And before you get excited, no. Not for us! For our boat! One of the most frequently asked questions we get is, how young is too young to take a kid on board a sailing boat. And our answer is, they’re never too young to come on a sailing holiday!
Now, that doesn’t mean that having a baby or toddler on board doesn’t require extra preparation, additional consideration and plenty of fore thought. Because it definitely does! And yet, with a few tips and tricks, having a baby or toddler doesn’t have to be the reason that you DON’T book that sailing holiday you’ve been dreaming of.
Here are NINE tips that we have if you are on the fence about whether or not to take your little one sailing with you:
Have a baby sized PFD on board. You can buy these yourself or contact whoever you’re sailing with to see if they have one that is suitable for your child. Our recommendation is to have one that is specifically fitted to your precious wee cargo. When looking at PFD’s for baby, there are a couple of things to remember. First of all, a crotch strap is a NECESSITY for a child sized PFD. Secondly, think about comfort. Babies and toddlers just love to try to wriggle out of whatever is restraining them, and if they are comfortable in their PFD then they are far less likely to get grizzly and fuss if they are wearing it. A wide V-shaped neoprene crotch strap wont ride up between baby’s legs like a non-padded strap will and contoured panels, neck support and adjustable straps all contribute to bub feeling more comfortable in the PFD. Also, fit the PFD to bub before you leave home. Introducing the PFD as fun and a dress-up item helps your child associate the item with play and positive feelings before the sailing holiday even begins! Something like this PFD from Oceantot is ideal.
Safety netting is an add-on that most charter agents offer at additional cost. What this means is that netting is installed down each side of the boat on deck, tied to the lifelines and stanchions. This means that small animals and children are far less likely to slip on the deck and fall overboard. I say ‘far less likely’ rather than ‘impossible’ because nothing is 100% effective! With children on board, we always recommend at least one adult supervising at all times. And the netting does make supervising bub a lot easier than it would be without it.
Baby wearing. If you are a baby wearer, then you have a head start in transitioning bub to a sail boat. Baby wearing means that baby is already accustomed to being strapped to you, and that even when on board a tippy sailboat, he/she is going to feel safe because youare his/her safety. I highly recommend baby wearing on board sailboats, as it means you know that your child is safe and out of trouble whilst also leaving both of your hands free! Please note: The baby wearing we recommend on board a boat are the soft, foldable baby slings and wraps made out of fabric. The larger, solid style baby carriers are not recommended for on board the kinds of boats that we charter.
Bub’s dietary needs need to be provisioned for too. It is important to make sure that your crew know in advance what foods your child likes and dislikes so that they can be prepared, especially special treat items and fail safes like favourite fruits and vegetables for especially fussy times. Given that bub will be in an unfamiliar environment and in an unfamiliar country, something as simple as comfort food can often make a huge difference to your child’s mood and the general mood of all on board. We also recommend simple food items, such as water crackers or white bread crusts (for babies able to chew solids) or husks, for babies or toddlers to chew on whilst under way to help avoid sea sickness.
Children dehydrate FAST. Much faster than adults. So it’s important to keep a strict eye on how much your wee one drinks. Having a bottle that bub can constantly drink from is going to keep the little one hydrated, and water can easily be flavoured naturally with local fruits. Good advice for adults and children alike, staying hydrated can actually help you avoid seasickness too. Which is always a good thing!
Making sure that your baby has at least one safe play space will make everyone’s sailing holiday easier! Talk to your crew about where baby will play when the boat is anchored for a swim stop or when the boat is underway. In hot climates, keeping bub downstairs in the saloon all day just isn’t realistic. It is for this reason that we like to look at boats that have open/close transoms, such as the Hanse 505 2017 model, for clients with small children. This means that the cockpit is safe for bub when the transom is closed, with no open area for them to fall out the stern of the boat.
When it comes to what toys to bring from home, we recommend that you choose ones that are waterproof and can take a bit more of a beating! Also, for safe play in the water, don’t forget to bring a water float, so that bubba can join in on the water fun too.
Sun protection is a biggie if you are planning a sailing holiday in any hot, sunny part of the world. Make sure the boat you’ll be on has plenty of shade for your child to sit/sleep/play in, as shade is a much better sun safety strategy than just sunscreen. Speaking of which, don’t forget to pack plenty of child safe sunscreen and a good coverage sun hat.
Know and trust your Skipper. This is a really important one to us. Your Skipper is in charge of the boat and thus in charge of your family’s safety. Having a Skipper that you trust to keep you all safe, bub included, is a huge must in our books. Feel free to ask him questions if you are not sure about anything. The more comfortable you are, the more relaxed bub is going to be. This goes for any crew on board too. Having baby friendly staff can make or break your sailing holiday! Extra eyes to watch out for bub, extra hands to make sure that any dangerous lockers are locked up or to catch bub if he/she is old enough to start climbing… There are a myriad of situations where the more baby minders on board, the better for everyone’s sanity.
When we are organising a sailing holiday with any clients with children of any age, we always think about the type of boat that we are going to charter. Things that we consider include: How old is the child? Are they walking yet? What is within bub’s reach and can the boat be baby-proofed? How easy is the deck to walk on or run around on? Are there any sharp items on the deck that we need to baby proof? Of course, supervision is always going to be the most important safety factor when children are on board. And being able to count on your Skipper and Quartermaster to keep an eye out for your kids alongside any other adults on board is a huge load off any parents mind. Our experience with children (did you know that Mahina formerly worked as an au pair in France?!) means that we are able to tailor the itinerary and passages to suit you and your family, whether that means docking each night so that the kids can adequately run off their energy on land or arranging to be under way and relocating when it is most agreeable to you and your child, like during naps. Small adjustments can often make a huge difference in the success of a sailing holiday with a little one, and the peace of mind that comes from child competent crew cannot be bought!
If you are thinking about a sailing holiday in Croatia and want to be sure that your baby or toddler will have an enjoyable and safe time, get in touch with us! We love having families on board and would be happy to talk to you about your baby related sailing holiday needs.