Sailing sure gives great pleasure, a feeling of freedom, peacefulness, and relaxation that is hard to beat with any other experience. Anyway, having small children on board can easily turn freedom and peacefulness into a hectic fuss and anyone who has ever spent a day running after a toddler around the house will understand. So is it possible to enjoy a sailing holiday with your little ones and actually have fun? Sure it is, and the keyword is PLANNING.
Here are some tips that will make your boat-life easier.
Plan everything ahead, and by everything we mean EVERYTHING. Prepare daily schedule, eating and sleeping arrangements, stuff you will need for sure (check our other blog post for that :-)), stuff you might find useful, toys, water sports equipment, safety equipment, clothes. Once you get organized, at least in your head or on the paper, you will be half ready for your sailing trip, even if you haven’t started packing yet.
Work your sleeping schedule. If you have a small baby you might want to bring a portable cot or “sleep and play”, but if you charter a sailing boat which is pretty limited with space, it could be hard to fit it anywhere. Cabin berths are usually only open at the head, so they are easier to be secured than regular beds in the first place. A good solution could be for one adult to sleep with the baby while securing the opened (head) area with a larger firm pillow. The best solution would be a lee cloth, but you would need to improvise a little bit with mounting as charter boats might not have a hook exactly on the spot where you need it to be. Also, consider renting a catamaran as you will have a large level space for your children to play or to place a portable bed.
Have in mind that your daily schedule shouldn’t be too crowded or kids could get very fussy. Make short sailing routes and plan a lot of time ashore, exploring or just having fun. Try to assure that essential parts of daily routine stay in its place and time (e.g., afternoon nap time, time for a cartoon….).
Make sure to organize proper safety equipment to secure your child - ask the Charter Company if they offer the possibility to rent a safety net for railing, whether you charter a sailing boat, catamaran or motor yacht. It is always advisable to bring your own life jackets for younger children; Charter Companies have limited offer of small life vests, and it is possible that they will not have a suitable size for your child’s weight. Consider utilizing a children car seat to keep your kid safe if all adults on board have their hands full.
Speaking of hands...it is always useful to have an additional pair of ones on board. Rent a boat together with your friends or family – you will have some help with babysitting, and the whole experience will be much more fun and relaxing, for you and your children both.
Keep the kids busy and be creative at it – if they are old enough, entrust them with some smaller jobs they can do (deck brushing, passing the winch handle) and include them in your activities. They will feel very useful given the opportunity to be a part of the crew with some responsibilities, instead of just being observers. You can also prepare some of their favorite snacks and drinks for periods when they should just be sitting idle.
Make sure to bring enough of kids favorite toys and books, you can also add some new ones, as new toys should keep them entertained for longer periods of time. Also, consider bringing a portable DVD player (or check with the Charter Company whether the boat already has a TV and DVD set) for their favorite cartoons. If your children like to play with water, now you have a unique opportunity to give them the pleasure without being terrified that they will flood the whole bathroom or the apartment. Fill the bucket with some water, put it on the deck and let them enjoy. They can also play “fishing” with a simple rope tied to a stick (which acts as a fishing rod) while you are moored in some bay.
Don’t forget to bring sunscreen with high SPF (and use it even when in the shade), hat, sunglasses and a rash guard or long sleeved sun suit + keep children HYDRATED the whole time.
And in the end, let's get back to the beginning – prepare your kids for a sailing trip and start early, before it even starts. Tell them what the yacht charter experience will look like, what they will be able to see or learn, warn them of possible dangerous situations and explain how they should react. If your children feel scared when leaving the shore and entering the open water, tell them how long it will take till you get back to the land. Some kids are frightened of the sudden boat rocking as they think it might trip over and sink – explain that those are natural movements. Also, be willing to get back to the shore whenever your child has had enough. That is before the situation gets out of control and turns your sailing paradise into something little less heavenly :-).
Wish you and your little ones fair wind and calm seas!