First 3-day sailing trip with 1-year old... success!!!
This past weekend, my wife and I took our 1-year old on a 3-day cruise on the Northern Chesapeake. We also took another couple and their 3-year old, and a friend of mine. We chartered out of Harve de Grace, Maryland and headed to Fairly Creek the first night. We got a slip in Great Oak Landing Marina. The next morning we headed up the Sassafras River to Georgetown and got a slip in Georgetown Yacht Basin.
The weather the first day was very unsettled. It was overcast in the morning and they were predicting severe thunderstorms later in the afternoon. We didn't get out of the slip until about noon. We headed south and the weather looked promising. Looking back to the north, the sky looked somewhat ominous, but the further south we got, the better the weather. The clouds eventually broke and we even got a bit of sun for a few hours.
Just as I began to think we would miss the bad weather to the north, the sky to the south started looking very dark. Then it began to rain. At first, it was just a drizzle, but as we made our way south, the rain picked up and we heard the unmistakable sound of thunder up ahead.
At this point, we were about an hour from Fairly Creek. The boat didn't have GPS so I quickly navigated to the southern-most channel marker before the entrance to Fairly Creek. From there, I checked the chart and saw that I could run due south from that channel marker to the first marker on the entrance to Fairly Creek. It's a good thing I charted our course, because the weather got really bad really quick. Within ten minutes, we were in 50 knot winds with zero visibility. Because the weather was coming up from the south, we were headed directly into the storm. As a result, the rain came in at 90 degrees, which made it extra difficult to see.
As we motored toward the entrance to Fairly Creek, I contemplated heading back out to the Bay to ride the storm out. As we neared the entrance though, the wind began to die down a bit (to about 25 knots) and I was worried that I would get disoriented if we turned around and loose my position. Thus, I made the decision to try to get into Fairly Creek in 25 knot winds.
Luckily, the closer we came to the entrance, the more the wind died down. We ended up making it with no issues and dropped the anchor to ride out the remainder of the storm. After the storm subsided, we pulled up the anchor and headed to our slip.
I was happy that we got the bad weather out of the way early on during the first day because once that storm passed, the weather was great. It was the first time I had been out in the water during a big storm. I had been through a few storms before that, but I was always able to get into an anchorage before the storm hit. It feels good to get the first one out of the way.
Anyway, the rest of the trip was great. We had clear skies and light winds. Unfortunately, we were only able sail the first day because the winds the second two days were too light and because we wanted to get where we were going so the kids could get off the boat. My son was content on the boat, but the 3-year old got kind of ancey at times and really wanted to get to the next swimming pool, which is understandable.
Sailing with kids wasnít all that different from sailing without kids. One of the biggest problems was nap time. My son still sleeps in a crib so we couldnít just put him down below in one of the births for his naps. Initially, we had him sit on my wifeís lap in his PFD for his naps. This was hard on my wife because she couldnít really move with him on her and he wasnít all that comfortable in his PFD. By the end of the trip, we just had him lay on my wife until he looked tired, then we laid him down on the cockpit seat (on a cushion) and kept a close watch on him. The 3-year old didnít nap while we were underway, but did nap down below once we were in the slip and the air-conditioning was on.
Other than naps, my son slept like a champ. Once in the slip, we were able to put him down below in the aft cabin and block the entrance with some cushions. We then just used our video baby monitor to keep an eye on him. Each time we put him down there, he would cry for a minute or two and then lay down and he was out. I was concerned about noise on the boat waking him up, but with the air-conditioning running, the background noise really drowned out any noises made by other people on the boat. At night we hung out in the cockpit directly above where he was sleeping and he didnít wake at all.
The other thing we did that worked well was to use his feeding chair, strapped to a stanchion, in the cockpit. That way we could strap him into the chair and take his PFD off. That worked great for feeding him too. The only problem was that he doesnít really like to hang out in that chair after heís done eating, so we werenít able to keep him in it long.
I did bring the car seat and base with us, but we didnít use it. I wasnít able to get it lashed in the cockpit and I know my son would not have liked to be down below while we were underway if everyone else was up in the cockpit. I thought about just putting the car seat on the cockpit floor by the companion way while we were underway and strapping him in it, but never got around to it.
Generally, Iíd say the 3-year old actually did better on the trip than my son for two reasons. First, my son isnít walking yet but he is crawling and standing. Because of that, we had to keep him sort of restrained in the cockpit, whereas the 3-year old was able to move around on his own more. I think my son just wanted to get down and explore a bit, but that wasnít feasible while we were underway. He did crawl around down below while we were anchored though.
Second, my son is going through a period of separation anxiety where he cries and whines every time my wife leaves his side. Heís actually getting much better than a few weeks ago, but it made him seem unusually whiney since my wife had to go down below a lot and he couldnít just follow her around like he does at home.
I know people generally say that younger babies are easier on a boat than toddlers, but I think a kid that can walk is probably easier to manage than a kid who is crawling and just beginning to walk/stand.
All in all, it was a great trip. We had some excitement with the storm the first day and then smooth sailing from then on. As far as the kids, we definitely improved our routine by the third day, and figured out what worked and what didnít work. Like anything else involving children, it was definitely a learning experience and weíll hopefully be better off next year when we go back for our yearly trip. I posted some pictures below.