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Cruising with kids

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I thought it would be good to share ideas to make it easier and also places to visit that are good for kids (or just cool places to visit even without kids)

Cruising guides seldom have any of that type of information on waterfalls, swimming holes, caves, Wrecks, glamour beaches and lagoons, walks and anything else that worth visiting. 


I know for us we simply have to get ashore once a day or its just not much fun with 3 young boys. 


Maybe if we get enough information then it could be published or something?

Im sure there are many people that would love to get there hands on that type of information.


I will put some of my findings up soon when I have more time and have sorted through the photos from this holiday.


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We used to get underway very early (4-5 am), leave the kids to sleep, sail the days distance by midday and mum would take them into town/to the beach/whatever while dad had a catch up nap and we would swap p[laces the next day. 


You are right, do less sailing and more time with other activities.

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Cruising with kids .... its been many years since our kids were small... but we found that sailing in the Christmas holidays was enjoyable if we targeted one area.


Waiheke Channel area is good when the kids were quite little. Some good beaches for the kids, close anchorages to suit all wind directions. The same goes for Barrier, Coromandel and the BOI, just don’t try to do all three in one holiday!!!....too much sailing can put the kids off but also not enough involvement in the sailing...pulling ropes etc, can also put kids off.


Sail in the afternoon the kids can have a sleep... depending on age of course.

Have a harness rather than a life jacket while on board the big boat...dinghy needs lifejacket and when it gets rough on the big boat. The lanyard on the harness for wee kids should only extend to the end of the cockpit and don’t show under 3s how to clip and unclip. Lifejackets are hot and bulky makes for irritable chn and therefore parents.  I think you can get inflatable harnesses for 6yrs + and harnesses for smaller kids from  Safety at Sea....saw it on their website. I know it probably is a bit non PC to say use harnesses rather than lifejackets but our kids sailed thousands of miles around the Northland coast and in the Pacific with harnesses on and were perfectly safe. The occasional time the lifejackets came out they knew things were a bit more serious.


Involve your kids, explain navigation, give them some choices as where to go, show older kids from about 7 on how to start the motor, use the radio, talk to them about safety and why you do things BUT  there must be a rule that  if mum or dad says do something...boat or safety related they must do it without questioning. Most kids know their parents tone when something important is happening. Then when things have calmed down explain why whatever happened.  If you do get in a situation where lifejackets are needed make sure adults also don their lifejackets/harnesses.


Please don’t shove your kids down inside everytime you are sailing  as I used to see with one family.. consequently those kids hated sailing. 


Nice to meet up with another kid boat every now and then doesn’t matter if there is a bit of an age difference, you find the older kids quite enjoy the excuse of being with little kids to build sand castles etc etc. Depends on how you all get along as to length of time you are together.


Take plenty of toys , drawing things etc for littlies, ...dare I say books for the older ones. Out on the boat is an ideal time to turn off the electronic toys and have family time and good old fashioned board games.


Kids that go sailing from an early age (our two started at 5 mths and 9mths in trailer yachts) naturally learn to balance themselves and move around the boat safely you don’t have to teach them. Putting on a harness is hassle free ... something they have always done.


We did loose a few tools over the side when they thought it would be fun to toss them over the side.....So mum and dad need a bit of training too.


Give pre teens and teenagers a chance to be skipper for the day. Try to be calm when they make mistakes.  Years ago our club had a race where the teens had to skipper and they swapped boats. One young girl we had on board said, “this is fun you don’t shout like my dad’’!!


Of course involvement in running the boat also means helping with the meals and dishes etc etc. 


For bigger kids some water toys a kayak or sailing dinghy if you have  room...or just use the bosuns chair to swing them out into the water. Fishing can be ok, littlies will sit “fishing “for ages even if there is no bait on the hook.


Sailing holidays with your kids is very rewarding, the things they learn and the hiccups along the way go over into land life and family life at home.


The most important thing with sailing with kids is to have fun.  A good thing from a parents point of view is having a holiday away from shops...Our two still remember stopping at Clevedon or Pokeno on the way home for the first ice cream in weeks or going to Rocky Bay (when there was a shop there) for an ice block and a newspaper for dad.


Sailing Kids turn out to be great adults....In 36 years of sailing we have met some great kids out on the water.



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When Nancy was about 9 she asked if she could have a go at rowing the dinghy by herself. Mum and Dad wanted a nap so I said OK if she stayed tethered to the boat. When I came back on deck she was a few hundred yards away, she had taken every piece of line she could find sand tied them all together so she could row a bit further. Took me most of the afternoon to re rig the boat.

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This is a great thread, we have questions about sailing/cruising with even little'r kids.


Our little Pukeko (Jade, 8 months) seems to be taking to sailing quite well. She sleeps as well on the hook as she does at home, and under sail, she entertains herself below, takes naps, and only occasionally needs a full person's worth of attention.


I'm curious what other people's rules about life jackets are for infants. We have a nice 4-15kg life-jacket that she mostly doesn't mind wearing. We have always been using it when she is on deck off the hook, in the dingy, and plan on putting it on her whenever we have ANY concern about the safety of the sailing conditions. But so far, when she is below and we have been sailing in the familiar Near Hauraki, in calm daytime seas with winds under 20knts, we have been making a nice nest for her free of danger, protected from falling objects, and generally left her happy without a life jacket. 


Our general philosophy has been to sail EXTRA safely and not keep her in the lifejacket all the time. 


Eventually, we will make fixed car seat for her, and a completely netted off area for her to play in. 


I'm sure once she starts being more mobile (she is only now learning to crawl), we will have to reassess and upgrade our protective measures. 


Any other tips? 

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