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.
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.