Establish simple safety rules and stick to them. The captain will give a short safety briefing, but this vital job rests with you. Discuss rules with your kids before the trip starts and make sure they adhere to them as soon as you get on board. Wearing a life jacket on deck, never leaving the boat without permission from an adult, no swimming alone, no running around and never going to the front of the boat alone, are amongst the most important.
For sailing with really little people, chat to us about getting a safety net installed. It's attached to the boat's stanchions and is designed to prevent pint sized humans from going overboard. A harness is also something you could consider.
Catamarans are great for a family sailing holiday. They don't heel over, which can be alarming for children, and are steady in the water. The galley is at the same level as the cockpit, which means you can keep an eye on the kids whether they are inside or out, plus they have loads of inside space. Cats are also easy to get in and out of and the trampoline upfront is a great safe place for children to chill and relax.
Whilst there's no minimum age limit when chartering a crewed yacht, taking tiny tots might seem daunting but it is doable. By planning in advance, equipment such as baby-sized PFDs, harnesses, and tethers and of course safety netting can all be arranged.
To prevent kids from getting bored on board, shorten sailing distances. Instead of doing a 4 hour sail, do 2 hours, a beach stop off for some fun and games, then a second 2 hour sail. Get children involved in the route by getting the maps out and marking sailing destinations with landmarks and attractions they'll find fascinating or a town with the best ice cream shop on the coastline.
For the most part, kids aren’t self-entertaining so a backpack of cards, travel games, puzzles and books can be invaluable. Bring out their creative side by packing colouring pencils and paper and encourage them to draw the spectacular scenery, other boats or make a treasure map! Whilst it's great to think of your sailing holiday as the perfect break from ipads and laptops, they are helpful for downtime, particularly during sails, early mornings or to get out of the sun for a while. Plus a TV/DVD and a few films in the saloon can make for a peaceful boat in the evening, allowing you to enjoy a sundowner.
For children, sailing can be exhilarating. Swimming in crystal clear waters, splashing about round the boat, spotting fish and conquering the nearest islet make unforgettable memories. Stand up paddleboards (SUPs) are a great addition to keep kids entertained; these paddle powered crafts are perfect for exploring the coastline, going fishing or snorkelling or simply playing around in the water. Snorkelling is a great activity the family can do together, as is fishing off the side of boat with hand lines. Don't forget the suncream and rash vests to provide skin protection.
It can happen to anyone, so it's best to be prepared. Catamarans are best for family sailing holidays; they don't rock back and forth much, thus minimising the possibility of feeling queasy. Encourage kids to let you know if they’re not feeling well rather than hide it. It's usually better to sit in the cockpit in the fresh air and watch the horizon rather than down below in the cabins. Have pills, bracelets and easy snacks on hand too.
Dehydration can easily happen when you're exposed to the sun all day plus it's easy to forget to drink enough water when you're spending time sailing and swimming. Giving children personalised and fun water bottles will help you keep track of how much they are drinking.
Make children “a part of the crew”; younger kids can be on look-out duty, clean the decks or coil lines, older ones can help with the navigation, have their turn at the helm and help with the anchoring. Ask your skipper to show and explain to them how sailing and navigation work; you might discover your kids become avid sailing fans and chart a course to become the sailors of the future.