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Old 13-10-2014, 09:44   #1
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How young is too young?

What precautions do you take with small children on boats? What is the youngest that you would feel comfortable taking with you? Does this change by number of kids/adults, size of boat, etc?

I want to learn to sail and charter boats, and we will take a few short trips over the next few years while we leave kids with grandparents. Right now, our youngest is 6 months, and we plan to have more. My wife thinks we need to wait until our youngest is 8 before we can take our children on a sailboat. She is concerned about losing little ones overboard.
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Old 13-10-2014, 09:56   #2
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Re: How young is too young?

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Originally Posted by biscuitsjam View Post
What precautions do you take with small children on boats? What is the youngest that you would feel comfortable taking with you? Does this change by number of kids/adults, size of boat, etc?

I want to learn to sail and charter boats, and we will take a few short trips over the next few years while we leave kids with grandparents. Right now, our youngest is 6 months, and we plan to have more. My wife thinks we need to wait until our youngest is 8 before we can take our children on a sailboat. She is concerned about losing little ones overboard.
Oh Gawd no.... Go early... 2ish would be good for me... There are TONS of ways to keep kids on the boat... We can alleviate the Mrs. fears... (well reduce anyway) with good prevention plans... By the time they reach 4/5, you will have a tough time keeping them from begging to be IN the water... By 8 ? ? ? Hopefully they'll be standing a supervised watch....

I learned to sail at 4...
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Old 13-10-2014, 10:09   #3
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Re: How young is too young?

I was on a boat from one month old and my wife and I are expecting this February and will have our girl aboard for occasional overnights by April and hopefully full time by September 2015. We will not do any passages more than 48 hours in duration until the child is in the 5-8 year old ballpark but beyond that we have no compunctions about gunkholing and shorter duration island hopping. That said, I would probably not sail for more than 12 hours without a third adult if there were more than two children 0-5 aboard.

We plan to have a secure crib/playpen area in the cabin. I assume until she's old enough to walk that we'll keep her confined to the cabin while underway. Once she's moving she'll be tethered in the cockpit with a life jacket on at all times. Back in the cabin for heavy weather or any tricky maneuvering.

My experience has been that kids who don't start out sailing really young often have a much harder time. They don't get used to the motion as easily or the whole experience of being aboard. They have friends and activities ashore they don't want to leave and get bored easily if they're not used to being off the grid for extended periods. Also starting before school age gives you more flexibility to not have your sailing dictated by school schedules. Unfortunately summer break happens to be in the middle of hurricane season.
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Old 13-10-2014, 10:16   #4
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Re: How young is too young?

For daysailing within easy access (< 12 hrs) to decent medical care, I'd say as soon as they can sleep through the night. We started to take our son on weekend trips when he was about about 1 year old. Still, it was a bit stressful at times when he went through the usual childhood ailments--diarrhea, colds, etc. We had him in a lifejacket and a harness at all times above decks. I would not take any children on any longer cruises until they were reliably toilet trained. The decision when it's ok to take them on an extended offshore passages away from medical care is between you and your conscience. Check out this thread on Rebel Heart
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Old 13-10-2014, 10:17   #5
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Re: How young is too young?

... Yvonne and Lars sailed the Baltic this year with her son Finn born on May 11th.

Blog | perfect match on tour

They started July 1st and returned September 13th.

Rough translation regarding Finn from the summery at the end of their blog:

at our return Finn is 4 months and two days 'old'
- this means until this date he spent 3/4 of his life on a boat ...
he left with clothing size 56 and 5kg of weight and returned witz size 68 and 6.7kg
---

You can not start too early if you prepare things good. From own experience (with two kids) I can say it gets a little bit difficult when kids are starting to crawl but after this its getting easier again.

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Old 13-10-2014, 15:23   #6
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Re: How young is too young?

In my experience the difficult period is when they start walking, but don't yet understand that some things are dangerous.

That said, listen to your wife - most likely she will be the one bearing the brunt of all child care on the boat. And when a small kid is outside, that means she would need to be half a step behind him, all the time without looking even once at passing scenery. Baby carriers, netting on life lines, etc helps. But it's still hard with a little one unless you're inside all the time.

And you, dear sir, will need to singlehand while your other half is busy with small kid(s). Are you ready for it? For things going wrong on the boat while the baby is screaming because he/she feels your anxiety levels shooting up? And you having to figure it all out yourself, without the help of your other half, because your other half is busy with your crying baby?

Yes, there are a lot of positive factors for having little ones on board. Just don't forget that there are some negative ones as well. It's only for you and your wife to decide if it's right for you.


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Old 13-10-2014, 15:47   #7
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Re: How young is too young?

My wife and I are planning on splitting our time living aboard 8 months of the year and living in Vermont the other 4 months. We've had this plan for a few years now and are expecting a baby in February. Nothing has changed in our plan - we might adjust our starting point by a year possibly, but that would be it and might have been likely prior.

We own a boat in charter and are planning on a trip next summer. I actually thought of spending a few weeks on the boat during the maternity time my wife would have, but I think that might be a bit too soon and not sure travel like that is recommended so young.. but 5 months old, I'll have no problem taking him.

So I would take them whenever you are comfortable. Clearly once they are moving around it prevents more challenges, but as long as you are always watching, I wouldn't worry about it.
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Old 15-10-2014, 11:37   #8
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Re: How young is too young?

many good points. I don't beleive there is a "too young" as long as you can get to medical attention within 24 hours (people under 2 have immature immune systems and can get seriously ill very quickly). With a infant/toddler it is one adult for the baby and one for the boat. That being said if it is really tricky weather,maneuver,sail change, etc. you can always secure the baby and help. if you were driving on a highway and your baby was screaming you wouldn't automaticlaly be able to stop and tend ot her..same thing. If infrequent, not a big deal.

Really comes down to how comfortable the parents are.

As a "TMI" caveat, in the first several weeks after birth the mother may not be able to sail (epsiotomy or serious tear could make getting on/of the boat hard) or c-section could restrict movement. No one ever mentions these things!

Disclaimer; our baby isn't due till Feb so it's all speculation from me!
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Old 15-10-2014, 12:32   #9
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Re: How young is too young?

I haven't read all the thread, but at least some of it will be up to the kid, frankly some are just more sickly than others, my Son had bad ear infections until he was old enough that we could have tubes put it, and until then we had to keep him out of the wind and drafts. Both girls were as healthy as could be though.
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Old 15-10-2014, 13:03   #10
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Re: How young is too young?

Rules of the boat
Everyone wears a lifejacket, every adult too.
Rig the boat to sail well as sailing is fun, and sailing fast is more fun.
Everyone on the boat learns to sail every position- setup, trim sails, steer, dock, cleanup.
Build on experience. Get experience in light air, then get experience in heavier air, and then even heavier air.
Don't pass fears onto children. Teach them to consider risks and to build on experience.


Kids on boats
Don't think there is a too young. It's more about what a kid is capable of learning and doing.
Have taken babies weeks old on cabin boats - monos and the tri. A baby stays below in a car seat or strapped in a hammock and the adult assigned to baby watch must keep baby in line of sight if in cockpit - adults trade baby watch like trading helm watch. Toddlers are in the cockpit on a short tether if less then 15 knots of wind.
Have taken toddlers, and was taken as a toddler, on dinghies, kayaks, canoes in less than 15 knots of wind, children 8 years old for over 15 knots wind.
Have taken children as young as 5 on cats in less than 15 knots of wind, children 8 years old for anything above that. Also at these ages teaching children, and was taught, to solo sail in small dinghies, and at 12 to solo sail on a small cat.

Kids are no more difficult on a boat than ashore. Diapers, and the transition to walking, are a bit of a challenge anywhere. Kids generally like sailing and want to learn to do it themselves. Have found adults tend to need more supervision on a boat than kids do.


Medical
Use common sense. If you have a medical condition that requires continuous care, stay within range of that care. If you or your kids are ill or injured or just recovering from illness or injury, stay in close range of medical care.

Otherwise, choose a lifestyle that keeps you healthy, take wilderness first responder training, consider the risks, go if you want to go. Am often days away from medical care, as an adult, as a kid, with kids.


Sail where you live
Go buy a small boat and sail regularly together.
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Old 15-10-2014, 13:09   #11
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Re: How young is too young?

Go sailing and find out!

We started as soon as Mom and baby were up to it. In the beginning, the baby stayed below exclusively, then cockpit, then all over.
* Harnesses. Even when they are crawling, good fun. Obviously a parent is within reach. Custom-made can be the best answer, since babies have no bone structure.
* PFDs. But in very hot weather, this is a challenge, since toddlers over heat quickly. Keep them wet or use a harness instead. Stay close. Add netting if needed.

By the time she was 4 she knew the rules well enough to go out overnight with just Dad. By 5 she was helpful on deck. By 8 we were going on 2-3 week trips on a Stiletto catamaran (no lifelines)--she was in charge a part of the time. By 12 she had her permit and could handle the boat off-shore and through inlets in fair weather when Dad hurt his back (Dad lifted something he shouldn't have). She considered the tender to be her personal car! So 8 is too long to wait.

The most important thing is to make certain that a certain number of hours each day are pure kid time (beach, swimming, exploring stuff they want to explore, kid fishing) and that they know this. Beside, pure play is fun for grown-ups too!
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Old 15-10-2014, 13:16   #12
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Re: How young is too young?

Quite a number of knowledgable people commented after the Rebel Heart incident that about 2 years was a break point, younger than that perhaps "too young".

But we certainly know friends who cruised with brand new babies.
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Old 15-10-2014, 13:22   #13
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Re: How young is too young?

My earliest childhood memory is of sailing on a 35 foot ketch and reaching over the lee side towards the water rushing by the cockpit, I have a vivid memory of this, but I was probably about 3 at the time. Will never forget that.

I have also wanted to sail since I was old enough to read, and remember that one of my first books as child (1960s) was about children taking a cruise on a sailboat off New England. I remember they explored and found shells and such. In the book, the child got to ride on a bosun's chair with her feet in the water as the boat sailed. Back then, and still today, I think that was very cool! I wish I knew the title of that book and still had a copy. The song of the sea can be heard at a young age.

I think it is really cool to see young kids on boats. I would have no hesitation taking young children sailing (if I had kids), if good care is made to make the boat safer for kids (e.g. netting on lifelines, PFD, tethers) and with prudent supervision.
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Old 15-10-2014, 13:23   #14
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Re: How young is too young?

Our youngest was only a few months old when we first put him on a boat. We has a pack n play strapped into the boat and put him in it. The hardest part was finding a life jacket that would fit him. He and his brother (then 1.5 years old) rode in the pack n play for at least a year.

When my oldest was 7 I had him follow a compass course on our trip to the Bahamas. My youngest "stood watch" for us on our last trip and was 7 at the time as well.

They both have many hours on the water.
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Old 15-10-2014, 13:28   #15
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Re: How young is too young?

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Quite a number of knowledgable people commented after the Rebel Heart incident that about 2 years was a break point, younger than that perhaps "too young".

But we certainly know friends who cruised with brand new babies.
I could see that being the case for a crossing like they were doing, but I don't think its a problem if its a health baby and you are not doing a major crossing and have reasonable access to medical care as needed.
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