Sailing With Children.
Sailing with children is undoubtedly an added challenge to the normal every day demands of yacht life we all know and love. The major plus side is of course, that the next generation can begin at an early age. They then appreciate the sometimes intimidating, but always rewarding needs of the boat and its crew.
In my sailing career I always seem to be sailing with children on board. My first experiences were back in the 1980’s and included my then stepson who was aged around ten at the time. Most of our sailing then centred around the East Coast Rivers of England. My boat, a bilge keeled Cobra 850, was based in a small creek between Two Tree Island in Leigh on Sea and Canvey Island in Essex She was moored on a drying swinging mooring with three hours either side of the tide.
One of the first things we did was to prepare the boat. The first job was to net the guard rails. We also took our dog with us, a nutty Labrador who loved sitting at the bows in all weathers and at any angle of heel. The netting stopped him literally throwing himself in the water. Useful when we pulled up on a friendly sand bank for a barbeque with the other boats we cruised with.
The main rule was that up on deck, we all wore lifejackets at all times. There were no exceptions to this, which made this seem normal to us all. Let’s face it, it’s good practice anyway, but most adults don’t follow it. In light winds, kids were allowed out of the cockpit as well, so long as they were hitched to lifelines. Again, this is good practice and common sense.
As far as lifejackets go, our advice is to never scrimp on the purchase. Make sure it is comfortable and read the reviews from the yachting magazines. It never fails to amaze me how the quality and even more importantly, the effectiveness and functionality of these lifejackets vary. Some will not even, for instance face a child nose up in the water, if they fall in unconcious! We believe the RNLI know best and they use Crewsaver lifejackets so that is what we generally buy these days.