5 Tips to Make Sailing With Children Easier
Kids are curious and love an adventure, so what could be better than a day on the water? Granted, it can be difficult and even make things a bit more dangerous but if executed properly a sailing trip with your kids can build long lasting memories. I'll always remember the first time my kids caught a glimpse of dolphins swimming alongside the boat. I can't remember the last time I was that excited for anything...
The joy and curiosity of children is so infectious. You'll find yourself having so much more fun just by watching them explore and learn. These are the kinds of experiences they can't possibly get in a classroom setting. You will need to take extra safety precautions on behalf of your little ones, and there are also plenty of tips to make sailing with children easier. Here are the top five that have helped me the most.
The first thought of any parent should regard how to keep your children safe. They need to know how to keep themselves safe while on the water. Ensure that their life-jacket is worn and buckled at all times. Kids can get some crazy ideas about how much fun it would be to jump from a moving boat. One parent should always be in charge of wrangling the kids, but I also understand that it's akin to herding cats so don't hesitate to help out for a minute or two when you can.
On top of keeping little ones from toppling overboard, there is also usually a lot of sun on the water which kids don't seem to take notice of. They'll only realize it after the trip is over and they're sitting in bed howling about a sunburn while you fetch an endless supply of cold towels. That's no fun for anyone, so nip it in the bud and make sure the kids have plenty of sunscreen applied and that they are well hydrated during the trip.
Get Them Involved
A big part of sailing with kids is keeping them occupied. Simply explaining what goes into leaving harbor or anchoring isn't interesting, you'll need to get them involved! Give them jobs that they are capable of and attach a title to it. This will make an otherwise menial task feel like it has a larger degree of importance.
"First Mate Robert! Double-check the compass and ensure that we're on course." Of course the navigation equipment and I are doing most of the work, but if my boy feels like he's helping then it can buy a few minutes of precious peace and quiet. The less time he spends tearing around the boat, the easier it is on everyone's sanity.
While sailing might easily be a multi-hour excursion for adults, kids tend to get bored rather easily. If you start with a smaller outing for first few time it will allow you to gauge their proclivity and interest. See how they do with just 30 minutes on the water and if they take to it, you can slowly extend the duration. Some kids take a lot longer to get their sea-legs, while other simply don't find it as fascinating as others. Regardless of your personal love for the sea, kids definitely have a mind of their own.
My son seems to really enjoy the water and never had trouble boating, while my daughter got so seasick that she refused to get on a boat for a couple of years. My spouse and I should've prepared, but neither of us ever got seasick so it was a curve-ball. The next time we went, a bit of meclizine was able to stave off sickness and she learned to really enjoy herself. Now she's the most gung-ho sailor in our family!
Bring A Third Wheel
I'm always looking for an extra person that wants to go sailing because things are so much easier with an extra set of hands. That extra person might be a kid who can entertain out little ones, or an adult that can help with the sailing side of things while my spouse or I are busy piloting the ship or chasing around the rugrats. Let's be honest, a sailing trip with kids isn't going to turn romantic so having help along is a major blessing.
Toys and Powerbanks
I've got a ton of board games and stuffed toys but those things just don't hold the same appeal that they did when I was a youngling. Now's about the point where I angrily shake my cane in the direction of a child that got to grow up with all these awesome technologies. iPad, Nintendo Switch, even just the good old cellphone have become so integrated that most kids in the modern world can't imagine a life without them.
Don't fight it. The cellphone can become your greatest ally if you use it properly. During longer cruises where there isn't a whole lot to see or do, break that thing out, attach a powerbank, and get the kids settled in for a while. With the children occupied, this is the time when your spouse can come up on deck for some quality time. Speaking of quality time, check out our blog on sleeping while sailing solo if you're in need of some quality sleep when the kids and spouse aren't accompanying you.
You better believe all those extra little feet will leave their mark on your pristine deck, no matter how much no slip boat deck cleaner you've applied. Our boat scuff erasers will obliterate those extra marks on your decks and bulkheads... Wait, how did scuff marks get on the bulkhead? Oh, the magic of little ones!
Sailing with your children can be a fantastic adventure that improves the lives and experiences of everyone involved, but it does need to be done with some degree of seriousness. As the captain you are taking the lives of your passengers and crew into your hands, and that applies infinitely more when it comes to children.