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Old 07-08-2010, 20:25   #1
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Cruising with a Toddler - What About Life Jackets at Night ?

Ok, this may be over the top. Do I need to jacket my kids when they are sleeping? I feel pretty worried on the water and want their jackets on all the time, above or below so what about sleeping? It would be impossible to sleep with one on I think.

I saw a youtube vid of a sailboat decimated by a whale that came crashing out of the water and landed on top. If this were to happen at night, you would have no time to put on your life jackets.

I am new to sailing, this scared the s*** out of me. seriously, what is best for below deck?

Thanks for the advice, this is a great forum!
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Old 07-08-2010, 21:46   #2
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I applaud you for introducing the young one to the sailing experience. While it has been many years since my kids grew up with life jackets and tethered back to the cockpit so they could hang over the bow looking for seals, dolphins and any manner of sea creatures, I still marvel at the look of wonderment in their eyes after spotting even a piece of kelp float by. Good friends of mine built an Endurance 35 back in the 70's and were about to leave on their dream cruise when they found out she was pregnant. Not to be deterred, they left on schedule from Vancouver, Canada cruising to Mexico and over to Hawaii where she gave birth to Christopher. A few months in the Islands then a circuit around the South Pacific then back to Mexico where they had the misfortune to be caught in the hurricane that decimated the cruising fleet in Cabo San Lucas. This same storm swept Bernard Mettossier's boat on to the beach. My friends managed to get their boat, June 8, out of the surf but my friend suffered a broken leg cutting the anchor line loose to get offshore. He recovered with us in San Francisco but taking Christopher down the their boat was an eyeopening experience. the first thing he did was don his life jacket even though we were tied to the dock. He would no more think of being aboard without his PFD on than driving without a seatbelt today. Christopher could swing from his bunk forward on grabrails and handholds the length of the boat without ever touching the cabin sole right into the cockpit. his mother told me that he learned to do that from the time he walked because he found that walking on a pitching boat was too unsteady! Christopher slept in his life jacket for weeks on end and developed a relationship with it that many kids today have with their teddybear. So go ahead and have the youngster don his jacket whenever he/she is aboard... they will learn to love it and will feel uncomfortable with out it, even in their bunk... cheers, Capt Phil
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Old 07-08-2010, 21:52   #3
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We have a 31mo old toddler and a 10mo old who is scooting around and will be walking soon.

Our policy is PFD on the dock and on deck.
Below they go unencumbered.

The whale landing on the sailboat event is less likely than getting struck by lightning walking down the street.
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Old 07-08-2010, 21:54   #4
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Don't tease the whales.
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Old 07-08-2010, 23:43   #5
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When our kids were small, they wore the life jacket on deck, and we had netting on the lifelines. We did not have them using anything when they were down below. We were in a Westsail 32 which is nearly indestructible, so I never worried about the kids down below.
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Old 08-08-2010, 00:22   #6
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Capt Phil - That's an incredible story!!

Todd's Girl - If you were travelling in a camper van, would you have your kids wear their seatbelts when sleeping at night? I know it's unlikely, but a joyrider could come crashing out of the fields and land right on top.

Life jackets, of course, must always be worn by toddlers on deck; if they slip overboard we went them to be on top of the water, and so we can see where they are when we go back for them. This is more important at night, when visibility is greatly reduced and the lifejackets are just as important for their reflective strips as for their flotation.

Whether you make kids wear them below is a decision you must make. How great is the risk of them being washed overboard? Not great. How likely are you to run into a hurricane without some forewarning? How high are the chances of your being sunken by a jumping whale? Hm. Not sure.

Would you want to wear your lifejacket 24/7?? Give it a go for a week or so before you impose it on a mini human!
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:02   #7
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... Would you want to wear your lifejacket 24/7?? Give it a go for a week or so before you impose it on a mini human!
Indeed, & well said.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:30   #8
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We raised our two children aboard from infancy to adulthood with time at the dock and cruising. When making choices to manage risk it's important to realize there will always be risk,- whales jumping aboard, meteor strikes, flying fish in the eye..... The need is to prepare for the likely risks. With this goal, we always had our toddlers in life jackets on the deck and the dock, but not below. As they were older and swimmers we modified the dock requirement and on board requirement related to weather conditions and location. We never used the netting and I question it as a choking & hanging risk if not carefully rigged. An often overlooked risk with children is the running rigging. We had our main sheet throw a loop around our two year old son's neck during a gybe that could have been tragic had we not seen it happening and had the speed and strength to help him. There must be designated safe places for children when lines, winch handles and booms are moving about. ...and another unsafe action that I see now and then,- never place a shackle at the clew of a potentially flogging headsail! That's a risk for all at any age. Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:38   #9
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Wow, thanks for tall the replies and perspectives...I feel a little better. baby's grandma acted like I was a terrible mother and risking his life for even considering taking him on the water!

Captain Phil, I loved your story! Colorful storyteller, indeed!

Thanks again...and lol, I do know getting sunk by a whale is so ridiculously unlikely. I just can't get that darn video out of my head...I wish my hubby had never shown me!
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Old 08-08-2010, 13:25   #10
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Our little boy has been aboard full time since birth (he's now 6) and we have a baby due next month. We never made him wear a PFD below deck. I could only see doing that in some extreme weather that we were truly worried for the safety of the entire ship.

I'd worry more about kids riding bicycles on neighborhood streets where people drive too fast or falling down a hard flight of stairs in a house than any dangers on a boat. Life is full of "risks" - kids adapt and life goes on.
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Old 08-08-2010, 13:31   #11
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I would generally say it's NOT a good idea to be below decks at any time with a lifejacket on (except an inflatable, that isn't).

Should there be a major emergency and the boat fills (such as my adventure on my Alberg), the life-jackets are going to pop to the top of the cabin. If the boat is on it's side, there's no hatch there. To get out, you;d have to overcome the buoyancy of the jacket as well as the individual.

On aircraft with actual inflatable life jackets (instead of cushion 'flotation devices') one of the reasons you're not supposed to inflate it inside is because of the cabin filling (another is possible damage to the flotation chamber).

Just my 2-cents worth.
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Old 08-08-2010, 18:10   #12
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That is an interesting take Healer. My grandson sails with me often. If he is below- he is without his jacket. Our crew jackets are usually off when we are at anchor or swimming. All my crew has to be able to swim. BTW- the people in the video did not sink. Think of all the sailboats out there, and all the whales. How often do you think a freak accident like that occurs? It doesn't cause me to loose sleep.
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Old 08-08-2010, 19:10   #13
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That is an interesting take Healer. My grandson sails with me often. If he is below- he is without his jacket. Our crew jackets are usually off when we are at anchor or swimming. All my crew has to be able to swim. BTW- the people in the video did not sink. Think of all the sailboats out there, and all the whales. How often do you think a freak accident like that occurs? It doesn't cause me to loose sleep.

I'm not worried too much about a whale getting pissed off at me...for a start, I'll stay far enough away from them that it doesn't annoy them

But (and I freely admit this) my experience when my boat was run down is something that came to mind in this thread: Had my forward hatch been dogged, or had I been in a life jacket (including an auto-inflating one) I'd have been forced into the forepeak of my boat. Now, I could probably have overcome the bouyancy of hte vest, and the disorientation (I managed to get through water survival, including various aircrafts' underwater egress trainers).

Could a small child? Not mine. Would I have had the presence of mind to cut away the kids vest(s)? Probably not. OTOH, when my kids were that small the jackets had cotton straps so breaking them would have been workable.

There are only two times when I wear a PFD below: When it's part of the jacket (float coat, exposure suit), or when the conditions are really, really bad and I'm moving batteries and water to the ditch bag. The rest of the time they come off at the bottom of the companionway, in the seemingly irrational hope of keeping the wetness in one spot
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Old 08-08-2010, 19:25   #14
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The only safe and sensible course of action is to duct tape them to the mast whenever they are down below. They can learn to sleep standing up, and you always know where they are!

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Old 08-08-2010, 19:46   #15
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The only safe and sensible course of action is to duct tape them to the mast whenever they are down below. They can learn to sleep standing up, and you always know where they are!

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