SAILING WITH KIDS:
We thought it would be useful to put together a bit of advice to make kids happy and safe on charter.
The key to achieve a successful charter with kids is simple: make them participate in the action, get them involved and put them in charge of some things, changing the latter as they grow up. Never underestimate children. Do not assume they are too young to do this or that. Of course, if the child is under 4 or 5, there are things he just cannot do. However, you can make him believe and help him discretely, so that he will feel proud to be part of the crew. Here are some things I have experienced with my son over the years.
From 3 to 6 years old
- Systematically explain everything that goes on in the boat.
- Show and name the main parts of the boat. Explain what their functions are.
- Occasionally ask him/her simple questions about what you explained.
- In the dinghy, going slow, show the child how to steer -obviously, you keep control at all times. Tell him that soon, he/she will be the dinghy Captain. That works wonders!
- Take the child on your lap when you are steering the big boat (conditions permitting.) Explain what you are doing and watching.
- Show a couple of very simple knots, and make the child apply them in some situations. Create the situations if necessary.
- Of course, use simple words for all of the above, and congratulate him/her for every little achievement.
- Have on board several picture books for children, relating to the current environment: fish and corals, stars and, of course boats.
- Make sure that he/she helps cleaning and tidying his/her room every morning. The child has to understand very early on that a boat cannot be messy.
Think I am crazy? You are in for a big surprise. Kids are like sponges. At that age, they will learn everything you will teach them.
From 6 to 8 years old
- Keep explaining everything that goes on on the boat, as well as the parts and their functions. Only now, you can be more specific and a little more technical. If the child is responding well, you can be even more technical.
- Have your child near you when you are preparing your navigation for the next day. If he/she asks questions, explain.
- When en-route, use a baby chart like the one given by some charter companies to show the child the navigation path and how what you see on land relates to the chart.
- Have the child steer the big boat with you. Around 7/8 years-old, you can explain the effects of the wind in the sails.
- Explain the compass and the wind direction indicator.
- Keep him/her busy with the flag etiquette
- Put him/her in charge of something. For example, make the child a spotter: ask the child to help keep an eye on boats which could be on collision course. Explain how.
- Show him/her how to coil as well as to do some more complicated knots. The bowline with the rabbit in and out of the hole is a winner. Make the child use the knots he/she knows.
- Ask the child to help cranking the small winches or tailing/coiling some small lines. If he can't do it, help discretely. If several crews are cranking hard or pulling sheets (during a tack for example) make the child participate.
- In the dinghy, your child should be able to steer by himself (with you on board -of course! - and keeping one hand on the tiller just in case.) He is now the official Dinghy Captain. Get him/her the T-shirt.
- Put him/her in charge of making sure younger children wear their life jacket. Of course, supervise this discretely.