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  Topic Review (Newest First)
08-18-2006 04:12 AM
Kids sailing without being able to swim

Conventional wisdom has it that swimming ability precedes seamanship. On the other hand, PFDs are originally designed as aids, not flotation substitutes. This stands for children and adults alike. Hence, my intervention is meant to push you to another direction: you can’t believe how easily and fast kids learn swimming – I personally admired my eldest daughter’s swimming endeavours at the age of six … until my youngest one proved a real dolphin when she was just four years old! Isn’t it true that if you combine swimming knowledge with sailing skills, then you can fully enjoy being the master at sea?
08-16-2006 10:32 AM
Cruisingdad My youngest was on our boat at 5 days old and grew up on it. My next oldest (2) would rather be on the boat than his bike.

Do both. Teach them to swim AND do the sailing lessons. One does not preclude the other. As far as the tipping over or turtling, I agree. It will be an issue. If you plan to go ahead, just don't buy some piece of junk WalMart life jacket. Get a real childrens life jacket that works. Here are our personal requirements and the jacket we use:

1) Head float. It is a large piece of material behind the head that forces them head up and face up. What good is a life jacket if they can float face down????

2) Zipper AND snap. A good childs life jacket should have a full zipper and snap together to almost act as a suit.

3) "Crotch Strap". Sorry folks. I am sure there is some kind of technical term for this, but I don't know what it is. Basically it is a solid, snap in strap that goes from the back to the front (between the legs, so they cannot slide out of the jacket).

Our personal favorite: Lil Legends. You can see it on the West Marine web site.

Sailnet also sells one but I am not familiar with it:

Now, all this being said, IT IS YOUR CHILD. IF YOU DO NOT WANT THEM TO DO IT, SAY NO. THese are just the opinions of various people and their experiences. Also, my boat(s) with the exception of our dink, were much bigger than this and WE were there, not someone else.
08-16-2006 02:53 AM
Jumping to speak

I will no doubt incur the wrath of some...but this is, in my opinion, nuts, folks. Read the Tipping Point. Maybe it was Freakanomics. Swimming pools are 100 x more deadly than handguns to kids. [and I hate handguns] 85% percent of all drownings occur when adults ARE watching the kids...

Most lifejackets do not inherently keep the head above water. Only the ones with the added portion, behind. Life is going to be pretty miserable for the parent, and there are plenty out there who have experienced this, who has to watch their kid panic, or god forbid, go under, when things go awry...from the dock. And who among us hasn't had a sail when things didn't go as planned? I remember racing as a kid on a laser, two people, and we buried the nose doing about ten knots....flew about 30 feet.

Glad I was comfortable in the water.

I love the water. I love sailing. I love diving. And I wouldn't consider teaching having my kid out there by himself unless he was very comfortable in the water, could paddle and/or swim. As a matter of fact, my kid's in 8 weeks of swim lessons as we speak, because we think it's a priority. He's going with his best friend, daily, and generally having a ball.

Forcing a kid to do a talent show is one thing. Forcing a kid to play piano for years is another. But swimming lessons...I wouldn't even give that pause.

This is a lifelong skill that, statistically speaking, is probably as important as wearing a bike helmet. More than that, it's a skill that ties in naturally with sailing. I spent 4 years sailing through the South Pacific. How sad it would have been if I couldn't have snorkled through those perfect 84° waters. An entire aspect of the trip, I would have lost.

Parent in the boat, teaching? Fine. Otherwise, my suggestion, emphatically, would be that your in-laws should spend the money on swim lessons, poste haste.
06-08-2006 11:07 AM
Surfesq My 5 year old has been sailing the Chesapeake with us since she was a newborn. We used to strap her car seat in the cockpit and take her out with us. She cruised New England for 3 months at 2. I started teaching her to sail on a sunfish last summer and she loved it. I think she is a bit young to do the group sailing thing right now.
06-08-2006 10:10 AM
S/V Delphinus My eight year old is also starting sailing classes this summer, my younger one will start next year at 6. However, as soon as the kids were old enough (3), we signed them up for swimming lessons. It is my belief that any child in and around the water should be taught at least the basics as soon as possible. This does not take the place of PFD's by any means but it gives them more control should something happen. I would not keep my child from the sailing lessons, however, I would definitely be signing them up for swimming lessons too. It will make you and them feel better.
06-06-2006 08:33 PM
paulmcquillan EDIT: I just read the VYC BC program you are asking about. The entry level for your child is two per boat, so their expectations are a little lower that what I describe below. Work in some swim lessons and it should be grand.
Our club runs one of the largest sailing programs in California (maybe in the west coast). Each class is 50+ Optimists, 10+ Lasers, and a couple of FJs. Instructors in chase boats.

Swim test (two laps of the club pool) and PFD are required. No exceptions.

Starts at age eight. On day two of the program, each kid must capsize and sink thier own Opti, and then refloat it. How is a non-swimmer going to get their boat back if it's five to 10 feet under?

We put our 4 year old in swim lessons during pre-school and summer camp. On his first visit to the club at age 5, he swam the length of the pool. Mom tried "just swim the short way to the little ladder in the middle." He said "NO -- I can go the long way." Jumped in. And did.

Try putting your child into three or four weeks of daily swim lessons. try asking Gma to take him so it gets done before his sailing session. It's a blast.

Sailing lessions for ours:
#1 son 5 years, (races with dad)
#2 son 4 years (likes Laser's, not the family boat)
#3 son 3 years (races with dad)
#4 son - chomping at the bit (races with mom & dad)
05-24-2006 11:03 AM
bigbeam Lanny
Our son started sailing lessons two years ago when he was 6 years old and I cannot say enough about the experience. Firstly, I think your kids will have (should have) very close supervision and I don't think the instrucutors would let them out unless conditons are ok. I would say our son had weak swimming skills when he started but was certainly comfortable jumping off the dock with his life jacket on. I think any time you can get your kids around water in a supervised environment is excellent as it will build their self confidence (especially with no parents present which sometimes hinders their growth).
In his first year, our son sailed by himself across the lake and back (about 1 mile each way) and this in itself with a tremendous boost to his self confidence.
I suggest you go down and meet the instructors and see what they are like, discuss your concerns and then just go for it!!! You won't regret it.

Post back and let us know how it goes.

05-22-2006 03:23 PM
Originally Posted by Chompy
Every parent has to make their own choices, I suppose. I can tell you my daughter wouldn't set foot in my boat until she could swim. Of course, she's got little say in the matter since we're starting her on lessons in a couple of weeks.. when she hits 6 months of age. :P
That is your choice... I would rather not see a child forced to do something that is not absolutely necessary if they are dead set against it. I know several adults who do not participate in water sports because they were forced to "learn" how to swim when they were children and no refuse to go near the water if they can help it. Some children really just don't have any interest in learning how to swim... and it really isn't necessary for a sailor to know how to swim.
05-22-2006 01:08 PM
Originally Posted by sailingdog
My experience is that some kids just don't want to learn to swim...but still may be interested in learning to sail.
Every parent has to make their own choices, I suppose. I can tell you my daughter wouldn't set foot in my boat until she could swim. Of course, she's got little say in the matter since we're starting her on lessons in a couple of weeks.. when she hits 6 months of age. :P
05-21-2006 08:43 AM
jmdelbello It has been my experience as a parent that a swimming test is required before sailing lessons begin. I have two children sailing Optimist boats and every year they must swim 50 ft off the dock, retrieve their lifejacket, put it on and swim back. It is state law here in NY that all children under the age of 14 wear a PFD when on a boat. Consider swimming lessons at a local Boys & Girls Club or YMCA this summer.
Just an FYI...The club where my children sail, taught them to "turtle" or capsize their boats. They learn how to get out from under the Opti and to turn it back over and bail. It is an important lesson, because if a wind blows them over it decreases the fear and panic.
Good luck with your decision.
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