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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 06-27-2006
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Kids & Jack Lines?

My diabolic plot to get my family sailing is really working . Two years ago, I began talking to my wife about sailing. "Not until the kids can swim", she said. Last year, I subscribed to "Cruising World" in her name! This past weekend we just completed our 2 day Basic Keelboat training - hee hee!

Now, we need to practice. Should we practice by ourselves a couple of times ($200/trip for 1/2 day rental of a Capri 22)? Or just take our 8 and 6 year olds with us? They are raring to go. Would you let kids this size sit in the cockpit without being lashed to a lifeline or a jackline? I want to make sure this is an enjoyable trip for all. Is it too difficult to watch the kids and sails? Would straping them to a lifeline help or hinder the situation?

I feel comfortable taking the boat out (I used to be a foredeck monkey 15 years ago). However, docking with an outboard and tiller is little anxiety inducing. That said, I'm sure I'll do fine. My wife is feeling "good" with her training, however, she says she'll feel more comfortable going out again.

Advice is appreciated. I want to be cautious but not paranoid.

Thanks.
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Old 06-27-2006
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If the kids can swim... I'd take them. Just make them wear PFDs and they should be fine, and have a blast. They are about the age I was when I learned to sail... I plan on taking my nephews out, and they are three and five.

If you explain to them what to do, and they're reasonably well-behaved children, unlike some that are out there today, then they should be able to sit and help out as human ballast, without getting in the way.

Make sure that the children KNOW they have to wear their PFDs whenever they are on the boat—even at the dock.

I think having them strapped to a jackline, especially in a boat as small as a Capri 22 will make them a hindrance. On a larger boat, I would recommend jacklines and tethers, especially as larger boats are not as manueverable in the case of a Kid-overboard situation—and may have a lot more freeboard, making a recovery much more difficult. If you do use a tether, please use one that hooks on the back, not the front. This will prevent the wave they generate from moving through the water from drowning them—and make it far less likely that they will detach the harness themselves.

Please note, I am assuming that you are only going out with them in relatively fair weather, as a Capri 22 isn't really designed to handle the nasty stuff...and you'd have to be out of your mind to take your kids out in it in bad weather.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 06-27-2006 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 06-27-2006
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Safe and Simple

I took my small children (all grown now) sailing with me for years. I was usually the only adult on board and therefore, I was the one wearing a harness. The kids, by law in most states, must wear life jackets when above deck and that is how we sailed. We never had an accident other that the day I took off my harness as we approched a marina then promptly fell overboard. My 7 year old steered the boat into an empty slip while dockboys caught the boat.

I kept the boat on its feet. On days when we had a heeling wind, I reefed or used main only. Sometimes we motored upwind then ran back to the dock.

I often anchored in shallow water and let them swim off the boat so that they would develop fond memories of childhood sailing. We also cooked on-board.

My son took a sailing couse when he was 8. The first thing the instructor did was to have all the kids capsize their boats to demonstrate that a capsize doesn't mean disaster if you are prepared (lifejackets and orderly cockpit). These little cat boats had no running rigging to tangle in. One kid steered while the other held onto a 2 foot line hanging from the aft end of the boom. Good way for kids to learn about the force of the wind and how it makes the boat move.

Hope you have fun - we sure did.

Max
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Old 06-28-2006
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If your family is keen to go - just do it. We took our son sailing the first time when he was 18 days old - he never really had a choice about it. By the age of 6/7 he was a capable rower, and started sailing his own "opti" style dinghy.By age 11 he was racing with us and at 15 we were confident enough of his abilities to allow him to take our boat out with some of his (approved) friends. Now, at 24 he is a boat owner himself and a sought-after crew various local race boats in addition to racing at major events out of town.
Your children are the perfect age to start out, and if they are eager you should have no problem keeping them focused on the boat and on safe practices. Unless the weather is really snotty I'd pass on the harnesses but be sure they have the ability to stay on the boat and use common sense moving around ("one hand for the boat, one hand for the job" sort of thing)
The biggest impediment I see to young families starting out is the parents' lack of confidence compounded by their concern for the children. This can lead to overreactions to essentially normal situations.
As mentioned above, take it easy, pick your weather, and sail conservatively to start. Giving the children real jobs to do (tailing, skirting the jib, steering when appropriate etc.) will make the experience all the more rewarding for them.
As far as gaining experience, try joining a group/club or meeting sailors. They will often offer rides and the experience that goes with it. For yourselves, getting taken on as crew in a local racing fleet is a great way to learn. (Though at first the children may not fit in with that plan - not til you get your own boat).

Bottom line, though, if everyone is in favour of doing this, don't delay. Find a way to make it work!
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I agree that the kids are old enough and must wear a PFD at all times. However I would not take them the first few times you and your wife go sailing by yourselves. There are a few things you need to work out between the two of you with out worrying about where the kids are. Plus you MUST, MUST practice man overboard drills singled handed before you take your kids. You and your wife need to get confident that if one of you goes overboard the other can retrieve them. You need to be cool and collected or you will scare the heck out of the kids. Now if the child goes over you need to be even more collected while your wife screams or both of you scream :-)) (just kidding kind of).

Once you are comfortable with man overboard and docking and handling some strong winds together then take the kids and they will feel your confidence. If you are not they will feel that also and the tears will start and they may never go again.

Your kids are not to young to be on the boat but hey are impressionable.

John
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I recommend that you go with your wife for a couple of times to get used to the boat.

Then write down a few things (standard procedures), where each member is assigned what to do. If wind is calm, however i would go with children.
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Old 06-28-2006
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I agree. If the kids make things more difficult, your wife might be ready to cash it in. However, if you go out and have a good time, then she knows what a day on the water can be, even if the kids make things difficult the first few times out.
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I would also have your wife take at least a basic sailing course, so that she can be able to handle the boat should anything happen to you. You might fall overboard, get seasick, etc.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 06-28-2006
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My folks took me sailing for the first time when I was tiny and I loved it from the beginning. I only recently bought my own boat, but my brothers used to sail those little Sunfishes when they were still fairly young (I think around 10). My mom taught us to swim right after we learned to walk!

Also, we never actually fell in, but had lots of fun anyway. And, our parents always made us wear the PDFs even though we hated them. You might also want to have your kids learn basic water safety like different ways to float until they get picked up should they fall in. My mom was a stickler for this and although we never needed to use these "survival floating" techniques - it just gave her peace of mind and your wife may feel the same.

ENJOY!
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Old 06-28-2006
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There is another thread on this site that really addresses this issue in detail. I commend you to that one. I think it has to do with reefing sails for kids. I cruised with my ex-wife and then 2 year old for a year. We used jack lines and put a water-skiing type PDF on my daughter. (It was more comfortable for all day wear). I then took a nylon tie with a clip on one end and tethered her to the jackline. We also had netting up. So she was free to roam the boat and we felt much safer.
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