Living on a sailboat you will encounter EXTREME HIGHS, where life is beautiful, the ocean is flat, the happy hour drinks are flowing, and the sunsets are stunning. But you will also encounter EXTREME LOWS, where your life may be at risk, you may feel very uncomfortable, you may be lonely, or you may be puking your guts out. How do you keep your kids safe while sailing?
Save your kids from the pains of sailing
Pick good weather windows.
We err on the side of extreme caution when choosing our sailing weather windows. We have kids onboard, WHY PUSH IT?! And we have me onboard, so why push it?! We go sailing when its calm, but not too calm, because we have learned that that doesn’t work well either. We choose our weather windows wisely.
Develop tricks and rules that keep you comfortable.
Over time we have come up with a few TRICKS that have helped us make our trips more enjoyable.
-When doing longer passages we actually prefer to sail at night, that way the kids are sleeping and Eben feels less stressed out.
-We try and plan shorter hops during nap time for that same reason.
-We keep everyone in the cockpit while sailing, it is best, that way we can avoid seasickness and we can also keep our kids close at hand and under our supervision.
There are also clear RULES for the girls while we sail:
–no going on deck
-only walk in the cockpit with parental assistance
-bums on the seats at all other times.
These simple rules keep order on our boat while we are underway and have taught our girls sailing behaviour that we are comfortable with.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
Random squalls do happen. And that’s when people wonder, HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE IN ROUGH WEATHER?
Having everyone in the cockpit helps a lot. I can have my eyes on the girls, while my hands are free to help Eben sail the boat. (This has actually only started working now that the girls are a bit older. Before I would be sitting on the floor holding the girls and Eben would be stuck single-handing. Which is why in those days we always took on a third adult to help us with longer crossings.)
In the few instances when the weather has gotten bad we get the girls to sit on the cockpit floor, away from the splash of the waves, away from the rain, and away from being able to see the rock of the boat. Keeping them calm is key. I have been known to sing lullabies to them in rougher stints.
Our children are excellent readers of body language. They can tell when mama and papa are a little more tense (ie stressed when the weather unexpectedly turns on us) and know that in those moments they REALLY have to listen to what we say; and they do.
Arm yourself with things for your kids’ comfort and safety.
We have full body newt suits to keep the girls dry and west marine life jackets to keep them floating. There is also children’s dramamine, which we will give to the girls on longer passages to help keep their tummies settled, because our little ones do get seasick in larger seas, which doesn’t help anyones morale.
Thankfully for us, in the last 5 years I can only think of 4 times when the weather got bad quick. And 3 of those were squalls that came and went in under 20 minutes. Also, in all of those cases we had land in sight. It is definitely not like we were out in the open ocean getting attacked by the white squall.
Even in our moments of “stress” we were not in fatal danger. The stress we were feeling was more so from wondering, “What kind of damage will this do to our home?” and “When is this going to pass?”.
By having rules, watching weather, and being prepared for the worst, we have found ease in sailing with kids. We will always be vigilant when it comes to our safety and that of our children. We will continue to take every step to avoid getting into bad situations in the first place!