My wife and I started our circumnavigation in 1982 from Puget Sound
when our daughter was six-months old. She was four and a half when we reached Hilo our first redundant port. Her sister was born on board in Curaçao.
I have mixed feelings about doing this. Let there be no mistake, long-distance sailing is a dangerous undertaking. If a young child in the United States was exposed to similar risks, there may be grounds for a child endangerment intervention.
It is true that the younger they are, the easier they are to deal with. Just wedge them into a berth and go about dealing with the necessities of boat handling. I can recount numerous times though when we had her secured below while we frantically went about the task of reducing sail and the associated noise
of thunderously slapping sails
had her so terrorized as to be considered child abuse. There was nothing for it at the time. We were fighting for our lives and she was traumatized below screaming.
Then there was the day in mid ocean, midday when we were all three taking a nap in a one berth, as our 42' ketch
rolled wing and wing down trade wind
swells. We woke to find the baby gone. She was too young to walk but somehow managed to crawl out of bed
without waking us and climb out the companion way. It took twenty of the longest minutes of our lives to find her. Tears streaming down our faces as we tore from stem to stern leaving nothing unturned, constantly eyeing the wake astern. I pulled up a hanked on jib
piled on the foredeck where she sat laughing up at me.
Even if today she can remember little or nothing of the first four years of her life, the experience has formed the foundation of an extraordinary person's amazing life.
We continued voyaging with all four of our kids
. All learned to walk on a heaving deck
. All have turned out to be the most well rounded individuals you would ever hope to meet. All continue to enjoy sailing to this day.