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Old 19-11-2011, 08:55   #1
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Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

My wife and are in hot pursuit of purchasing a sailing vessel so that our growing family can enjoy sailing together on the Chesapeake. My wife and I have sailed on small boats (J22s and Sonars) for the last 5 years or so. We have an 18 month old and another on the way. When recently looking at a boat, the broker and I (not mine) were chatting about families. He also had an 18 month old and another on the way. He had clearly sailed his entire life, was very knowledgeable about boats, and loved sailing. However, he and his wife had decided to sell their sailboat as sailing with a little one proved to be "lots of work". Needless to say I was stunned. Here I am buying my first sailboat to sail with my family, and he is getting rid of his. In one fell swoop he had cast doubt upon my entire plan.

Am I crazy thinking that I can buy a comfortable 35 footer and sail the Chesapeake with my family on weekends, holidays, vacations,etc.?

I am willing to sail easy, make trips short, have fun stops, swim, view nature, etc. and envision family fun games at anchor, reading books in the cockpit at night, etc.

Does anyone have any practical experience daysailing and overnighting with little ones? I am need of some reassurance here that I'm not chasing an unrealistic dream.
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Old 19-11-2011, 09:16   #2
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

maybe you should discuss this with your wife,as she will be the one stuck inside all the time with the kids.

it gets easier once the kids get to 3 ,as they have learnt not to topple overboard,not to put fingers in closing doors,that head wounds hurt and bleed a lot, about gravity and open hatches,how to climb almost any thing and that small toys never come back from cockpit drains................
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Old 19-11-2011, 09:23   #3
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

My kids have been sailing since my wife was pregnant with them. They are a handful when they are young but that is true everywhere. The lifejackets are uncomfortable and they complain. I think it is a great thing to do but you have to do shorter trips etc. As you have suggested.
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Old 19-11-2011, 11:08   #4
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I just bought my first boat this year with two three year olds. The first few trips out were a real challenge, they wanted to explore the boat and didnt know their boundaries. As time went on we brought things for them to busy themselves with and established boundaries it became much easier. The more kids are on the boat the more normal it is for them snd the easier things will be. I have seen a guy at Wed. night races with his three yr old and eightteen mo old who look just at home on the boat.
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Old 19-11-2011, 12:22   #5
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

You should ask your wife if she likes being in a boat that she can see the water from the salon table without standing up or the boat is healed over to the rail. Most folks that get sea sick or sick of being stuck in a boat design that feels like a submarine with little windows up high. My buddy sailed aloan because his wife and kids hated the submarine design of there monohull, he traded to a deck salon and then a catamaran with lots of windows and got his family back sailing with him after buying a catamaran. Your kids are small now but it won't take long untill they will want a door on there stateroom or not go.
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Old 19-11-2011, 12:57   #6
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

Some of the most memorable things my grandkids talk about is our time on the boat. I dont know about 1-3 year olds but once they are 5 or so they'll love it!
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Old 19-11-2011, 13:16   #7
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

Having sailed with both my kids and grand kids from ages 18 months up I can tell you that until they are 3-4 and mobile they hated the boat.

Plus you need to be very competent to handle a boat with babies on board.

Not easy in a Chesapeake thunder storm and 40 knots with 2 small children and a non-sailing wife on board...been there, done that and probably the hardest day I have had in 30 yrs of off-shore sailing.
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Old 19-11-2011, 14:33   #8
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

I've owned and sailed boats on the Chesapeake Bay for the last 30 years — with the exception of when our son was about from 14 months until he was four. We took a break because it wasn't any fun for my wife. I hated selling the boat, but it was the best decision.

When he turned four, we boat another boat and have been happily sailing together for the last 20 years.
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Old 19-11-2011, 15:07   #9
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

We sailed with our 18 month old twins day sail, weekends and 10 day or so vacation in a 30 footer . We had a packnplay set up in main cabin works great keeps them in place . I say go for it . Now we have a 37c and the kids are 6 still love sailing.
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Old 20-11-2011, 04:29   #10
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

I spent a couple of years building our family boat and during that time several people told me flat-out that you can't get your kids to enjoy sailing with you, so I should just build a boat for myself. Well, we launched the boat when my kids were 4 and 7, and the has been a huge source of joy. There was definitely a period of getting everyone comfortable with bigger seas and longer trips, but that happens gradually; just don't push it.

I suspect when my eldest gets to be 16 or 17, she may not want to spend weeks every summer on board the boat, but so far that's what we do and it works well.

The boat has provided the closest family time, all of us together and not distracted by all the workaday chaos of home. And it has given everyone a sense of empowerment -- lots of little jobs can be assigned to kids and they love to help out and show their competence.

There is a big emphasis on beach time, though. Sailing is fine all by itself, but my kids really like a beach to be at the end of it. We have a shallow-draft boat and sail right up to the beach where they hop off and play and explore. I know I'm biased, but I would recommend a shallow-draft boat for coastal cruising young families. Maybe look at some of the more reasonable catamarans, like the Geminis. Shallow draft monos with room for a family are rarer, but can be found.

Good luck! The years pass fast, and you'll be very glad a sailboat is part of your life and your kids' memories.
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Old 20-11-2011, 05:21   #11
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

I would not be put off, if you appreciate and accept the challenges you are going to face, and both you and your wife are willing to endure some difficult times alongside the joyful times. It's worth it in my opinion, but it's not for everyone.

We have sailed our yacht with our first son since he was about 18 months old. We then had a daughter, and she sailed from about 6 months. They are now 7 and 3, and certainly as others have said life is getting MUCH easier sailing with the kids as they get older. But I'm glad I persevered.

Our kids love the boat now, but we've had our ups and downs. The worst moments were pretty bad to be honest, but they were worth enduring in my view. My wife might not always agree, mind you. It's true she took most of the workload for the child care aboard as I'm the skipper and most experienced sailor. Our youngest, the daughter, was more of a handful before she could walk! We used our car seat onboard, and of course she was down below whilst sailing unless it was sunny and mild weather.

You need to think very carefully about safety. Basically, you can't take any chance they go overboard - especially in UK waters, where the water is very cold, and losing a kid overboard even in summer is simply not something you want to happen, even if they can swim. Lifejackets are a must at all times on deck. Even anchored, a strong current can carry a kid off quickly. So our rule is the kids have to be tied on to the boat when we're sailing (or if there is a current), unless supervised in the cockpit by an adult (but not one at the helm or otherwise distracted). In reality, at first this means one of you are always looking after the kids, whilst the other is sailing single-handed. Or you sail with friends/family crew aboard - which is our most favoured option, as it's just easier and therefore more enjoyable. But we have a 45 foot yacht, with large sail area, so she's a handful to sail single handed in anything above a F4/5, depending also on sea state. We have her set up for short/single-handing, and we've invested time and training in learning short-handed sailing techniques. We also have a wooden yacht, so she's heavy displacement and very sea kindly; our last boat, a Bavaria 34, was much more lively to handle. So lots to think about.

We've done two 4 week trips with the kids. One in Portugal/South West Spain, the other on the East and South Coasts of England. In both cases we had crew aboard for longer passages, and otherwise confined ourselves to short day hops. Weekend sailing tends to be day trips of say 5 or 6 hours maximum, unless we have additional crew aboard.

It's a lovely experience for the kids though. They love our pottering in the dinghy in a quiet anchorage, or having a BBQ on deck on a summer evening. The highs - as always with sailing - make up for the lows.

Good luck.

Thomas

PS Since you are at the buying stage, it's worth thinking about the cockpit layout. My advice is try to find a layout that allows a fairly safe, wind-sheltered, out of the way space/corner for the kids to be looked after by an adult. An easily single-handed layout is best, set up for the helmsman to reach winches and lines and minimising the need to go forward. Our halyards are at the mast, but everything else is well positioned for the helmsman (with practice). An autopilot is also very handy. The most tricky time is entering and leaving harbour - we put the kids below if we don't have crew.
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Old 20-11-2011, 05:31   #12
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pirate Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

Hi... I'd say go for it.. I know several couples who have given birth whilst cruising and continued the lifestyle after as liveaboards... if your wifes up for it do it...
She's the major player here...
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Old 20-11-2011, 06:53   #13
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Thomas.

Thanks for sharing your experience and your "experienced" opinions.
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Old 20-11-2011, 10:24   #14
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie View Post
My kids have been sailing since my wife was pregnant with them. They are a handful when they are young but that is true everywhere. The lifejackets are uncomfortable and they complain. I think it is a great thing to do but you have to do shorter trips etc. As you have suggested.
I would like to add to this that my kids are currently 13 and 15 we have sailed our boat from Sidney to Squirel Cove ( In desolation Sound). This was five years ago. Two years ago we did the Baja Ha Ha. They flew home afterwards and then we went down Mexico a couple of times for two weeks or so. I did the Bash with a friend. This past summer I did an absolutely idiotic thing and bought a second boat in the Med. It has berths for 6.5 people and is 33 feet long. My two kids, the admiral, and our nephew were on the boat for 4 weeks and we had a blast.

The kids are now very comfortable on our boats and boats in general. Rest assured that it is easier to bring companions on the boat or an older cousin or even a nanny to help take care of the kids when they are really young.

It is amazing how fast time passes. The reason I bought the second boat is that I have always wanted to spend time in Europe with my family. When you look at how time flies before the kids leave the nest it is important to spend as much time as a family as possible. We have three more summers till my daughter is off to college and plan on spending them in Europe.

By making the sailing trips shorter and closer to home until the kids learn the boundaries you will save yourself a lot of grief. I had to tone my sailing way down to start with but now I would coastal cruise with my kids anywhere.
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Old 20-11-2011, 10:36   #15
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Re: Sailing with Two Young Children and a Puppy

When my son was born we lived aboard so he was sailing from almost the get-go and when my daughter was less than one we headed south with her and my then 3-year old son. Challenges--yes! Fun times--yes! One of the biggest issues was dealing with diapers in the Bahamas--my daughter turned 2 on Stocking Island beach where we threw a birthday party with all the other cruiser kids--my daughter ran around buck naked on the beach. Now as a teenager she is planning with her friends our summer vacation sail next summer. We had a 32-foot cat when they were small and we netted off or sealed with canvas various areas down below to hold them in safely when neither of us could watch them or when seas were rough. They quickly learned how to deal with boat motion etc.
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