SailNet Community banner

1 - 20 of 27 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
196 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
We spent a year sailing the Caribbean and Bahamas with our Labrador on a 39' Beneteau. (if you're a tiny bit interested you can see our blog here: twoandahalfsailors.com) and here is our general track:



We've been living on the hard for 2 years now and we're getting the cruising bug again (now that we're catching back up on bills.. lol)

We're starting to plan our next "big trip". This time we're planning 3 years of Pacific sailing (well, 6 months or so to get to the Pacific from the USVI or somewhere in that vicinity). Planning to buy the boat in the Virgins (since good deals are usually to be found there) and then south through the Panama Canal and Pacific bound.

Here's the catch.

We're hoping to have a baby by that point.
Are we crazy?
When we were on our last cruise we saw plenty of couples with children ages 2 months to 18 years.
How young is too young?
What challenges can we expect to face with a tiny infant?
Would it be better to wait until they are older?
If so, how old?
Obviously, we're pretty clueless except for what we heard from the couples on our last cruise.

HELP!
Thanks ya'll!!
 

·
Registered
Grampian 34 Ketch
Joined
·
62 Posts
We only did a smaller cruise of about a month with our little guy when he was between two and three months old this past summer. But I can tell you that it was challenging.

Alex was no different behaviorally on board than he was at home, so I don't think he minded it at all. (And actually, the crappier the weather, the better he slept. On one occasion, he was super fussy before we got out of the anchorage. Soon as we were out and pounding into waves, he was out like a light. We actually decided to turn back and wait it out. Soon as we returned to the calm waters about a half hour later, instantly awake and fussy again)

Some of the challenges:
My wife was tied up with him a lot, and when he did nap through the day, she'd often try to nap down below to catch up on sleep. Meant a lot of single-handing, and that she missed out on a few things here and there. She breast fed him, which took out some of the complication, but limited what I could do to help.
He was a baby who spat up a lot. (Not that he was seasick, just he always spat up after feeding) This meant a lot of laundry, which we had to do by hand most of the time.
The small space and difficulty sleeping caused a bit of stress for everyone.
Alex won't remember the trip.

All that being said, we would do the trip over again, and plan to sail with him again this summer. Now that he's over a year old. I think he'll appreciate it so much more. He's really become aware of his surroundings and curious. It will be fun.

I guess there's no minimum age (for us anyway). And I'll have to let you know if the one year old will be harder than an infant on board once we find out.
 

·
Senior Member
Joined
·
19,489 Posts
I think this is more about the parent(s) than the child. We had our son sailing and cruising at 18 days old.. we daysailed and summer cruised with him until he was about 11, then he started racing with us. Now in his 30s, a boat owner, racer, he had their daughter out on their boat at a week old, now 8 yrs old her favourite place is the boat and the beach.

Offshore perhaps is different, but really the child doesn't know any different. Their life is what their life is. When it doesn't go well I think its the parents that have trouble 'adapting' Our granddaughter had no idea that ALL kids didn't sail until she got to preschool. It's her 'normal'. I suspect it can be the same anywhere if the parents don't stress over it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
795 Posts
I write as someone who just crossed the Pacific and as a pediatrician who spent 25 years working in pediatric intensive care units...

There are just too many serious pediatric problems that might develop during a 20+ day trip off-shore...

As an experienced sailor and pediatrician, I personally would stay close to shore and first world medical care with babies and toddlers.

I consider anywhere in the Caribbean as coastal cruising but I consider only a few Caribbean islands as having first world medicine. In 2009 under-5 mortality rates in Latin America, Caribbean and Oceania were more than 3 times US death rates!

http://www.cepal.org/MDG/noticias/paginas/6/40006/MDG4_CHILD_MORTALITY_FACT_SHEET.pdf

Phil MD
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,607 Posts
The comment about single handing are important. Everyone with infants talks about not getting much sleep. She'll be pretty busy with bambino so you sail 'alone'.
I met a couple who took their 4 yr old to S Africa to buy their cat and sailed it back to the Carib with no problems.
 

·
Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
Joined
·
4,526 Posts
Like a lot of things, it depends. We met a French family on a 40' catamaran. They had two children under four (one born in French Polynesia nd the other in New Zealand as they sailed) and mom was nine months pregnant - they were checking out hospitals for the delivery. They were planning to stay in Panama for a few weeks after delivery and then were heading to Tahiti. They also had grandma and grandma's boyfriend onboard so the children chores could be shared. Not sure if you can compare child mortality rates since many factors contribute to this. Access to quality medical care is significant but only one factor contributing to these rates.
 
  • Like
Reactions: copacabana

·
Registered
Joined
·
941 Posts
We have a 14 month old and last summer were very serious about taking a sabbatical cruise to the point where we had even sold our house. After doing some extensive shakedown cruising with our daughter between the ages of 3 and 8 months, we decided to wait at least until she is out of diapers and most probably until she's at an age of much greater self-sufficiency.

The main reason is that our daughter's personality as being very curious and very extroverted emerged basically from day one. She loves getting out to see new things and meeting new people. She loves play dates, story times, and singalongs with other kids. She gets cranky if she's cooped up with just the two of us for more than about 36 hours. Ironically, getting her the opportunities for these kinds of social interactions, explorations, and adventures was much trickier when cruising. Whether its that many cruising destinations offer very little for kids, or just the challenges of weather and transporting a baby in a dinghy, it's not always that easy to keep them entertained and occupied.

Beyond that, it was mostly logistics that gave us pause...

When underway, one parent has to captain the boat while the other manages the kid(s). Not only can this be stressful, but it also robbed us of more family togetherness time than we bargained for. One way to overcome this is to spend less time underway. But then we didn't get to visit all the destinations/cover as much ground as we had hoped. We were finding one or two days in port for every full day underway balanced things out, but made for very slow going.

Laundry and diapers are a huge logistical challenge. Babies generate enormous amounts of laundry and unless you're lucky enough to have a boat with an onboard washer/dryer, there's no easy way to keep up with the laundry needs. Air drying can be impossible during periods of rain and high humidity. Taking laundry between boat and shore via dinghy gets old fast. As for diapers, if you think disposables are expensive in the states, they're 2-3 times more in the islands. Yes, you can load up the boat but a baby goes through 2,000 - 2,500 diapers in the first year - and it's just not practical to carry that many.

Another consideration for us is that I don't know that the drone of the motor on days when it runs 4, 6, 8 hours is good for an infant's ears (or sanity! - or my sanity for that matter!) with repeated exposures. We were planning on doing the ICW and that's 200 hours of repeated long motoring days.

All that said, we never cruised full time before having the child and a lot of cruisers we met with very young children said it's much easier to cruise with children if you have prior experience.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
146 Posts
I think Yorksailor is just trying to make the point that the risk in the risk/benefit proposition of having a baby on a boat, potentially far from shore and days (or longer) away from decent medical care, is not to be disregarded.

Obviously this is true to some degree doing any kind of boating for people of any age. If any of us adults were to suffer a heart attack or stroke while under way, or a traumatic injury, even a difference of hours getting ashore to a hospital could make a substantial difference in our chances of surviving or having a good outcome from such an event.

The difference with a child is that an infant and especially a newborn is much more vulnerable to severe consequences from medical problems and can rapidly go into shock or perish due to their decreased physiologic reserve compared to an adult or larger child. So some problems that might be readily resolved with something as simple as intravenous fluids, the warm environment of a neonatal unit, good monitoring and/or antibiotics, become catastrophes in an austere and remote environment such as a sailboat offshore.

And with a child, it's their parents making the decision for them to undergo such risks. As adults we take these risks for ourselves.

This doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong to do, there's some risk at any age for boating and cruising, or that there aren't benefits to both the child and parents for taking them on such a journey, but the potential for problems should be soberly considered in the decision making.
 

·
Registered
Grampian 34 Ketch
Joined
·
62 Posts
Another consideration for us is that I don't know that the drone of the motor on days when it runs 4, 6, 8 hours is good for an infant's ears (or sanity! - or my sanity for that matter!) with repeated exposures. We were planning on doing the ICW and that's 200 hours of repeated long motoring days.
Just will mention what we did for the engine noise. Agree with all your points. I used a cheap (probably terrible) dB meter app on my phone, which indicated the engine noise would be dangerous to our guys hearing. We then ordered a pair of infant/baby earmuffs for hearing protection. (They do exist. Found our set on Amazon.) When he was below with the engine running, he would wear them. Didn't seem to bug him much at his age, but I'll bet they'll be harder to keep on this summer.

 

·
Closet Powerboater
Joined
·
3,925 Posts
We started our first son sailing at 5 weeks old if I recall. That first season of sailing was great. He was basically always in a car seat, booster seat, lap or bed. We had a safe spot in the cockpit for the car seat when the weather was calm and I made some straps up to lash down the car seat when underway and he always slept when the engine was on. So much so that once, at anchor when he was fussy, I turned it on just to get him to sleep. (sorry anchorage mates, but it was probably quieter than the screaming).

The only bit we were nervous about was getting in and out of the dink. For this we opted for the kiddo to be strapped tightly in a baby carrier to his mom and the dinghy was tied alongside bow and stern with me steading it. Being strapped to mom meant not wearing a lifejacket for the kiddo, so we would have been at the mercy of the USCG if stopped. We felt it was the safest and best thing to do though.

Kiddo slept with mom in an arrangement where he couldn't roll out of bed and we didn't push the season so it was warm enough at night.

It was the second year when things really got difficult. Once the little one CAN move about, that's all he wants to do every waking minute. His balance wasn't the best and he was always falling over and banging into things on the boat. We then had another crew arrive and last year's season, with a 2.5 year old and a 1.5 year old was our most difficult so far. We even aborted our favorite trip (4th of july) half way through because it was going so poorly.

Here's some of what we learned sailing with toddlers:
1. One MUST be able to completely single hand the boat. Taking care of 2 kids down below is a big job and the other parent must be self sufficient up top. This is where docking practice and confidence help as well as an autopilot.
2. The kids need to move so time underway must be short. Short hops are best and timing with nap-time sometimes worked. I've heard that getting underway first thing in the AM before they're awake also works.
3. Be extra mindful of their comfort. We let our oldest wear his lifejacket all day at his request. We loved that he liked it so much. He ended up overheated from the sun and everybody was miserable afterwords. We try and keep them from getting too hot, tired, hungry etc.
4. Docks. We used to anchor out all the time. Now, we use docks much more often. Being able to instantly step off the boat and run off energy is key. Even when your dinghy is easy to use, it's a production to get everyone in it, and out of it on a beach. With docks, it's instant and shore time can be as often as needed.
5. Portable TV. Purists we are not any longer. Parental Survivalists we have become. I never thought I'd see the day, but I'm shopping for a wall mounted TV now for my boat.
6. Load the boat with adults. 2 toddlers VS 2 adults = the adults are outnumbered. Bring reinforcements.

Make sure to take a couple shorter trips to gain confidence and see what works for you. What we found though, is that kids change so fast that even once we thought we had our "boating with kids system" all dialed in, the kids changed so much that we had to go back to the drawing board. Be flexible and have options whenever possible and expect cruising to be differently challenging and differently rewarding.

Having said all that, go out as much as possible before they start crawling! It's when things are the easiest! :)

MedSailor





 

·
Anarchist in Exile
Joined
·
167 Posts
Some greet stories and info.

My cut-over point to when the kids could come on multi-day/overnights came down to one word. Diapers.

Out of diapers means a basic level of communication, and the ability to walk. Oh yes, and no poopy paints to deal with.

I admire anyone who made younger work.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,188 Posts
Lots of people sail with kids and do fine. You also have to think about the trade-offs of what the baby will miss out on. Chief among these things will be grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Sure, everybody can do periodic visits but it's not the same as having regular weekly visits with family. If you have parents who are the type who have been waiting for grandkids, they will be very disappointed if you take their grandbaby away. If you don't have any extended family, then it isn't as big a deal.

Babies and kids can thrive in many different environments and many have gone to sea. But I think of some of the things that kids can't do at sea. Babies and toddlers benefit from being exposed to a wide variety of stimuli and experiences. After a while on a boat, it's a lot of the same. Sailing provides a lot of varied stimulation for adults, changing sea and changing weather, different ports, and marinas and topography. But babies and toddlers tend to focus on whatever is within 20 feet around them. Life aboard a boat provides a limited world for 20 feet around.

Day sailing as a part of a varied lifestyle is great. On land, babies have the ability to have weekly play dates with friends and cousins, to go to the story hour at the library, to visit the petting zoo, get their faces painted at a crafts fair, go to baby yoga classes with mom, take infant swimming lessons at the YMCA, ride a pony, pick strawberries, hold a litter of kittens in their lap, go for a jog in a jogging stroller, and to crawl across the lawn in a world that seems to have no limits. If you have interested grandparents or aunts and uncles, weekly contact and the formation of those early childhood bonds with them are priceless.

When kids learn to walk, the stupid mall is one of the best places for kids. As much as I hate, hate, hate, malls, my kids loved being able to walk as far as they could, in a place that had smooth flat floors with no obstacles. The mall proved to be one of the best and most sensory stimulating places to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon with a 10 month old.

But kids will thrive in a variety of environments.
 

·
Senior Member
Joined
·
19,489 Posts
Cute story about a child growing up while cruising to New Zealand.. at the age where he/she 'learned' to walk at sea. Afterwards, the first place they landed the poor child was stumbling around like a drunk because they only had 'sea legs'.. and a stable base was something altogether new.

Agree with comments above that the amount of sailing & cruising experience is important. If the parents are trying to figure out how the boat works, how to navigate, how to deal with stronger breezes all the while also trying to work out how to put children into the equation I'm sure it's totally overwhelming. For beginners either one of those items can be daunting on their own.

Toddlers are probably more worrisome than newborns given their 'new mobility'. But I'd suggest that it's far easier having a 6-7 year old on the boat who grew up with it, rather than waiting til they're that age and introducing them to sailing then.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MedSailor

·
S/V Calypso
Joined
·
246 Posts
A great blog along these lines is Windtraveler. The started with a single infant on board, that has changed when they had twins. So, the total is up to 3 now. Admittedly they aren't actively cruising now as they started a charter company, however pre-twins they were moving around quite a bit. There share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Regards,
Chris
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
166 Posts
As a recent father with a two year old, I would like to offer my advice...while we have taken her out for day sails since she was 7 months old, and we have slept overnight with her in our slip...I would caution against taking a very young child on any type of extended cruise (not judging those that did...just my opinion). As a father, I would never want to be far away from good medical care. I would never consider jeopardizing the health of my child for any reason...and when they are very young, with very little immunity...things can go wrong.

My wife and I used to charter in the BVIs annually before she came along...when my wife was pregnant, we thought we would take her at one year old. At one year, it became two years...and two years became three...and now four years old. I second the thoughts above to wait until at least a few years old. Out of diapers is a plus, as is the ability to communicate, listen, and understand surroundings and what is going on...just my thoughts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,188 Posts
And with a child, it's their parents making the decision for them to undergo such risks. As adults we take these risks for ourselves.

This doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong to do, there's some risk at any age for boating and cruising, or that there aren't benefits to both the child and parents for taking them on such a journey, but the potential for problems should be soberly considered in the decision making.
Yes, the decisions we make for ourselves are different from the decisions we make for our kids. My philosophy about the Adventure Experience-to-Risk-Ratio was to always consider carefully measured risks. I took my kids on some moderate adventures as toddlers.

We backpacked on Cumberland Island National Seashore with our son when he was one year old. It was more like walk-in camping than backpacking. We had one of the first cell phones, a bulky bag phone, and I made sure that we could get a signal from the mainland at St. Mary's Georgia and I located the nearest mainland hospital that had a med-evac unit. To get two bars of signal, I had to stand on the picnic table and hoist the external antenna into a tree with a short piece of line. This was more to comfort his first-timer mother than any fear that anything bad would happen (but, just in case).

He was still taking a bottle at night and raccoons stole his bottle. Mom was unable to nurse. We had a very rough night as I tried to fill his little belly with soft foods. I washed out a juice bottle and tied a piece of plastic over the top with a hole in it and tried to trickle formula in his mouth. I tried dipping my finger in thickened formula to let him suckle it from my finger. Nothing worked and and he continued to cry. I spent much of the night walking on the beach with him bouncing him and singing to him.

In the morning we walked to the ranger station and the ranger radioed to the mainland and asked them to send out a bottle. They sent one out on the 10:00 AM ferry. We all finally slept the rest of the morning. That afternoon I found the other bottle in the Saw Palmetto less than twenty feet from our tent. The raccoons had chewed the plastic liner and licked it clean. I washed it and we then had a spare.

It was a fun time, but my son, of course, has no memory of it. Whatever benefit he may have gained from the experience could have been achieved by camping in the back yard at home. The truth is that the trip to Cumberland Island was for me, not the baby. It was more about me trying to hang on to my single young man days by attempting to combine some adventure with being a dad.

When my daughter was about three, we took the kids on a float trip. I looked over at one point and saw my daughter walking around the ring of rocks surrounding the fire pit, in her bare feet, balancing like a gymnast on the balance beam. Just as I was rushing over to pull her off, she faltered and landed on her feet in the hot coals. She channeled her inner Zen Priest and jumped out.

We were a forty-five minute to one hour drive from the nearest burn unit but her burns were only first degree and a little bit of second degree burns. We held her and soaked her feet in cool water. We were able to bandage her feet and put on clean socks and convinced her to wear shoes the rest of the weekend. We got lucky. She does remember that trip.

I've been sharing my sailing fantasies with my kids, both now in their twenties. I put most of my adventures on hold during many years so that I was there to coach their soccer teams, be a Boy Scout dad, and drive them to sleep-overs and birthday parties. I'm ready to take my time back. They express worry, but I've told them that I would rather take a chance that I might die at sea, doing something I love, rather than dying of a heart attack on the couch, fat and lazy, while watching TV. But I will make that decision for myself, not for anybody else and never for children.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
31 Posts
I have two boys, 12 and 6. We mainly just day sail. We tried it with the six year old each summer and until he was 4 it was pretty painful. My wife could not help sail because she was trying to keep the youngest boy happy and safe.

Now we hit he boat almost every weekend, the six year old loves it and the 12 year old is obsessed (starting to help crew the boat, and go on races with me)

I think 5 is about the earliest I would attempt to do an extended cruise. Before that there are lots of down side, but not a lot of upside.

My 2 cents worth
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
166 Posts
I have two boys, 12 and 6. We mainly just day sail. We tried it with the six year old each summer and until he was 4 it was pretty painful. My wife could not help sail because she was trying to keep the youngest boy happy and safe.
I can second this...when we take our two year old out, I am always single-handing because my wife is always watching her/keeping her safe. My wife jokes that she hasn't forgotten how to sail. I can't imagine spending an extended period of time on the boat with her...even tied to the dock, it is a constant battle to keep her from yanking on the electronics, flipping switches, etc. She needs constant supervision...it is still fun, and she loves it, but at two she is at the point where she never sits still.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
941 Posts
For all the dads saying they singlehand while the wife manages the kid(s), why not try switching off sometimes? This seems to keep everyone happier on our boat.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
31 Posts
For all the dads saying they singlehand while the wife manages the kid(s), why not try switching off sometimes? This seems to keep everyone happier on our boat.
That is crazy talk.....




All kidding aside,

While my wife likes the boat, and eagerly helps me sail it. Single handing our boat would be a bit much for her at her current skill level.

When our guys were still little (2-4) I would get the boat set to where we would be on one point of sail for a while. Then i would wrangle the kids while she steered the boat.
 
1 - 20 of 27 Posts
Top