Although many people wrongly believe that it’s impossible to enjoy a sailing vacation once you have kids, the truth is actually quite opposite; sailing with children may be the best thing if the world – if you and the children have the right attitude. Your kids will enjoy being out at the sea, helping you with the boat, playing, swimming and sunbathing. Yes, they might get bored occasionally, and safety is always a concern, but stick to this advice and both, you and your kids, will have the holiday of a lifetime.
A lot of parents are unsure about the type of boat they should rent; we suggest a catamaran as they are the most comfortable for children. They have plenty of inside space (meaning children will have an area for play), a fly deck (kids love jumping off the stern), and it’s easy to get in and out of the water.
Safety on the yacht
Check if your yacht rental agency offers the option of installing a safety net for children. Since it takes some time to install it tell them early enough (at least two or three weeks before you begin your holiday). The same goes for life vests – make sure the agency has all the necessary details about the height and weight of your children so they can prepare proper sized life vests since the boatas are, usually, equipped only with life vests for adults.
Establish simple safety related rules and stick to them! Discuss them with your kids before the trip starts and start enforcing them the moment you get on board. The most important should be: Wearing a life vest when not in inside space is obligatory. Don’t leave the boat without permission from an adult. Don’t go swimming alone. Running around is strictly forbidden. Don’t go to the front of the boat alone.
Make sure at least one of the adults keeps an eye on children; set up a schedule. This is easier if at least two families are on a vacation together.
Forestall the boredom
Shorten the sailing distances; kids may get a bit bored if on board for too long. For example, instead of doing a four hour sail, do a two hour sail, then a pause (you might stop on a beach so the kids can play and run around for some time), then a second two hour sail. Determine the tempo of your vacation according to children and always take their needs into consideration. Although sailing is more about the journey than the destination, a bit of motivational skills will turn your kids into crew members eager to set the sails. Try to find sailing destinations which have landmarks and attractions interesting for children. A nearby island has a theme park or some water-sports facilities? Or a town with the best ice cream shop on the entire coastline? Make them mark these locations on a map as they eagerly wait to reach them.
Stay healthy and happy
Seasickness prevention – We’ve already mentioned that catamarans are the most suitable sailboats for family vacations; there’s not a lot of rocking back and forth when sailing in a catamaran, meaning there’s not a lot of chances for somebody to get seasick. Still, bringing seasickness pills is a wise precaution.
Children should also wear sunscreen at all times. In fact, they should wear a T-shirt in afternoons when the sun is especially strong. Make sure they drink plenty of liquid; interestingly, people often forget to drink enough water when they spent the day sailing or swimming. Give the kids bottles of water with their names on them; they’ll love to have their own personalized water bottles and you can easily keep track if they’re drinking enough. The same goes for adults; dehydration happens easily when you’re exposed to the sun all day. Don’t forget the food – you can make grocery shopping for the boat a family activity, as a warm up for the trip itself. Let the kids plan the menu and distribute the snacks; make sure you’ve got enough quick treats.
Entertainment for children on-board
What about entertainment? Make sure your kids have all their favorite toys, books and gadgets so they can play when they get bored of sunbathing and swimming. Or, you might want to make their holiday “gadget-free”. What’s the point of sailing if they’re going to play video games all the time? Focus on “unplugged” toys and sailing-related items. If you have a dinghy at your disposal, let the kids use it if they like (if they’re old enough). Usually they’ll love it and it’s a good way for them to teach the basics of sailing. Again, remember- safety goes first!
The best way to keep them happy and entertained is to involve them in everything you’re doing; keep them active by seeking their help. Make them “a part of your crew”; younger kids can be on look-out duty, clean the decks or coil lines (as a part of play, of course). Older ones can help with the navigation, have their turn at the helm, trim and hoist the sails and help with the anchoring. It’s all in the way you present sailing to them. They love to hear “all right, from now on you’ll be in charge of…” instead “you must do this…”. It will intrigue them and they’ll learn something news. Assign them various titles; they can be bosuns, first mates, engineers, navigators, helmsmen, captains and whatnot. Ask your skipper to show and explain to them how sailing and navigation work; you might discover your kids are actually avid fans of sailing.
A bit of fear may be present as well – You might enjoy the waves smashing down the hull of your boat, but your little ones could be a bit scared – and that’s the last thing you want. A slight fear of heeling is the most common problem; if this happens, ask them for help with the inclinometer, see at what point they get nervous, and gradually build their confidence by explaining them that it’s safe.
Although it takes a little bit of patience and creative thinking, making your kids like sailing is actually not that hard. Once the entire family gets in the proper vacation mood, you and your little sailors will have a great time.