We recently got back from a trip to the BVI with our six year old. Here are 10 things you need to know about sailing with kids.
- Find a life jacket they love and make sure they wear it whenever the boat is moving. Jacob liked his a bit too much – we had to convince him to take it off when swimming!
- Find fun things to do when anchored like jumping off the side of the boat or tie a swim float to the back of the boat and let them try to lie on it. They can also snorkel to check the anchor.
- Find fun things to do when sailing. They can help steer, coil ropes or just play checkers and Uno. This one was the most challenging to us.
- Lots of snacks. We couldn’t believe how hungry our kiddo was but when we stopped to think about it – he never stopped moving!
- Explain ahead of time that there may be times when you can’t talk to them and you need them to sit still and stay out of the way – like when you are trying to navigate a tricky passage or when a big rainstorm with a huge gust of wind suddenly hits you.
- Tell them where you are going and what they will find there. Have them practice saying names like "Anegada" and "Jost Van Dyke." Explain the things you are seeing. Practice spotting mooring balls and other types of boats.
- Realize that when they are very tired, injuries are much more likely to happen. One day after a long day at the beach, Jacob managed to fall off his seat and hit his back on the wheel and his stomach on the seat. Half an hour later he fell down the stairs hurting his back and slamming his front on the floor. Tired kids get clumsy and boats aren’t kind to clumsy people.
- Schedule lots of time for their favorite activities and realize they may not be what you think they will be. Beaches – playing in the sand – not swimming or snorkeling turned out to be Jacob’s favorite. (Also remember that kids tend to get really cold snorkeling for more than 30 minutes at a time.)
- Be sure to explain how the head (i.e. the toilet) works and double check a few times that they are doing it right. Jacob was really good about remembering not to put toilet paper in the head but it took him a few days to figure out to pump with water before pumping all the water out.
- Don’t forget the peanut butter! Jacob requested a peanut butter sandwich everyday. Ham, turkey, salami and pepperoni just didn’t cut it.
And, unlike this picture, you probably shouldn’t let them run on the boat.