Sunday, February 7, 2010

Guest Advice - Cruising with Children - Allison Pressley

Being new to the whole sailing lifestyle, I had no idea of what to expect or a through grasp of how we were ever going to be able to cruise with two young Children. Fortunately, my husband Dave has an extensive background sailing. As a young child with his sister and his parents and a dog on a 24’ shark they sailed to the Thousand Islands for a week’s vacation. I couldn’t even fathom how that was even possible! Our boat is 30’ and at times we are all tripping over one another. The most important tips that will be paramount when sailing SAFELY with young children aboard.


Before we even arrive in Port Dalhousie and the boat leaves its berth we routinely, repeatedly go over what behaviors are accepted and what are not. Therefore they know what to expect ahead of time and there are no surprises.
• Life Jackets are always to be worn before they even open the gate to the dock and they can not to be taken off unless safely on land and not near any water source.
• There is no running or horseplay on metal docks as well as on or near our boat or any of the other member’ s boat.
• We’ve taught them the appropriate way to board a boat. (They have each not listened and they have fallen between the boat and dock. Needless to say it only happened that one time...a valuable lesson learned the hard way!)
• Not to get in the way or attempt to help a boat dock -- they are too young and could get seriously injured.

Out on the water on a beautiful sunny breezy warm day no one ever wants to think of things going terribly wrong. But we do! Like the fire drills we practice at home, out on the water we practice “Emergency Drills” so that they know what to do when a real emergency arises!
• To remain calm -- panicking or creating hysteria helps nothing.
• We all have positions and very important Jobs to do. Mom steers the boat, Alyssa immediately throws the life ring, the man overboard pole goes into the water with moms help. Kaitlyn never takes her eyes off her Dad and keeps her finger on him. Alyssa helps out where ever needed.
• We’ve taught them how to use the VHF, when to use it and that it is not a toy, but like using 911 but only out on the water.

In all of our drills it is usually the most experienced on the boat who goes overboard, so that the less knowledgeable will gain the necessary skills to be able to react swiftly in an emergency and for it to have a favourable outcome.

In unfavourable weather conditions, the girls have to go down below, no matter how seasick they feel or become. Before we leave shore we make sure we have an adequate supply of gravol.

During the winter months the girls take swimming lessons at Brock University, where they have learned how to swim with a life jacket and many other very important skills, which they will be able to incorporate if they are ever thrown into an emergency situation out on the water.

Cruising with Alyssa and Kaitlyn has been such a wonderful experience. It IS possible to cruise with young children. Safety is paramount and cannot be taken lightly. If all the appropriate safeguards are in place your destinations won’t be limited by your family but rather on your time it takes to explore them all.


  1. I love these tips. I'm always weary of children on boats!!

  2. I still get nervous when my daughter is in the pool so I do not know how well I will do when she gets on a boat. I guess all you can do is follow all the safety precautions. The drills are a great idea. Practice ensures you are doing things correctly.

  3. Rhiannon & Brett,

    Many of my friends either grew up cruising on boats or have experience cruising with kids. They play it smart, but no serious mishaps yet!