I have a one-year-old baby and my husband insists on taking her sailing on the Hudson River. Is it safe for a small baby to be on board a 23 foot sailboat?
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. Without sounding too cavalier, yes, it is safe, but I'd like to qualify that. First of all, is your boat sound? Does it have on board all the safety gear needed? And do you have a reliable means of signalling a distress should one occur (VHF radio/cell phone/satellite phone)? All of these are important questions because it's not uncommon for sudden storms to crop up in your area, so being prudent is the best approach.
There are, of course, other factors. One is the given conditions you're sailing in. If it's windy and rough, then I'd change my answer and say no, it's not safe, but I suspect this is just common sense and you know that already. The other thing is your level of experience. If you and your husband are experienced sailors, you should be all right even in occasionally blustery conditions. But think about it from the child's point of view. Will she enjoy those conditions? Probably not.
I have good friends who took their first child on a 20-mile offshore race when she was just six weeks old. Now these are people who grew up sailing and have beacoup experience on a variety of boats offshore. But that was aboard a J/24, and the course took them out of sight of land for more than three hours. Their daughter is now 15 and sails on the local high school sailing team. She enjoys the sport, but of course doesn't remember any of that early sailing.
I too have a young daughter. She's only six months at the moment and she has only been out sailing once on a 38-foot boat. We probably wouldn't have taken her if it had been really rough, but it was a breezy yet pleasant day. She loved it. I suspect we'll have her out more often in the future, but not aboard anything smaller than 22 feet until she's able to swim. I hope that gives you some guidance on the matter. Here's wishing you the best of luck with your dilemma.