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Cruising and Sailing with Children All things sailing and kids related, from safety to life aboard.

Thread: Seeking advice: How to sail with young children...... Reply to Thread
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  Topic Review (Newest First)
06-13-2010 12:57 AM
My experience with three 5 and under

My first boat was a Bristol 22; at the time I had kids aged 5, 4 and 2.

My wife was not a super-confident sailor, but a great mate.

Here's my experience:

a) The kids LOVE IT. They are incredibly enthusiastic about all things boats and boating, and it's fun to be part of. The two year old started out on watch duty, looking for lobster pots, and the five year old learned to steer her first summer on the boat.

b) You'll need to figure out some rules that work for you all: ours were: cockpit or below only, always below during tricky maneuvers, serious unquestioning obedience to the skipper (bears repeating with children), PFDs in the cockpit at all times, no futzing around on or near the ladder -- up or down only.

c) If it's family-only sailing, you're going to want to be able to singlehand the boat if you have to, and possibly just when the weather is getting bad. Ideally, your wife will be able to as well. Which brings me to my main advice:

Enjoy the Hunter, but get a friend who can sail with your family; that will reduce stress and increase safety in a major way. Both you and your wife should log some hours and classes alone, without kids, and get comfortable with each other before you introduce kids into the picture.

If you're going to be fighting over the provenance of your children while underway and in a pinch, you're seriously endangering your family. Like, heavy winds, serious roll, sails aren't reefed yet, rain and hail coming, two kids down below vomiting -- you both need to be on point and kicking ass above decks, and ignoring the kids if one of you can't take care of all that alone. So, don't do put yourself in that situation! Get settled and comfortable together first, add a third person if need be, and enjoy yourselves!

p.s. See if you can get that Hunter rigged for singlehanding.
06-05-2010 08:06 AM
Umm.. Cool

So... Is the question: "my kids are this old, is it a good idea to buy a cool sailboat?". The answer is yes. Sailing rocks. Great idea to start the family sailing.
Or, is the question: "Im thinking of getting a 20-30 keelboat. I know zip about sailing. Should I take my kids sailing on this boat right away, as I learn to sail?"

The Answer is no.
Start slow. Go sail that boat first.
OR bring another guy, besides you and your wife.

It won't be fun to take that boat out with just the wife and kids - at first. Take the kids after you discover what it is to sail that boat.
Seems too complicated to start all at once.

It won't take long until you know what you don't know. Shortly after that you will know how to safely bring you kids. You'll also know what the heck I'm talking about.

Sailing rocks. Good idea to get a boat - is my opinion.
Be safe.
It'll be good. Ease into the whole thing.
06-04-2010 05:27 PM
CaptainForce There are risks as there would be with children on the farm or in the city. Our children were sailing from infants to adulthood. We thought we were doing well with the life jacket rules, but we were shocked and surprised when a loop of our main sheet lifted our 2 year old son up by his neck during an unexpected gybe. I was able to quickly support his weight and grab the sheet between him and the boom. He was fine, but we had to renew our rules, - no child aft of the main winches. The point is to expect the unecpected and don't limit yourself to concern for the water. Big moving parts are a great concern. Take great care and joy, Aythya crew
06-04-2010 03:29 PM
you get the drift

I hope you got the drift.
Buy the boat now and enjoy sailing with the whole family not 2 - 3 years from now.
Hey 2-3 years from now they (the kids) might not want anything to do with sailing as the will have developed other interests.
My 7 year old could run my twin screw 32' cabin cruiser better than his mother after watching me for two years and having him being involved his 2 year younger brother at that age the same.
Now at 24 and 22 years old they still love boating and even give up smart phones for a couple of hours to go sailing with or without mom and dad.
Of course keep overall safety in mind.
As for your original question use an electric auto pilot and tether the kids to keep you comfy for the 5 minutes it takes to get the sails hoisted.
Good luck, have fun, buy the boat and happy sailing.
06-04-2010 06:35 AM
chall03 CD, it is interesting that you say lifeline netting didn't really work for you. I know families that would be aghast at having young kids on a boat without it.....

umm I guess if the kids are always tethered in the cockpit, and when at anchor well if you know they can swim.....then maybe there is not a huge case for it.....

What about when they were at that 1-2 years stage of being somewhat mobile, were you ever concerned at anchor??
05-17-2010 09:51 AM
Cruisingdad We bought it but never used it. It can be a tripping hazard. But it might also be helpful depending on where and how you sail and whether your kids can swim. If it makes you feel more comfortable, use it.

05-14-2010 07:00 PM
r1texas Congratulation for the Hunter, and I'm sure you'll all love her.

I got my lifeline netting from Great Boat Gear Store and the price was 1.45$/ft for a 24" high last summer.
It was the cheapest that I found at that time and it looks great.
05-14-2010 05:14 PM
manhattan08 Thank you everyone for your input. Just an update on our boat search:

We have now purchased a Hunter 285 and it is scheduled to be delivered to our lake next Wed. My family is very much looking forward to the boat and spending many great days on it and possibly an overnight when it isn't so hot outside.

Once question I have is where would you recommend buying lifeline netting? I found a place called that seamed to be reasonable. Anyone have any feedback on the lifeline netting that they offer?

Many thanks,
05-14-2010 04:19 PM
my experience with kids

I've been owned a 31 ft sailboat for 1 year and we use to sail with our 3 boys (5, 3 and 1).
First, I will say that it's important that you prepare your boat to be able to sail her by yourself. You should always have one adult free to take care of the kids.
We also added a lifeline netting, which confort the kids and my wife...and we define rules: safety jacket when on deck. Except for the little one (1 year old) because he couldn't handle it: The life jacket for baby don't fit very well and they can not we found an other solution using a baby harness attach to the cockpit. Using that he doesn't cry anymore...
We also added a net in the stern cabin to avoid the baby to escape and roll around when he sleeps.

Then as others said, it's important to make the trip funny. We didn't have problem during summer because we used to sail few hours, then moor to let the kids swim, and back when they sleep. But we tried few times last winter and they didn't really enjoy it. They like to be on the boat, stay over night, use the tender, swim around the boat, but no to much sailing...So it's a bit frustrating for us...but they are kids...
The big one is very proud when we let him take the wheel and he does a good job when the wind is light.

An other tings that we did is to buy toys that stay on the boat. So each time we come they are happy to play with them. As we have a computer we also allow them to watch a DVD...And they really like to stay for the night on board.
02-23-2010 12:35 PM
hazmat17 Lots of good advice given. given that you and your wife are both novices - the I would like to add some perspective from my personal experience.

My wife and I just bought our first boat last season a Freedom 28. I grew up sailing (30 years experience). My wife knows how to sail & handle a "big boat" but she is not 100% comfortable yet. We have 2 young girls - currently 4.5 and 1.5. (4 and 1 last summer)

Being totally sterotypical here - Women's maternal nuturing instincts when coupled with a lack of experience/expertise/comfort in boat handling add a level of complexity to the process.

For example - if the "baby" is upset, crying, hasn't eaten etc. Momma's natural tendancy is to focus on the kid, not the boat. If Momma isn't an experienced sailor this becomes very stressfull for Momma. And we've all heard the saying - if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

The way we've gotten around this problem is to always have extra crew aboard -even a landlubber can keep an eye on the kids for you, freeing you up to focus on learning to sail.

Also the boat choice, or how its rigged can affect your happiness. The freedom with it's self tacking jib and all lines led aft is truley a single hander even w/o an autopilot. Something to consider -skip the genoa if you are short handed, consider leading key lines/halyards aft.

Lastly - consider the first couple times heading out on the boat leaving the kids at home with a sitter or relative so you can get your bearings.
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