their own boat".

Don't yell at them.... ever.

A bit of fishing line, a small hook, and a bucket.... an afternoon's amusement at any dock.

Seek out other cruisers with like-age children - some friends-for-life can be made.

Make sure they are avid readers... much easier to pass those rainy days or long easy passages if they are able to occupy themselves and learn something at the same time.

Swimming lessons so that falling in doesn't scare them, and so they have another fun way to spend a warm afternoon.

Sit back and watch them grow into capable, confident sailors in their own right!

Pamlicotraveler 12-12-2007 08:18 AM

Tie 'em on and go. That's what we did.

sailingdog 12-12-2007 08:30 AM

The "Stay on the boat" rule only really applies to bigger boats... on a 14' Laser, staying on the boat isn't always an option....since they tend to capsize fairly regularly, especially with a relatively inexperienced sailor aboard.

However, wearing PFDs should not be optional for the kids, at least until they're in their mid-teens... A 15 or 16 year old can generally decide for themselves for the most part... but a 5 or 10 year old really needs to be wearing a PFD, harness and tether. But this also depends on how experienced the child is with regards to sailing.

If the kid has been sailing since they were four or five, chances are pretty likely they'll have a good idea of when they need a PFD, harness and tether and when they don't.

It also depends on the boat... some boats are safer boats to be on than others... for instance, my boat is 18' wide with foot high bulwarks on the outer edge of the amas... and sails with 10˚ of heel at the most. We're often out in conditions that would have most monohulls leaned over 30-40˚ or so. Someone on one of those monohulls best be tethered in with a PFD on... but the boom is over six feet off the ama or cockpit level, and no danger to anyone not actually on the cabintop. So, it is pretty easy to stay aboard my boat, even when it is blowing like stink.

I do have some rules about when PFDs are mandatory. Same about harnesses and tethers. If you're going forward or on-deck at night while underway... they're required. I don't like MOB drills, and certainly don't want to do a real one at night. If the weather is bad, and you have to go forward, you are required to be at least tethered, but preferably tethered wearing a PFD.

Staying on the boat is really key. Small kids lose body heat much faster than larger adults, so hypothermia is more of a risk with them falling overboard.

BTW, getting inflatable PFDs makes a huge difference, since they're a lot more comfortable than the big, bulky Type I PFDs, yet provide most of the safety. Don't forget to teach the kids how to check the auto-inflation mechanism and CO2 cartridge. They should do this every time they put the PFD on. Murphy's law says the one time they don't the bottle won't be screwed in or won't be there.

PBzeer 12-12-2007 08:39 AM

Don't forget, that just as on land, you need to make children aware of what is safe. That there is a purpose behind the rules and not just adult authority.

Sasha_V 12-12-2007 09:07 AM

One super-duper-goes straight to the hindbrain keyword that the parents teach the kids and then do not use except in dire need.

A word that means STOP, but cannot be ignored the way kids tend to do with everyday situations when they are pushing the boundaries.

We took the word "Hold" from the SCA and use it on board. If our two year old hears it, he will freeze on the spot, check his immediate surroundings and sit down in the lowest spot that is nearby (usually cockpit floor).

We have only needed to use it once in earnest, but were certainly glad it was there.

The other advice here is also very good and should be taken on board.

kwaltersmi 12-12-2007 12:35 PM

I think it's important to have a "safe spot" on the boat where the kids can go during a stressful situation, a manuever that takes the parent's focus away, or during rough sea conditions. My kids know to go to the v-berth when we're preparing to dock or during other situtations where we can't keep a direct eye on them. I know they are generally safe there for a few minutes while my wife and I take care of things on deck.

sailingdog 12-12-2007 05:30 PM

I like the idea of the safety keyword, but think that it is really only necessary for younger kids. The idea of a safe area is a good one too. I'll be trying both out next year when I take my nephews, 5 and 7, out sailing for their very first time. :) The safety keyword and safe area should work for their father too...

Cruisingdad 12-12-2007 06:21 PM


Originally Posted by NauticalFishwife (Post 236101)
I'm preparing a seminar to present at Strictly Sail in Chicago on Kids/Sailing and safety. I plan on covering basic knots..knowledge of boat...and safety. I'd love suggestions from others who have sailed with children. Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.


Nice to have you aboard. We could probably start an entire forum on this. However, let's see if I can help some:

1) Knots. Clove hitch, bowline, 8. Just let them master those... especially the bowline. Not much a bowline can't do and it is a fun know to teach: The rabbit goes out the hole, around the tree, back in the hole. If you have some older kids, see if they can tie a one-handed bowline.

2) Knowledge of boat. Not sure what all that would entail. Is this from a safety aspect? If not, show them how to coil line with a couple of different methods for stowing the line, wrap a winch, sheet stops, running a winch, cleating a line.

For the older kids, maybe let them whip the bitter end and let them burn it closed.

3) Seamanship. How do you know if you are going to collide with a boat? Answer: mark the boat a fixed point of land behind the vessel. If the vessel is moving ahead of it, you shall pass her to stern. If moving backwards from it, you shall pass the boats bow. If it stays stationary, collision course. I think this is a great tool to teach kids because when in crowded harbors, they really can help watch out.

Rules of the road.

Flag etiquite in domestic and foreign waters.

For fun, let them try and ID some foreign flags.

How to make a Pan-pan or mayday call.

What goes in the head, and what does not. (Our rule is: Do not put anything in this head that you did not eat first). Exception is TP. This sounds grosse, but it is one of the first things I go over with new people (kids and adults alike). I think it has saved many people from having to swim back home.

4) Safety. Lifejackets with crotch straps - with Mustangs being the best. Never touch the panel. One hand for the boat, one for yourself. What to do in electrical storms. How to run a jack line and tether.

Those are some of my thoughts. Let me know if you need some more. Go have fun.

See ya,

- CD

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