Whether your family boating holiday afloat is in crystal clear blue waters of the Mediterranean or you are off to explore the beautiful West Country, there are a few things to consider before leaving the dock with young children on board (if you are trying to get them hooked on boating it's also worth reading Get your family boating in 7 steps).
Plan your passage
If you need to make long passages, where possible, try to do this when your children are asleep. Early mornings departures and overnight passages enable you to get miles under your belt without needing to worry about entertaining the children. If you do need to make a passage during the day, try to keep it as short as possible. Also, check tidal gates to avoid rough conditions.
Train your crew
If your children are keen to get involved in sailing the boat, let them. With close supervision to start, you’re youngest crew members will become your first mate in no time at all. Tidying lines and storing fenders are all manageable tasks. Make sure they understand where and when they need to keep their fingers tucked away from winches and sheets to avoid trapped fingers and subsequent tears. Soft soled shoes are also a must whilst onboard to aid grip and prevent stubbed toes!
Use a dinghy
A great way to improve children’s confidence on the water is to allow them to be the captain of their own ship! Teach them to use the dinghy in a safe environment and gradually build their confidence and experience in rowing, using the outboard, coming alongside and boarding the dinghy.
Activities on board
Have games at the ready, but avoid those with lots of small pieces, a packs of cards work wonders and is easily stored with all the other gubbins in the chart table! Fishing rods and crabbing lines make for hours of entertainment; Mackerel spinners for time at sea and crabbing lines baited with bacon for use on quay walls and marina berths. Log books and holiday diaries provide a daily activity for children, and a great way to entertain youngsters if the weather isn’t up to much.
With space being at a premium, consider what you pack for your trip. If your children are still in buggies, take one that folds up small and can be stowed in the cockpit locker. There are also great travel high chairs available that can be easily fastened to the saloon table which saves heaps of space but keeps your little ones in one place during meal times. As parents you’ll know that wet wipes are your best friend, and taking a pack on board is a great idea.
And remember, it’s supposed to be a holiday for the whole family, not just the children, so if all else fails, plug the children into a series of Peppa Pig on the iPad and pour yourselves a large G&T!
If you are looking for a family-friendly boat, see Five of the best family powerboats and Choosing the right family cruising boat. For hints and tips on skippering, read Sailing with your family: how to be a successful skipper. You can also share your child friendly boating tips with us on our Facebook page.