Sailing with kids

I bought my yacht Wildwood the year before Seth was born, so he has been around yachts all his life. I remember being heavily pregnant and climbing up ladders in the haul out yard much to my mothers horror! I think Seth was about three weeks old the first time he went out in a yacht.

Lots of people take their kids off sailing around the world and I think that would be absolutely amazing and I really admire them. Unfortunately Seth’s father is not a sailor, and there is no way he would let me do that. But to be fair, I should probably not blame him, and admit that I would go absolutely mad being in a small confined space like a yacht 24/7 with Seth and his step siblings for an extended period of time…  however in saying that, given the opportunity I would probably still give it a try and just take along extra wine to help ease my nerves perhaps.

So our sailing adventures for now are confined to weekends and school holidays, but we make the most of every minute of that time and take the kids out on the boat as much as we can.

Here are some of my tips for sailing with kids:

  • The rule on our yacht is that kids always need to wear lifejackets when they are up on deck, if they are in the cabin they can take their lifejackets off unless we are sailing in rough conditions. (Now I have said that, I realise that in about half the pics below Seth isn’t wearing a lifejacket! Ahh well – we AIM to have the kids wearing a lifejacket when they are in the cockpit!)
  • Get a decent comfy lifejacket that fits so that they are happy to wear it
  • Same goes with a decent jacket – no one has any fun if they are cold and or wet
  • Take spare clothes as the kids will always without fail get wet
  • When cruising try to give everyone their own space to have all their clothes, toys and stuff contained in one area
  • Have lots of books, games, colouring, iPads or whatever close at hand for rainy days
  • Have buckets and spades, and inflatable toys for them to use on sunny days
  • Teach kids how to use the dinghy, how to row, and how to use the motor when they are big enough. Preferably learn to row before learning to use the motor! Seth was six when he started motoring around on his own in the dinghy!
  • Teach them how to steer the yacht, practice a man overboard drill so they would know what to do if you fell overboard
  • Same with the VHF radio. Show them how to use it if something happened to you
  • Have lots of snacks and easy things for them to eat
  • Kids love fishing, but teach them how to take the fish off the hook early on so you don’t have to get up every time they catch a little spotty! (corks make great bait for four year olds… ;0)
  • Always have a parent on deck watching when they are swimming or jumping off the side
  • Have hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and t shirts to stay safe in the sun and keep them hydrated
  • Pick your days, you don’t want to freak them out and put them off sailing ever again! If it does get rough, make sure you explain to them what is going on and reassure them that all is going to be ok.
  • When they are big enough – 9 or 10 – teach them how to sail a dinghy like an Optimist, so they get a better understanding of how the bigger yacht works.
  • Teach them how to snorkel, kayak, waterski behind the dinghy, use the paddle board etc. They LOVE that!
  • Have a good first aid kit on board in case of any fish hook or cuts on shells etc
  • Make it fun and they will enjoy it as much as you do!

2 thoughts on “Sailing with kids

  1. We plan to go full time cruising in a few years. My wife just posed a question that I have to admit I hadn’t thought of an answer to yet.

    She asked how are we going to ensure our kids are able to have jobs and work as they get older if we’re moving from place to place on the boat? We want to ensure they obtain a good work ethic for when they spread their wings and fly off the liveaboard lifestyle, if they choose to do so.

    Have you run across this question previously? Any advice?




    • Hmmmm good question. It would be interested to hear an answer from kids who grew up on boats, and what they are doing now.
      I personally think the key to having a good work ethic is working doing something you love. Something you are absolutely passionate about, so that it doesn’t actually feel like you are working, but rather doing something you love and getting paid to do it!
      Unfortunately many people aren’t that lucky, and many people hate going to work every day. For example I think I would be a very diligent sailing travel writer & photographer! Hopefully that will be my job one day. The other advice would be to not get so caught up in what society expects – i.e. a house, 2.5 children, a husband/wife, a mortgage and a 9-5 job. I wouldn’t have to be so diligent at working as hard as I do now if I didn’t have so many bills to pay! 😉


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