KIDS ABOARD. Family navigation in the wave of safety and fun.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Sailing lovers who have kids can heave a sigh of relief: family and sailboat aren’t incompatible and no one will be obliged to give up one’s own passions. More and more parents in fact rediscover the pleasure of seafaring life with their children because family navigation is not only possible but it is also a great opportunity fostering growth for everyone. Kids get in real touch with nature and discover a different way of experiencing the sea approaching sailing as insiders; on the other hand, parents share this positive experience with their children and look afresh at their passion since kids’ enthusiasm is contagious and the boat is to them a stimulating playground. Adults and children experiment aboard simple and unforgettable moments combining discovery, sharing and true excitement.
Yet sailing is not a game and everything must be organized, conceived and arranged in such a way to allow for a positive experience for everybody. Safety aboard comes first and this aspect is the one that keeps many parents from setting sail with their family. But if you prepare this experience in advance, driven by common sense and paying attention to some little precautions, sailing with kids aboard is possible in full safety and fun.
Here is some advice from a parent-sailor to a parent-trainee hoping that our experience may be useful to other people that love seafaring and family seagoing like us.
General and major rules when you sail with your family:
– Organize this experience according to your sailing skills and those of the crew. You must be able to manage the different requirements connected to both sailing and family therefore it is recommended to do only what you can really do and, if possible, at the beginning it’s better to team up with more experienced people in order to discuss choices related to navigation, weather and safety. You’ll develop increasingly larger autonomy so make sure you pay the utmost care when choosing the boat, the port of departure and the navigation route.
– Help the children approach sailing gradually: better start with day trips, weekends and longer holidays will come later. This makes it easier to familiarise with the boat; on the other hand you will experience everybody’s needs in order to find solutions in advance. Don’t let anything to chance yet remind that some aspects are impossible to be foreseen or anticipated: in fact adaptability to difficult situations and creativity in finding solutions are tools of the trade a parent-sailor relies on.
– Prepare the compulsory safety equipment (download pdf) defined in accordance to the distance from the coast during navigation (300 metres, 50 miles or unlimited navigation). See the Coastguard’s website for comprehensive information.
Arrange and constantly overhaul some safety measures:
Safety harnesses to be used during navigation shall be adequate to the kid’s weight and chest circumference, shall be made of polyester and fitted with a stainless steel hook at the back connected to a strap fastened to the deck by means of self-locking snap hooks. Check the strap length considering the space where the child can move provided it is clear of dangers and outside the maneuvering range.
Stiff or, even better, self-inflating lifejackets with thigh strap or trousers for younger kids whose buoyancy depends on the distance from the coast during navigation (100 or 150 Newton).
Safety area on and under deck where kids can be left by themselves in total confidence when manoeuvring requires the presence of both parents (bad weather, anchoring and docking). Make sure this area is safe and make it more comfortable with cushions, anti-roll mats and safety nets.
A First-Aid kit arranged and constantly overhauled to face the most frequent illnesses (otitis, sore throat, sea sickness, temperature) or minor accidents (disinfectant, dry ice, bandages, plasters, Steri-strips). Make sure the children always wear sunglasses and hats and don’t forget to spread them with sunscreen, after-sun balm and insect-repellent products.
When the boat is stationary, a handrail netting is useful to prevent unwanted falls overboard but always keep an eye on your kids: they learn fast to climb it! This is why it is highly recommended that children wear a lifejacket or a safety harness fastened to the life-lines even when the boat is stationary so they can move safe and free on the deck.
To increase safety in case of man over board (MOB), there are several wireless or AIS MOB devices available on the market.
– You’d better plan you experience in a place that you already know so you can easily face schedule changes and bad weather conditions. Alternate periods spent in roadstead with those in spent in port to meet everybody’s needs and when you have young deckhands aboard arrange for short navigation distances and anchoring in roadsteads preferably with sandy beaches. Anyhow always plan your itinerary after a careful evaluation of the weather conditions.
– There are things aboard that cannot be touched, places where you have to move carefully and moments when you have to keep quiet: this is why kids have to be taught to respect safety rules, that everybody will have to stick to in no matter which sailing conditions so they will fast turn into habits and automatic reflexes. Depending on the kid’s age, each parent will find the most appropriate strategy to have these rules accepted explaining, for example, the reason of some requests, the boat functioning and when children can be involved all round in safety choices. As an example, our daughter Reva has accepted more willingly to use the safety harness after we fastened her favourite doll at her side her during navigation “for her safety, we don’t want her to fall over board”.
– Make your boat a comfortable and homely place: bring in books, parlour games and don’t forget stuffed toys to make your children feel at home while falling asleep. Life aboard offers manifold entertainments: baths, fishing, navigation, land explorations and nights spent in starwatching but don’t forget to involve your kids in everyday activities as much as possible. In fact it’s crucial for them to help with the simplest things and to have precise tasks to carry out: they will feel active members of the crew and not only simple spectators of this new adventure.
Once your sailing experience has been planned and arranged, don’t forget the most important aspect: relax, surrender to enthusiasm and fully exploit the joy your family and this unique experience give.
Wishing you a good wind!
Lara, Michele and Reva
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