Asleep at the wheel
Join Date: Sep 2011
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I'm relatively new to sailing - a few lessons, a decent amount of time on rented 14's at our local lake, and am now the proud owner of a new-to-me C25. I also have two boys, ages 5 and 3. I can tell you that there's no way I'd consider doing what you're proposing, at least not in the next 2-3 years. We are probably very different, so take my comments with a grain of salt, but here are a few things to consider:
1) sailboats move slowly - how far is that trip? Assume you'll make 5 knots (if you're lucky) as an average speed; how many days' travel is that?
2) time in a confined space is a killer for small kids - you're going to be living in a space that has maybe 300-400 sq ft (including the foredeck and the cabin, though you should probably think very carefully before allowing a 3 year old on the foredeck, especially alone while underway) of usable living space. That's for three people, and all the "stuff" needed for a several week trip. How will your daughter occupy herself during that trip, especially on rainy days when she's stuck below deck?
3) single handing - you'll really want at least a 25-30' boat to make that trip (family will really need that space, and the stability associated with the bigger boat), but the problem is, the bigger the boat (in general) the harder it is to single-hand. Your wife and you will likely be trading off the kid-patrol duties, so one or the other of you will be doing most of the sailing single-handed.
4) safety - your wife and you (presumably) have the coordination to handle a swaying boat underfoot; does your daughter? How will you handle if she gets sick while you're out at sea? Adults can "tough it out" and care for themselves a lot easier than kids can, and it can be VERY scary when something unexpected happens to your child, especially a 3 year old.
5) sailing isn't easy - you can't just hop aboard and go; it isn't a power boat (unless you're going to motor). It takes time to accrue the knowledge/experience you'll need to make that kind of trip.
Now with all of that in mind, I want to stress a) I'm not saying don't do it, and b) it's a very romantic idea and has a lot of appeal to me, too. What I would consider, instead, is taking lessons and owning a small boat (14-20') for 2-3 years. Build your competency in the local conditions first, and hone your skills in those boats under different weather conditions. By that point, your family and you will know better whether you'll be able to tolerate each other for a multi-week voyage where everyone is confined to a small space, and you'll give your daughter more time to grow up around boats, learn where she can/can't go, how to sleep on a boat, how to walk on a boat, etc. Plus, at 6 or 7, she'll be older and more self-sufficient, which will make for a more enjoyable experience for all three of you. At that point, if you're all game for the trip, by all means, go for it. Get the right safety gear, a bigger boat, etc., and have a go at it. It would certainly be memorable (another reason to wait until she's a little older, so the memories will linger longer), probably be a lot of fun, and hopefully you'll have developed the skills to make the voyage safely and without any major problems.
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