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Old 01-18-2008
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Get a cheap pair of binoculars for each of them...I mean like $10 plastic ones... and send them forward (tethered, naturally) to "officially" identify birds, nav markers and other boats. Get the five-year-old to I.D. possible collisions by teaching the usual "if the relative angle isn't changing" rule, and to give you info via the "boat at 10 o'clock, 10 boat lengths".

Basically, give them a boat job, whether it's needed or not. Also, under benign circumstances, let them work the boat for real. I let my kid (now 6 years old) round up in eight knots of wind because it won't damage anything and he gets to see the relationship between sail set, course and sheet tension.

In light air, even a child can hold a sheet, and in my admittedly limited experience, once a kid feels that sheet PULLING them with every puff, they start to think the boat's alive in some fashion, and they take a far greater interest.

Just remember to put in a stopper knot...
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Old 01-18-2008
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Small inexpensive plastic kayaks can provide hours of diversion and seem impossible to tip by the younger set. And they get a good laugh when Mom or Dad roll the thing over trying to get in off the stern ladder!

A sailing dinghy once they are 6 or so (with limits on conditions to start, of course)

If your children love to read it's a godsend for the long, drizzly days and the longer trips when there's not a lot to do. There is a real good selection of nautical childrens stories. Current favourite for the young ones is "How I became a Pirate" and "Pirates don't change Diapers" - Melinda Long. Great books to read to little ones. Encouraging them to read early works well.

1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"

".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)
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Old 01-18-2008
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Fishing rods my 6 year old girl loves to fish. Bubble blowers are fun when sailing. She has her own ( red floating) winch handle she loves to sail. A basic book of knots and some rope she loves to practice and show everyone how she can tie knots.
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Old 01-18-2008
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Kids sized hammocks.

trust me on this. The old netting type hammocks that can be easily hung anywhere on board...
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