Top tips for Cruising with kids

Top tips on things you can do to make cruising with kids a great experience for all

How to get the kids involved... and your chance to win a Deckvest CENTO Junior lifejacket from Spinlock

When did you first fall in love with the water?��

If you, like so many sailors and motorboaters, had the first seeds of your future passion sown while you were a kid what do you remember about those days? Excited about being on a boat? Wanting to help? Loving feeling like a grown up? �

Now how many times have you been preparing to drive your boat off the dock and thought how useful it would be to have an extra pair of hands to help you? �

There are heaps of ways you can get kids involved in being that extra pair of hands when cruising under sail or power. �

The key? The skipper having the experience and confidence to give children responsibilities so the helm gets the help they need while the youngster develops a love of being on boats and wants to learn more. Win-win! �

So what can you do to making cruising with kids a great experience for all? �

�Are we there yet?�

Bored kids do not make for happy kids or pleasant, relaxed cruising! But engage them before you even step on the boat, and get them excited about what lies ahead, and chances are you will keep their attention much longer. � � �

Let them help you with passage planning, show them maps and charts so they know where you are heading, tell them about and show them pictures of things of interest you might see along the way, including landmarks and wildlife, get them looking at the weather and telling you what the is forecast, practice knots. Show them what clouds to look for and, if under sail, how to spot the wind (where it�s coming from, gusts on the water, using their face to detect changes in direction etc.). �

Make them feel like what they are contributing is essential in getting you afloat.� �

Slow it down

Cruising is meant to be relaxed and when kids are involved not rushing becomes even more of a factor. The last thing you want is overhyped kids charging along jetties or around the deck. You are in no hurry so keep things calm, take everything slowly, be measured and keep smiling. �

A little bit of knowledge

If you are planning to take the kids afloat with you for the first time this year, there are two short RYA introductory courses for the whole family that give kids and inexperienced adults alike a relaxed, practical and fun insight into ways to help. �

Passengers don�t always realise what a helm has on their plate, but they can have such a valuable role to play in basic tasks and personal safety, and whole families can take bits of ownership of a day on the water. �

Start Yachting has no lower age limit and provides a two-day introduction to the yacht, ropework, getting underway, rules of the road, man overboard recovery, clothing and equipment, emergency equipment and precautions and meteorology.� �

By the end of the course participants will have experienced steering a yacht, sail handling, ropework and being aware of safety on board. �

Start Motor Cruising is newer, with kids as young as eight able do the course. With the way the course is run it can be done as a one-day standalone course or at the same time as Mum, Dad or both are doing their two-day Day Skipper or Helmsman. �

Participants steer the boat, deploy or observe deployment of the anchor, prepare and throw mooring lines, attach fenders, read GPS and learn to pick up a mooring amongst many other practical skills.

Personal safety, including correctly fitting a lifejacket, and recognising and understanding problems that can occur at sea, including their role in an emergency and how to raise the alarm, are also covered. �

Choosing and fitting a lifejacket / buoyancy aid

Treat them like grown ups

One of the best things about kids is, unlike some adults, they often have no fear or preconceived ideas of danger. For that reason you can consider giving inexperienced adults and youngsters� similar responsibilities. Of course this will depend on a child�s age, but even the youngest kids can do plenty of things to muck in safely. �

For example, would your ever consider letting a youngster drive your boat away from the dock, but if not, why not? If you are confident in your own capabilities as a skipper, the conditions are suitable and you are comfortable giving calm, clear instructions, what is stopping you? �

Many kids love getting involved and it is a great early education for them into things to think about on the boat. Many thrive on the responsibility and take their duties seriously while feeling good about being helpful and doing important jobs. � �

Safety first

A child�s sense of adventure and inquisitiveness means you can often need eyes not just in the back of your head but both sides of it too! �

A few simple rules can help. �

  • Do your briefing on the boat so they are �switched on� to their new environment. �
  • Lifejackets should be worn at all times, and if you are telling a youngster to wear a lifejacket you must lead by example and do the same. They should be clipped on too.��
  • Meanwhile, when they are moving around deck they should apply the rule �One hand for you, one for the boat." �
  • Don�t overlook the fact that, simply because they are shorter, getting on and off a cruising yacht or motorboat will be more difficult for youngsters too. Depending on their height they may need help from an adult or to use a fender step etc. �

Remember all kids are different

You might get one youngster who wants to do everything and another who is a bit more hesitant or nervous about getting involved in practical tasks. �

There are still plenty of important jobs more reluctant kids can be gently encouraged to do, however, like looking out for landmarks, filling in the logbook, watching the weather, tidying up etc. �

Most importantly you want all kids to have a great time so even if it is as basic as a game of I-Spy or helping make hot chocolate, keep them involved. �

If everyone is smiling when you come back ashore you have done your job! �

Find out more about RYA Training Courses

WIN A Deckvest CENTO Junior Lifejacket from Spinlock

We have�three junior lifejackets to give away thanks to lifejacket specialists Spinlock. �

To be in with a chance of winning simply tell us:

  • How many newton�s of buoyancy the DeckVest CENTO Junior lifejacket offers? �

Email your answer to to be in with a chance of winning.�

Entries close Friday 31 July. �

Winners will be notified by email shortly after the closing date.��