Working with a child''s fear of sailing - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 6 Old 01-26-2002 Thread Starter
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Working with a child''''s fear of sailing

Hello to all!

I have come across this incredible opportunity to realize a goal and passion of mine. To sail to the Bahamas for an indefinite amount of time with an expartner/sailor friend. So not only am I able to realize a dream but could possibly reignite an old flame. The timing also couldn''t be better. We plan to ship out within a month and I''ve just learned that I will be losing my job in two weeks with no prospect of another. I''ve also been searching for ways to afford to homeschool my daughter....again this all seems like a perfect opportunity. The problem is 10 year old had a horrible first sailing experience about 3 years ago and has not forgotten it. To make matters worse - last summer I bribed her into taking a small trip with me and she basically screamed the whole time. I need help! I know in my heart that this would be a valuable experience for her and myself on so many levels that I can''t imagine passing it up! I am trying to come up with ways to gradually get her to come around and love the sport and art of sailing at least half as much as I do. Can you offer me any suggestions. Thanks for reading and letting me share this. I welcome any suggestions. Peace - Petra
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post #2 of 6 Old 01-28-2002
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Working with a child''''s fear of sailing

First, I would try to address the reason for the horrible experience that seems to be the sticking point. Is the child afraid of the water? If so, it is doubtful that you would overcome this in a month. You will have to build/regain trust with the child that insure her that you would not put her into danger. If she is afraid of the boat, let her spend time on board while at the dock. This will allow her to get familiar with new surroundings. If it heeling, explain the dynamics of a sailboat in terms that she can understand. Use a model if necessary. There is also an e-mail thread on "heeling Paranoia" that you may want to read. I hope this helps.
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post #3 of 6 Old 01-28-2002
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Working with a child''''s fear of sailing

Hello Petra,

I like you have a passion for sailing and I wanted my daughters to experience it. Unfortunately, my two daughters (middle and youngest) had a bad experience, aboard my friends sailboat. To make a long story short, my middle daughter will not step aboard a sailboat since this accident and my youngest daughter will only to make mom happy. The only way I was able to convince her was with time and training. I enrolled her and my husband and myself into a sailing training school. She still struggles with it, as I was only able to get her out last season for only one sail. So depending on the scope of the "fear", she may never feel comfortable aboard a sailboat. See my web page and look under our old sailboat Fagel Attraction I for the story of her attending a sailing school. Http://

Fair winds,
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post #4 of 6 Old 02-07-2002
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Working with a child''''s fear of sailing

I live and travel aboard and recently experienced the same problem when my 11 year old daughter was sent to live with me. I tried several aproaches but none seamed to work. It worked itself out when she became friends with another girl who is an experienced sailor, perhaps there is someone within your sailing comunity close to her age who could help. Good luck
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post #5 of 6 Old 03-01-2002
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Working with a child''''s fear of sailing

This is a tough one. If your daughter was younger, it would probably be much easier. The person that responded regarding meeting other girls her age is on the mark. This will happen after a while on your cruise, if you go. My opinion is that depending on the nature of her bad experience and her affinity to the water in general, this is going to be a very tough one to overcome. On the one hand, she will get used to it after awhile, and probably overcome her fears...If she has a good captain. On the other hand, the beginning of it is going to be very traumatic and may not be worth it.

If she is a social person, she is at the age where she is going to be missing her friends. This fact may prove to be a bigger problem than the one you face now. I have a four year old and a two year old and they have been sailing since they were babies. But I don''t venture too far off shore when my family is on board.

This must be difficult for you. You may never get another chance to do this. One thought would be to make a deal with her. Go for a month, if she wants to come home afterwards, that is what you will do. If she takes to it, she won''t want to come home. If she doesn''t, its over, but you got away for a month which is a huge accomplishment.

Before you go, drill into her fears and try to understand them. As a previous person said, it could be that she doesn''t like "tipping" or heeling. She is old enough to understand that this is not dangerous if it is explained correctly. A lot of kids (and adults) think that sailboats are not as seaworthy as powerboats because they "tip". This can be explained to her as well. In the end, she will either love it, tolerate it, or hate it. But one thing is for sure, if you don''t go, you will never know!
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-16-2002
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Working with a child''''s fear of sailing

My daughter would not go sailing with Daddy and was very negative about boats. To at least give her some experience with sailing we enrolled in a girl scout "Father Daughter" Sunfish sailing class over a weekend. Having someone outside the family give the instruction, seeing other girls sailing yet still having Daddy to cling to all helped.

By the end of class her favorite activity with me was to flip the Sunfish so we could right it. She even took off with a friend and left me high and dry at the very end of the day.

However, she is still less than enthusiastic about going sailing with me, particularly in a larger boat. Part may possibly be a reflection of my wifes dislike of boats. Also, When she was younger we went in my brother in laws 17'' powerboat to watch fireworks and on the way back hit some major waves, resulting in a bit of a scary and pounding ride. Since then she has not been interested in going on his boat again and this may be carrying over. Finally, there is the typical 10 year old control issue - she want to be captain .....

I''m trying to address her fears by introducing her slowely to sail boats on calm water, avoiding pounding power boats and giving her more control over the situations. Let her decide where we go and letting her focus on "fun" rather than seamanship.

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