Tips and Tricks

Sailing with Kids? Tips for Parents

There is nothing better than making memories with your family and discovering the world from the water during your sailing holiday. Many families would love to live or at least spend their holidays on board, but they have so many questions to be answered. Would it be suitable for their kids? Is it safe? Where should they go? When should they start sailing with kids?...  I interviewed Genevieve - a wife, mother of two girls, and the great creator of "It's a Necessity" blog, to see her perspective on sailing with kids. I hope her personal experience and stories could help a few families to take on this adventure.

What is your first memory of being on board with your daughters?

Our oldest daughter, Arias, first went on our sailboat when she was only 5 weeks old. We had our 33ft sailboat hauled out of the water for repairs in Georgetown, Bahamas. While my husband was doing some much-needed work on the boat, Arias and I hung out and enjoyed the sunshine. At that age it made no difference to her whether she was on a boat or at home; babies are portable and adaptable. She was happy as long as she was with her parents.

Our second daughter, Ellia, was 9 months old when she came on to our 41ft sailboat, which was in the Bahamas at the time. She had a very similar reaction as her older sister had, the surroundings made no difference to her baby life. She was happy to discover her home.

Why do you think people should start sailing with kids?

Sailing with kids has its pros and cons. As long as you have rules and take safety precautions, there are many more pros than cons. Going sailing while children are young will introduce them to the world of learning that they could not possibly receive from sitting in a classroom. Going while they are younger also means that homeschooling demands are not as hard. Kids are portable and curious by nature, so moving them on to a boat at a young age is easier.

Are there any rules or traditions when you are sailing with kids?

On our boat, we have set rules to keep ourselves and our daughters safe. Our girls are not allowed to go play on deck unless there is an adult outside to supervise. If they want to go outside without an adult, they must stay within the cockpit. While we are sailing, the girls are not allowed to stand up on our cockpit cushions. If they want to walk around, while we are sailing, they must either have help from an adult or hold on to something at all times. We have also set some personal rules for ourselves.

  1. We will never sail on a schedule. We have made this mistake once and it was not smart. Rushing to get somewhere within a timeline, means you could be putting yourself in bad weather or harmful situations, just because you are in a rush.
  2. When we do longer passages (several days), we like to have a third adult aboard to help us. I usually have my hands full of entertaining, feeding, and taking care of my two girls’ well-being, so having another person to help my husband to sail is much safer.
  3. Our last rule is to do everything that we are thinking about. This means, if you ask yourself “maybe we should replace that line, it looks like it is getting old”, then do it immediately, it could save you a lot of time and pain.

Tell us about your best sailing trip. Why was it the best sailing trip?

Our favorite sailing trip has been around the Virgin Islands. The water is generally calm, and all the islands are so close that we can island hop while our girls nap! The islands are beautiful, the water is beautiful, and the weather is good. What more could a sailor ask for?

Can you advise any nice routes to take with a boat? Why are they special?

The Bahamas are full of adventures and fun. The water is pristine and stunning there. If you happen to be in Georgetown, Bahamas, during the regatta time, it is quite special. A bay that regularly has a dozen boats, will pack up to have over 300 for a few weeks of events and parties. There are many cruising families that end up in the area, and it is a great place to start sailing with kids. But the “Hollywood” sailing really takes place in the Virgin Islands. Like I mentioned before, the weather is generally very good. It is an optimal place for island hopping.

The “hollywood” sailing really takes place in the Virgin Islands

What restaurant/cafe/bar in Marina would you suggest visiting with kids?

For a family, I would suggest visiting Georgetown, Bahamas. There you will find Stocking Island and the Chat ’N Chill bar. It is a great beach to let your kids run around, you can get food and drinks from the bar, fresh conch salad from the conch shack, and watch the stingrays swim right up to shore. Also, if you are wanting to splurge, bring your boat into the Atlantis Marina in Nassau, Bahamas. The fees are higher than your regular dock fees, but by paying extra you will get full access to the resort, which includes water parks, aquariums, casino, movie theater, and much more. Once you get into the Virgin Islands, there are many beach bars that are worth visiting, and happy hour is the best time to do so. St John, USVI has the Joe’s Rum Shack, Tortola has Nanny Cay Marina (a full-service marina with restaurants, cafes, and swimming pool), Norman’s Island has The Pirates Bite, and the North Sound of Virgin Gorda has Saba Rock (there is a nightly fish feeding for the kids). 

What is your advice for families who would like to go sailing with kids for the first time?

I would suggest focusing on a destination where you can go for shorter trips first. It will help everyone to get used to sailing and getting their sea legs before attempting any bigger crossings. This just makes it more enjoyable for everyone. If you have never been sailing before maybe charter a boat and try it out first. Or do like we did, and dive in headfirst and go with the flow. Everyone will find their own way of doing it. Just stay tuned with your family and kids and see what works the best for you. 

Please continue the phrase: “I love to spend my free time on boat, because…”

..it gives me a lot of close family time and allows us to show our daughters a different way of life.

How would you describe your perfect family sailing holiday?

This is hard since sailing has never been a holiday for us, it is just the way we live. But when we have guests come to visit we love to take them to visit the surrounding islands. We make sure they get a lot of time out snorkeling and enjoying the local beaches and hikes. The fun part about sailing is that you can bring your home with you where ever you go, and so it is fun to live in it and be discovering new tropical locations.

Sailing has never been a holiday for us, but rather just a way of living.

What place do you want to visit with your family in future?

We have our own boat, and for us, it is better to stick to the Caribbean. For us, it is a very nice place and the way our lives have unfolded. Off the boat, the destinations are endless. We are always open for an adventure! Our latest trips were to India and Tanzania. This upcoming year, we are planning to go by plane to Morocco and Southeast Asia!