Tips for Sailing with Babies ~ by Cliff Sojourner
From personal experience, here is what I know about sailing with babies. My daughter went sailing at 13 days old and my son went sailing at 6 days old. Cruising with infants is very possible and even enjoyable for all if you are properly prepared. It is imperative to set up the boat to be completely single-hand-able. Most of the time one of you parents will be physically preoccupied with the infant so the other will have to be able to do all of the sailing.
Find a few "nursing berths" where you and the baby can tuck in. Remember you probably won't have a hand free so you will need to be able to comfortably sit wedged in with your legs. My wife had a spot in the cockpit
and a couple spots down below.
Infants' skin is very UV sensitive. It does not tan or burn but is easily damaged. Keep your baby out of the sun. Also eyes are sensitive so take precautions. You can find infant sunglasses. My daughter always removed them and chewed on them. Oh well. Babies enjoy the motion of the boat. On our boat (Catalina 25) I kept the kids
in their car seats, in the cockpit
. The car seat had a cover to keep the sun off. They could see us, we could see them, they got shade and the gentle rocking at the center of motion of the boatÉeverybody happy!! Screw some eye straps down for bungees to hold the car seat down.
I never worked out flotation for the infant in the car seat. Baby is safe on the boat but watch out on the dock
, it would be horrible to lose the stroller and/or seat in to the water
, with baby carefully strapped in. Bleah, that was difficult to type. Anyways, that is something to think about, come up with a system you are happy with. Still not sure what to do in a serious "abandon ship" type situation. I always thought the best would be to forget the car seat and use an infant Type-1 lifejacket with lanyard.
Choice of diapers does make some difference. We used disposables. As on land, they are just more trash, but the convenience is worthwhile. On a boat, water
, opportunities for drying laundry
, and your time are all at a premium. So, find a place to stow the diapers.
Do you use a microwave to heat infant food
? Might have to rethink that...
This may be a way off for you but still consider what you will do once your baby is out of the car seat. Cruising with toddlers is a real hassle!!! They really need to get up and move around but the motion of the boat will make them very frustrated and is actually dangerous. They will get thrown around and bonk on to sharp things—every boat has a bunch of sharp things at just the wrong height! This is made worse by the Type-1 life jacket they must wear at all times. Infant/toddler Type-1s are so bulky they can not even reach their arms around the front.
For ages 2 - 5, I do not believe that harnesses and tethers are a viable alternative to life jackets. The tethers just get tangled. Also, the height of the companionway
ladder in most boats make it a real danger
That said, toddlers and older just love crawling around the cabins in boats, making secret forts and finding special stuff. It's OK to let them run around but again, just like home, keep the cleaning
supplies etc. in some inaccessible place.
Most of all, don't be afraid to get out there and do it!! My kids
are 7 and 5 now and they love sailing, the more vigorous the weather
"More Bonga-Bonga waves DaDa!!!"