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Old 19-06-2014, 10:27   #1
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Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

We have 5 kids, and find that coordinating even a day-sail can be a stressful event. Many proposed sails have been nixed as departure time drew close...As we plan longer excursions, my wife is getting very nervous. I'm curious to hear from sailors who may be 'in the same boat', and perhaps better prepare our own adventure after hearing of other success (or failure) stories!
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Old 19-06-2014, 10:45   #2
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

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We have 5 kids, and find that coordinating even a day-sail can be a stressful event. Many proposed sails have been nixed as departure time drew close...As we plan longer excursions, my wife is getting very nervous. I'm curious to hear from sailors who may be 'in the same boat', and perhaps better prepare our own adventure after hearing of other success (or failure) stories!
How old are the kids? Any other adults going other than you and your wife?

I'm not a sailor nor do I have kids. However, I have read where many with that many kids engaged a friend or nanny or another person through some means to accompany them and help with the kids. This seemed especially necessary when underway and the two adults might both be engaged in sailing at times.
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Old 19-06-2014, 10:55   #3
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

We cruised full time with one daughter from about 12-20 months old. Even with just one it was usually one parent full time with the kid, the other for the boat.

Very strict rule, life jacket was mandatory except when below or in the cockpit in very calm weather. We also installed netting all around in the lifelines, attached to the toe rail so no chance to slide under.

Bring favorite toys and games if compatible with a boat. Obviously something like card games or board games in the cockpit on a windy day won't work so choose wisely.
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Old 19-06-2014, 11:39   #4
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

No other adults sail with us - although our 15 year old should be a help. We sailed a lot when it was just 4 of us, and did find lifeline netting to be a wonderful thing for our two daughters - but with our 2 and 4 year old boys it is now a necessity! Good advice on the games, and lifejackets are already required whenever on the boat and outside of the cabin. With a different boat, the addition of toddler boys, and older (and younger) children then last time - this seems to be a whole new ball game!
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Old 19-06-2014, 11:55   #5
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

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No other adults sail with us - although our 15 year old should be a help. We sailed a lot when it was just 4 of us, and did find lifeline netting to be a wonderful thing for our two daughters - but with our 2 and 4 year old boys it is now a necessity! Good advice on the games, and lifejackets are already required whenever on the boat and outside of the cabin. With a different boat, the addition of toddler boys, and older (and younger) children then last time - this seems to be a whole new ball game!
Yes, I'd think the 15 year old would help but it's still a challenge. Also don't know if you've got the space for an added passenger even if you had one. But in the ideal world a college student on summer break or some other person to help with the kids would pay huge dividends.
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Old 19-06-2014, 15:42   #6
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

Good railings, PFDs, and lots of adult supervision.

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Old 03-07-2014, 12:14   #7
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

How small a boat? Please let us know what kind of boat you have.
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Old 03-07-2014, 18:43   #8
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

5 kids is tough.

If the 15 y/o can help then it's 1 parent for the boat, 1 parent for 2 and the 15 y/o for 2. Kids move fast and things happen fast. It would be important to do some "easy" sails and train the kids to follow the rules.

Also we sailed with 3 kids - they have a very, very short attention span. We'd let our 9 y/o make lunch (assemble sandwiches - or "manwiches as he called them) something he probably wouldn't do on shore but had fun doing on board.

Long passages on teh boat became like long trips in the car - "Are we there yet?" "When are we gonna get there?" etc.

It's the video age so we bought something like this - this one allows playing 2 different DVDs or both screens watching the same DVD. Older kids may not want to watch the same thing as the younger ones. I mounted one on the v-berth bulkhead and one on the salon bulkhead opposite.

On 5 hour passages the youngest would wear out "my little pony" and take naps. It's really tough to expect kids to stay amused on deck during a 5 hour passage.

If you have them already iPads would do the same thing basically.

RCA Twin 9" Mobile DVD Player - Black (DRC6296) : Target
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Old 03-07-2014, 18:57   #9
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

The stress of preparation and loading and etc can be displaced by staying aboard for a longer time. Then the stress of 7 people in a small space can be enjoyed!
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Old 05-07-2014, 21:13   #10
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

We’re 6 years into cruising with our 3 children (from Seattle now in SE Asia) and communication is most important to a good day on the water, or 3 week passage. When I was a sailmaker and raced all the time on different boats, I observed crews with active participatory communication often did better, tended to have better boat-handling and manage tough moments better – and most importantly had more fun. It’s the same cruising as a family. Family dynamics differ and so silly to suggest that what works for us, will certainly work for you; but if goals are more or less the same: fun, bonding, and learning in a safe environment, then maybe some of these points help.
1. Tacit (unspoken, implied) communication – what you don’t say often conveys more than what you do. Frustration, fear, and tension are easily decoded by others onboard and reflected back – even magnified because of uncertainty. One adult grumpy because of stress of getting everything ready for the Saturday sail quickly becomes 3 or 5 grumpy people. And nothing sets everyone off like showing fear during tense moments. I find that actually talking to the “crew” during the tough moments (in a controlled way) helps everyone. If stressed about a tough docking situation, talk through it before hand. If the weather turns bad, don’t sit there saying, “oh *****” to yourself – involve the family in strategy, preparation, and understanding.
2. Set expectations – there is a huge disconnect when: you want to go sailing on the weekend and know that means getting through a 50 point work list to get there; AND all you kids know is that they’re going to the boat for the weekend. Every few days, or less when preparing for passage, we bring up what we think is going to happen over the next days (often dinner discussion –very informal). Have kids participate in packing clothes, meal planning, games to bring, learning about what they may see/do, etc. Get them invested. It certainly doesn’t guarantee excitement, but makes it’s easier to get everyone thinking about moving in the same direction. And it shouldn’t be dictating as parent to child – that’s boring! - get the kids to give thoughts/ideas.
3. Participation – Just like an arrogant tactician ignoring the foredeck crew pointing out wind shifts, children’s input is often stifled or undervalued. When we began cruising our son (9 at the time) wanted to be an ichthyologist and read about fish for hours every day. When in Mexico he began telling us of seeing seahorses, symbiotic relationship actually happening, etc. we were kind of lame in saying, “yeah that’s nice”. Then when he caught our attention enough, we were stunned at how much more he saw than us. Parents became students. The cool thing is cruising is that you have time – to teach and to learn from children. It’s also good for safety because 5 or 7 sets of eyes and ears, see and hear so much more. Our youngest daughter (since age 4) is a star at seeing nets and long line that we don’t (and we’ve haven’t yet hung up on one). Teach them a little, listen to them, and the rewards never stop.
4. Safety is more than just rules – yes there must be rules about life jackets and many others that don’t usually get much mention (boat-handling and crushed limbs, moving parts (the boom (there is a woman that just died in Thailand from getting hit in the head by jib-boom)/winches/windlasses/blocks, etc. etc). Rules for kids are often boring or annoying. Take the time to explain/demonstrate safety and kids actually reason through the logic of it and have infinitely greater understanding safety, boating skills, and seamanship. We taught our kids about hypothermia (thermal transfer) by placing 1 ice cube on a plate and another in a cup of seawater – then timing how long it takes each to melt. We practiced how to move around the boat, bodies make bad fenders, fingers make bad winch part (put a carrot between jib sheet and wind drum and then “sheet in” to show force), etc. Visual demonstration makes for much better understanding and much easier rule enforcement.
5. Say it like it is – sometimes the day is a bust, ***** happens – but talk about it or else the children’s “take-away” from the event is “this stinks” and Dad’s plans never work! We (Totem) are supposed to be back in Borneo now, but are stuck in western Malaysia at a marina working on an engine overheat problem. The kids would be much happier seeing crocodiles and testing traditional blow guns, but it’s not to be. So we talk about disappointment, but show them the engine (with head off and cylinders exposed) – explain reality and say make the most of it. Our son (now 15) is teaching himself French and Italian and our girls (12 and 10) are working on a dance program for a dock party for a few boats about to leave to cross the Indian Ocean.
6. Teaching moments (the “wow” moments) – my favorite. We are not “teachers”, but have boat-schooled for 6 years. Most parents aren’t “teachers”, but teach their children every day. As full time travelers, we (parents) stumbled into “wow” moments and what to do with them. When a moment happens along and you say to yourself, wow, that is so cool, weird, funny, scary – whatever, often kids have the same reaction, so they are captive audience – what better time to spend 30 seconds or 30 minutes teaching. Even if you don’t know much about whatever it is, start with what you do know and we often meander through the topic and into others. Very often the kids come away inspired to learn more and ALWAYS remember it because it was learned through experience with emotional attachment.
It takes work, no, effort. There are times when the video baby-sitter is a very good thing, and even educational. But if that’s it onboard, why be there at all. You have to be patient, especially in the beginning, to get through the “I’m bored times - but when is that not the case as a parent? Good luck to you and PM me if you have specific questions.
Jamie
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Old 18-09-2014, 13:21   #11
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

I have an active 3 year old boy and a very reliable 9 year old daughter. The 9 year old must wear her life jacket when outside and a harness if it is getting rough. The 3 year old has a life jacket and a harness with a short leash once out of the harbor. There may be times when someone overboard may be hard to retrieve, so its best not to go overboard (I know, obvious.) But many leashes are too long in my opinion. with a leash you should not be dragging in the water! (also obvious I would think.) By the way, if your crew cannot sail your boat and rescue you, the skipper better be wearing a harness too!
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Old 18-09-2014, 13:41   #12
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

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Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?
Enjoy them while they're young and willing to sail with you. It goes quick!

And for some more hands-on, practical approaches, try this: Cruising with Kids - Don't Leave the Dock Without Them!
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Old 18-09-2014, 18:47   #13
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

We cruise with our 5 kids (ages now 6, 8, 10, 11, 12) and they often bring their friends and sometimes their grandparents. Although I go long distances on the boat, the kids only accompany for week-long coastal cruises. I'm not saying it is always easy, but there are a few things we have done which help. In no particular order,

- we have a plastic tote on deck where they take off their shoes once they come onboard. This way we have less sand/dirt in the cabin to clean.

- we keep an area stocked with snacks for them -- nuts, dried fruit, chips, pretzels, etc. This way we are not constantly fetching snacks for them.

- we got plastic lids for cans. whether they take a can of seltzer, ginger ale, root beer, it has a cover that identifies it as their and keeps it from spilling if they don't stow it well. also, it keeps them having only one at a time.

- we give each one of them a towel (soon to be a chamois with their name embroidered). it is theirs for the trip. it is their responsibility to keep track of it and to keep it dry. i cannot keep up with washing all the towels 10 people can generate if they don't reuse!

- we haven't done overnight passages with the kids yet, but when we have a longish-trip, i leave before dawn. this way, by the time they wake up (which is usually late), we already have many hours behind us. it makes the "are we almost there yet?" almost over.

- we try to choose destinations where we can let them off-leash, where they can roam free, find other cruising kids, and cannot get into too much trouble. although i always anchor out when we're traveling without the kids, i'll pay for dockage so that they can come & go as they please. this past summer i spent time giving my 11 yr old dinghy lessons and i think she'll be ready to drive it soon (i'll want to get a second dinghy for them when this happens)

- we try to maintain a "buddy-system" where they have to have a buddy if they want to venture onto the foredeck while underway. of course, they all wear pfd's when above deck and underway.

- we maintain a "if you catch it and want me to clean and cook it, then you have to eat it" rule. it works. the two oldest boys and their friend finished off over 100 mussels for dinner last may!

- we sometimes go ashore and negotiate with local merchants to open up a tab for our crew (kids). we leave a check or a credit card. it makes it so much easier than peeling off bills when the kids want to go ashore for donut, an ice cream, etc.

- i wait until they express interest before asking them to help. if they're paying attention to me and the boat, i might ask them if they can locate a red buoy up ahead. i might ask them if they can tell me which way the wind is blowing (of course i know!) i don't push their involvement, but i find it comes more willingly if it is offered voluntarily.

good luck.
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Old 18-09-2014, 19:36   #14
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

Can you share what the specific issues are? We've been sailing since my oldest was 18 months old and since then, we added in 3 more children - all now ages 11, 13, 22 and 24. We have been cruising every year since the second child was a year old (so 21 years now!)

It would be helpful to understand the problems you are facing in order to be better give advice. It sounds like it is not even the on the boat time that is the issue but getting ready to go?
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Old 18-09-2014, 19:42   #15
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Re: Advice for Anyone Sailing a Small Boat with lots of Kids?

As the OP's only posts were 3 months ago, doesn't sound like they are likely to answer the questions being asked.
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