Sailing with kids
Quality time with your core family – all together, with no extraneous influences, no peer pressure on the kids, a time for bonding and sharing an unforgettable vacation which your children will be telling their children about many years from now, and probably repeating with them. This is why family sailing vacations are rapidly becoming a growing form of vacation. Even if you have no knowledge of sailing, and no license, you can hire a professional skipper to get from each exciting destination to the next. They will enjoy showing you and the kids the ropes, and you will be able to enjoy learning and implementing new skills. This new and different environment will encourage kids to learn more about new lands and nature, responsibility, to embrace the sea and the fun it offers, swimming and playing, discovering new and varied things. Have we mentioned bonding? The family, and them only, share a multi-faceted set of experiences and enjoyment which creates a memory for your lifetimes, and inevitably brings everyone closer to each other. Safety is always a concern, but by following our guidelines (below) you will have a safe and a vacation of a lifetimes.
We recommend a catamaran as most suitable for children, especially younger children: They have plenty of inside and outside space; it’s easy to get into and out of the water, and it is particularly stable and safe. A decent monohull yacht can be a viable substitute on a lower budget.
Destinations and Route Planning
Obviously, one should carefully plan the destinations and routes, taking into account the needs and interests of your particular family. Some things to consider: Distances between places of interest – we suggest keeping the sailing time between 2-4 hours a day, at least initially. This can be adjusted according to how much everyone is enjoying and getting into the actual sailing. Try to find sailing destinations which have 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. Maybe a museum, or beach with unusual shells, flora or fauna, landmarks etc. Your kids are likely to surprise you with what they find interesting or entertaining. A plan B is always a good idea too, where possible.
Make sure your kids have their favorite toys, books and gadgets so they can play when they get tired from sunbathing and swimming. Regarding gadgets, you know your kids best, and have your own considered policies regarding their usage; it might be a great idea to have a gadget-free trip, or it might be a major problem. Only you can reasonably judge that, but it’s worth thinking about. If you have a dinghy on the boat, 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 learn the basics of sailing. Active water sports are always a good option, amongst which jumping from the boat to the water, swimming on a stand-up paddle or snorkeling can be wonderful with children. We believe that by involving the children in everything that is happening on board, and making them truly a part of the team, they are not only entertained but are also learning and taking responsibility.
Life Jackets and safety
Establish simple safety related rules and stick to them and discuss them with your kids. 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. The rental company will provide you with life jackets for children, but this must be noted prior to your yacht charter. Check if your yacht rental company offers to install a safety net for children around your yacht. It offers good protection for children playing or sunbathing on the deck. There is no substitute for common sense, or for constant vigilance.
Food and cooking on board
Depending on the dietary habits and preferences of your family, it might be fun to expand the regime to more of the fun stuff the kids like, but even just cooking up a BBQ can be fun (and tasty), especially if some of the kids will take part and help with the cooking. Fresh fish which family caught would make a fun, tasty and healthy meal. Roasting marshmallows or nuts can be good sweet fun. Once again, only you can judge how much the kids should participate in all the work, but in our experience you are likely to be surprised how much they can derive from even the most mundane of chores. Make sure to stock up on the children's favorite snacks in advance, as sailing will make them quite hungry between meals.
Family Sailing Vacations
A sailing vacation with children promises you an extraordinary family voyage, that will make you spend quality family time together, being active as a team on the one hand and having calm and peaceful moments on the other. An endless variety of activities for the kids, whether on board, in the water or on shore when you dock will ensure an unforgettable vacation for the whole family. All that remains for you to do is plan, investigate alternatives, enjoy the anticipation, and finally set off on your sailing trip. The trip each of you will long recall.
Happy Sailing and Good Winds!