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wright1d 07-06-2009 02:27 PM

Need tip(s) for sailing with kids
My wife and I bought a 31ft boat this year & for the most part our 4yr old does pretty good when we go out but our 1yr old does not like the life jacket and always seems to get stuck on the boat when its around nap time then will not go down for a nap. My wife seems to get stuck with the kids most the time while I handle the boat (she is not very conformable navigating the channel & traffic yet). Needless to day she is not having a lot of fun while we are out! I'm looking for some tips on what folks have done that worked well with small kids as I'm starting to think without a babysitter our boat use may be pretty limited this year (hoping he will be better when he is 2.5)?

Looking for ways to help make sailing fun for my 4yr old (games or other ways to keep her engaged) and any tips on how to deal with a 15mo old that does not want to sleep on the boat?

Cruisingdad 07-06-2009 02:33 PM

I will get you a reply, but it will be a bit. Hang tight.

- CD

Undine 07-06-2009 03:37 PM

A few ideas from a lake sailing grandma...
PFDs on before you set foot on the dock, the whole family (set example). They stay on except below in great weather. Our grands got used to them (reluctantly). A safe corner, visible from the cockpit, with "car toys" (stuff that travels and can be played with while sitting). This would be mostly for the older child, but you could set it up with a space for the younger one as well. Go out early for short sails to be back at dock for nap to help the little one adjust to sleeping on the boat and let Daddy give Mommy a break.

And, yes, get a sitter occasionally! Your wife will probably not make any progress in learning when she has her mind on the kids.

JohnRPollard 07-06-2009 04:18 PM

We had three kids under the age of 4 when we bought our first boat (a 24 footer). The best advice I can offer to you is to take it slow for a while.

We would motor or sail downwind under jib alone to a very nearby destination/anchorage -- just a couple miles, often not even that far. Then we'd anchor up to let the kids play and nap. We would set up a large Rubbermaid bucket in the cockpit, filled with water, for the kids to play in with toys, etc. Bring along plenty of simple games and toys (the "make believe" kind). Kites are fun too

That first year, we did not go very far. The furthest we went was for an overnight in Annapolis (about 14 n.m each way), toward the end of the season when the kids were more acclimated and it wasn't so bloody hot for them in the life vests.

Speaking of life vests -- we have found that Mustang (Lil Legends) seems to make the best fit for kids. But the REALLY little tikes have trouble getting used to ANY pfd.

We found things greatly improved in most respects when all of our kids were past the wobbly toddler stage, i.e. when they got to be pre-schoolers. Hang in there.

P.S. We have some good threads on this subject already. A quick search should pull them up. They contain a lot of useful nuggets...

BradleyK 07-07-2009 10:12 AM

Get your 4 year old an Optimist dinghy for the beach/harbor/marina. Spend time with your 4 year old in the Opti. and get them hooked on the joy of sailing at that level first.

gimmellsdad 07-07-2009 11:00 AM

All great advice so far. We have two kids (5 & 7) both of them are already taking an interest in the water. The rules on our boat are this, pfds are ALWAYS on while we're out sailing, no negotiating on this.

Try and keep your 4yo engaged as much as possible with sailing terminology as well as water safety. I sometimes even make ours tell me port or starboard when we're at

Also, we try and keep our sailing short and sweet as to not let them get bored.

My 7 yo is just learning the wonders of the Opti....She's going to sailing camp and loving every minute of it! Hoping she'll be ready to crew on our H28 sooner than later :D

That's just humble advice from a sailing dad.

BarryL 07-07-2009 02:00 PM


When I started sailing in 2003 my kids were 9, 5 (daughters) , and 2 (son). I wish I had magical advice for you, but I don't. My oldest never liked the boat and still doesn't care for it. The middle one is OK with the boat. She loves swimming off of it but gets bored on trips longer than 2 hours. My son does like spending time on the boat, sleeping, fishing, swimming. None of them have any real interest in sailing. I put them on the wheel from time to time, have them trim sails, try to teach them about sailing, but, truth be told, they are not interested.

I have found that the best way to keep them happy (especially when they were younger) was stops to swim or fish, lots of snacks, and things like that.

JohnRPollard 07-07-2009 02:48 PM

The sailing dinghy suggestions are sound -- I've been a broken record on that one for years here -- but I'd say you have a little wiggle room yet given the age of your kids.

However, I'm not sure I'd recommend an Opti as the best choice. On a 30-odd footer, you really don't have the luxury of carrying two dinghies. The sailing dinghy needs to serve double (primary) duty as the tender. While they are certainly favored for youth sail-training programs, an Optimist pram would not be my choice for a tender. If you go for a sailing dinghy/tender, I would suggest you take a look at Dyers, Walker Bays, Eastport Prams, etc.

Your elder child is already old enough to learn the basics of rowing, and in a year or so will be ready for sailing. This is where the ratio of being anchored to being out sailing is critical -- more anchoring now with young kids to let them play in and around the boat without too much stress for parents. Longer voyages to more distant destinations as they get older and acclimated.

mccary 07-07-2009 04:02 PM

My kid is a bit older now...
She is 37 and lives several states away. But my 2 granddaughters go sailing anytime the weather permits and they are with me. The oldest will be 3 in October so, I am in the ball park of your problems. I make it a fin experience at ALL costs. No long outings, we keep it to about an hour on the water. The last time she was in town we went out with just grandma and Granddaughter and me. The winds were light but we were able to sail for almost 4 hours. Her mom and dad were surprised! She had a great time. But the key is keeping their interests first.

One trick you can do that we did with our daughter was to have a full blown HALF birthday party on the boat. We invited several relatives and they brought presents and a cake etc. That surprise we have later learned was her "Happiest moment on the boat ever", she was 5 and a half! Reserve that for when you are at the end of your rope.

wright1d 07-07-2009 04:34 PM


Originally Posted by BradleyK (Post 503271)
Get your 4 year old an Optimist dinghy for the beach/harbor/marina. Spend time with your 4 year old in the Opti. and get them hooked on the joy of sailing at that level first.

How do sailing lessons with a 4yr old work? How do you make it a game/fun as I'm concerned the attention span is not long enough at this point?

I'm thinking the shorter trips idea is wise (unfortunately it takes us 30min to get out of the channel where we are at). I am still looking for a good place near us to anchor & play on the USA side as most the places we have been told about so far are on the Canadian side (We don't have all our documentation in order yet)?

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