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Old 28-02-2010, 02:28   #1
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Family of Three Enough ?

My husband and I want to live off of our boat and cruise around the world pretty much until we get to old to sail. We are preparing our boat now, but won't be leaving for another few years.

My question is that there are only three of us. Myself (very inexperienced), my husband (experience from Lake Texoma but not open ocean) and our 4 year old son (who will be 7-10 when we leave)

Now I am sure that by the age of ten our son will have enough short trip experience to keep watch on his own and do a fair amount of other sailing stuff befitting his age....... but I am wondering at 7 if that is too young an age to have so much responsibility as watch and if it would be wise to have another adult come along with us.

How does it work with other cruising families that have young children?
I have seen evidence that it can be done.

Also my son is very rambunctious and always full of energy, out at sea what do you do other than chores to help release that energy?

Struggling to make sure that everything will be right.
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Old 28-02-2010, 02:35   #2
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I find it hard to see why a ten yr old needs to stand watches when there are two competent adults on board. Experience can only be gained at sea, and you have plenty of time to get that, day sails together in good weather, with decent instructor(s) in poor weather, and separately on other boats or with instructors on your own boat.
No reason why the lad shouldn't take the helm on longer legs, but more than half an hour can lead to inattention and boredom. I think you expect too much. In spite of 16yr olds doing circum's.
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Old 28-02-2010, 05:31   #3
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Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting over night watches or 2-4 hr increments at all.
Like I said I am inexperienced so I am just wondering what is possible for a young boy to do on a sailboat out at sea. I am under the impression that on a boat there is always something to keep idle hands busy. As it stands right now there is so much restoration that has to be done before the voyage, I have a hard time looking past what needs doing now.
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Old 28-02-2010, 14:56   #4
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Ours were girls, but they got the late afternoon watch together at that age, a time when one of us was likely to be up and about anyway, then as they learned and matured they took on more responsibility. Extend him, you may be surprised.

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Old 28-02-2010, 15:26   #5
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Hi Guys,

I would say it is a general YES - meaning: it can be done, but depends on a particular family. A family is three persons with three different personalities, three sets of skills, and three dreams. Team mnagement is a difficult science, and even more complex practice.

I do not understand a couple of point of your question, e.g., here:

... we won't be leaving for another few years...
... myself (very inexperienced), my husband (experience from Lake Texoma but not open ocean)

My question: if there is still these another few years, why not (use them to) build up your experience to the level where you will feel comfortable?

... our son will have enough short trip experience to keep watch on his own and do a fair amount of other sailing stuff befitting his age....... but I am wondering at 7 if that is too young an age to have so much responsibility as watch ...

My question: why should a 7 y.o. sailing with both parents need to bear any responsibility other than keeping his stuff in order and doing his homework? I think the sailing / watchkeeping part should be fun and education, not responsibility.

... struggling to make sure that everything will be right...

My suggestion: Stop struggling, start acting, Towards whatever goal you want to achieve. If the goal is to sail off, get more experience, learn, read, practice, sail, sail, sail, and it WILL happen (if this is what you want at heart).

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Old 28-02-2010, 17:44   #6
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Originally Posted by AnneP View Post
Now I am sure that by the age of ten our son will have enough short trip experience to keep watch on his own and do a fair amount of other sailing stuff befitting his age....... but I am wondering at 7 if that is too young an age to have so much responsibility as watch and if it would be wise to have another adult come along with us.
Not extended cruising - but me father has had boats since I was around 2 foot tall, so my time "before the mast" dates back a while. Some of that time onboard as a kid was very longgggggggg But most of the experiance was fun (and longterm useful when it comes to my own boat stuff).

Standing a watch alone at 7 years of age? Choose the watch period carefully and 95% of the time would not be a problem. 5% of the time you run the risk of the kid dropping overboard (from a misjudgement) or boat getting run down / hitting something.........if something appears and requires the watchkeeper to be paying attention. Kinda like letting yer 7 yo drive to mall unaccompanied (or simply crossing the road by foot), most could cope as long as nothing goes wrong or not on the freeway. The answer I guess largely depends how attached one is to the kid / boat and how much you value your own rest and comfort.............

10? I would say pretty much the same, even if you are by then up to 98%.

Of course accompanied watches are a different thing, and a good and useful part of his learning curve both on boat specific stuff and in dealing with responsibility. The art is keeping an eye on him / what is going on whilst he feels what he is doing has a genuine purpose / is valued. Not to say that on a voyage away from land / shiipping that a 10 yo could never be left on watch alone (depending on the child / sea condition / boat / safety equipment used) - but in my book that would be for stuff like putting the kettle on or having a dump .........making lunch would involve wandering into the cockpit to have a look around now and again - even if done surreptiously

Of course most of your / his time onboard won't be on passage - In addition to any onboard "chores" and routines / schooling by cruising you are bringing him a big world to explore / enjoy - with and without you. Albeit no doubt different attitudes between folks - from those happy to let the kids roam free onshore 24/7 to those who adopt the "Fritzl's Afloat" approach ........or somewhere in between............

My experiance as a kid (day long voyages only, mainly to nearby France - from weekends to a few months) was that passages were tedious, tedious, tedious Onshore though could be fun, depending on where / the weather / who with / events / adventures..........peace and quiet didn't have quite the same attraction at 10 as it does now..........FWIW back then I too was energetic and rumbunctious. Indeed I was often diagnosed with CF PITA .......not completely worn off that one But expressed more sedately nowadays

The good news is that from around 10 onwards they make excellent deckhands when docking (small & nimble - shore side rock scrambling is a useful training ground ). If not rapidly entering into the realm of expert , soon enuf even beyond the skills of the skipper - when yer can't use brute force and ignorance yer get the chance to use da noodle ......or simply to learn from the Skipper's mistakes

Anyway, post wayyyyyy longer than I intended - and somewhat rambly ...........
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Old 28-02-2010, 18:42   #7
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My girls were 13 and 10. Boys and girls are different by mine were great at:

loading the boat
doing school work - straight A students
getting into small places for boat and engine repairs
cleaning clogged macerator hoses - that's a long story but one that she is very proud of.
swabbing the deck
launching the gangplank and stowing
launching the dink
fending off
throwing lines - although she once went with the line
making lines fast
helping keep watch in busy harbors
helping fill the fuel tanks
helping company get acquainted to the rules
polishing the stainless
wonderful companionship most of the time

Only occasional for fun:
steering the boat
cooked but they made great tortillas and bbq sauce from scratch

Never did:
night watches

Probably could have leaned on them more but I just loved sailing and didn't push them very much. My wife and I could handle the boat very easily. It was the best year of my life and hopefully they recognize it as one of their best.
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Old 28-02-2010, 18:55   #8
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When I was six, my parents and I spent one year cruising. There are plenty of pictures of me at the helm but I don't believe I was ever unattended or that I was ever "scheduled" for watch. I was encouraged to enjoy and explore and participate but I don't believe it was ever thrust upon me. (Now, my school work and boat keeping chores were a different story- Just the same as any child of that age ashore.) Because I was able to participate in way that matched my comfort and maturity level it was a positive experience and my skills and confidence on the water and around boats grew and I wanted more responsibilities. It was the best thing they did for/with me and I haven't stop sailing since. I might also note that I believe that my parents probably made several decisions with me in mind as to where to go, when to move on, and who they cruised with. I know they would often change plans so that I could hang out with newly made friends longer, or stay at an anchorage that was within dingy range of a great playground etc. They experienced their dream and they also let me define my own that year.

Going to sea can be scary, going to sea with a very active seven-year-old imagination can be scarier, going to sea with an overactive imagination and being given the responsibity of adult like tasks .....?

Your son will probably let you know when he is ready to take on a new responsibility. I have found cruising kids, in general, are very mature and responsible because there is often an immediate consequence to their actions. But, like adults, wanting more responsibility and working to prove that you are worthy of it is much more positive than dealing with more responsibility than you feel comfortable with.

I wish you and your family well in your adventure and hope that you enjoy the preparation time too.

An all grown up cruising kid,
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Old 28-02-2010, 19:36   #9
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I was doing navigation at age 11...It is called Scouting....

Orienteering...transferred to parallel rules and dividers......

Most people who are on boats don't have a clue about real navigation skills.

They go by landmarks
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Old 28-02-2010, 19:54   #10
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The pointy end of the boat goes forward right?
Right now is a good time to start involving the Lad as he shows an interest. I wouldn't try to force feed him, but I would start trying to teach him some basics, like constellation identification, all of them have interesting stories behind them. Knot tying, can be made fun and interesting for him, take away the gameboy for awhile.
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Old 28-02-2010, 21:48   #11
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The choice is:
1. On Land, Book learning and Hanging out at the Mall
2. At Sea, Learning responsibility, visiting different lands and seeing different cultures, learning how to repair and maintain things, the production and conservation of energy, conservation of resources (water, etc), etc......

#2 looks better to me, book learning can never compare to seeing and doing.
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Old 01-03-2010, 23:29   #12
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Mine is 12, but he absolutely thrives on new responsibilities. If I explain to him the importance of the job and it's within his capabilities he will take it and run with it. He is very conscientious. We're not cruising yet but we're practicing. Not a day goes by that he doesn't have a better idea than his parent's ideas and not a day passes that I don't have to tell him "good job!"
Within reason, a child will fill the shoes you give them. It will please you all.
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Old 02-03-2010, 20:30   #13
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Kids start out with simple tasks...

Man a sheet
Help stow the mainsail
Run the dinghy back and forth from shore

You get the idea.

After standing watches WITH AN ADULT for a couple of years you will know when they are ready for that level of responsibility.

One of the best things my Mom did before we started cruising was to teach the kids how to cook. Not only watching a pot boil, but how to follow a recipe, and know what order to start different things like meats and veggies.

When we were under way we would each take turns cooking for the day. It became a matter of pride that no one complained when it was your day to cook.
Some people are like a slinky...

Not really good for anything, but fun to push down the stairs.
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Old 29-07-2010, 04:31   #14
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Kindle's post above is great.

I handed the helm off to a 4 year old the other day. I was watching him and the boat like a hawk, but I was surprised at how well I could say "a little bit this way" pointing my finger to port, and he was able to do it. Complex situations like tacking / jibing or taking a mooring are obviously completely different, and I had him on helm for maybe a minute before I hopped back into position.

You can get some use out of a little kid to make them carry their own water. Even when I went backpacking with my dogs I made them carry their own food via their dogpacks. I'm staring at our three day old daughter right now and obviously she has a ways to go until she can help out around the boat, but we'll get there.

There are so many tasks that need to get done, we'll find ones that fit her abilities and interests. Except for school work as Kindle noted. She'll be doing that regardless.
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