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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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These days our kids(2, 4 and 6 year old boys) actually (most of the time) put their own life jackets on before venturing out on deck as they are well aware of the dangers the ocean presents.

We have the rule that when outside the cockpit (or on deck at all in rough weather) they have to wear lifejackets, not the 6 year old as he can swim around the boat twice without a life jacket but the 2 younger ones for sure. We will make the 6 year old wear one if its a bit rough because its much harder to swim, but in flat water he is fine. Downstairs or in the cockpit we don’t enforce life jackets at all as its really safe(as long as I have the leecloths or netting up around the cockpit.

I find that its better to try and make the boat as safe as possible for peace of mind rather than trying to enforce life jacket rules constantly. Having netting or at least rope lashings between the life lines is important I think. It just means you don’t have to get too worried. We try and encourage them to go out of the cockpit when we are underway, helps them understand everything and get their sea legs. Whatever we can do to make them enjoy it makes life easier.

A good trick with Life jackets is to have 2 of them for each kid, that way you can let them swim in them and still have a dry one to wear. Nothing worse than having to get them to put a wet lifey on... We have little cheap swimmer lifeys which are just basic buoyancy aid types but the kids don’t mind wearing them and they are not restrictive. We will also let the kids wear these on deck in calm waters(i think its actually safer is they get around the boat much more easily). They are also great for on the beach as you can just let them disappear off with the bigger kids without worrying about them. All our kids could comfortably and happily swim with lifejackets on by about 1.5 years old. I think its important to let them swim in their lifeys so they know what to expect. Giving the bigger kids some responsibility about looking after the younger ones helps too and they like to think they are in charge.....

We have been cruising with kids and babies for a while now and have got a few things which make life easier.

We always took a baby car seat for babies, that way we could strap them in if we needed to do something and didn’t want a baby on the loose.  

We take a big flexible bucket for baths. Give the kids a rinse off with sea water to get rid of the bulk of the sand (I hate sand on boats...)to get the sand off, then a shower (either solar shower or if you are lucky a proper shower on the back of the boat!) while standing in the bucket for the oldest with that water becoming a bath for the younger ones. Then in go the clothes to do the washing. With 3 young kids there is a large amount of washing....

Lee cloths around the cockpit and on the bunks. This not only adds to the safety but also gives them a sense of security when the boat leans over. The lee cloths around the cockpit also add shelter and stop objects from getting biffed over the side by grumpy kids....

Games, take lots of games, cards, board games, checkers ect. We often have the ‘uno world champs’ which consists of a whole evening of Uno and same with other games. We do cheat and take my laptop with a few movies on it to buy us an hour here or there or to break up a long trip but we try and use it as little as possible. We take the lego which does go everywhere but can keep them entertained for hours.

To make the long trips easier I get up real early, sometimes 4 or 5am and get away. That way we are there by lunchtime or earlier and then can go ashore. The kids often sleep in much longer once we are underway and I love to see the sun coming up while under sail (its also a nice ‘escape’ from the kids for while...). Its amazing how the kids sleep through all the noise of the anchor and sails hoisting. I think as long as you tell them when they go to bed that we are going to go during the night or very early in the morning then they just either sleep through it or if they wake they know whats going on and go back to sleep.

Bean bags, really handy. Our kids often go to sleep on bean bags in the cockpit. They are great for adults and kids. You can get proper marine ones which are great but the other way to do it is to just buy 2 covers so you can take the outside one off to clean it.

Boom tent, this is just a must have for cruising especially with kids. It gives shade when its hot and keeps the rain and dew out. We always have it up. Itn also allows for us to chuck stuff on deck at night o make more room downstairs. Things like bean bags can just live in the cockpit.  Real easy to make or to get made. Just the width of the boat and the length of the boom minus about 1m. Add a few battens to make it really good.


Other fun things to do on the boat.

-          Halyard swinging. Set up the bosuns chair on a halyard and let the kids swing out. Best done on a calm day with just enough wind to get a bit of heel on the boat. Once they are into it they will absolutely love it!

-          Swinging off the boom in the cockpit, thats really easy...

-          Fishing, hard work with kids but we always tow a lure as the excitement that even a small fish give them is well worth the mess.

-          Games and lots of them.

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Places in the hauraki gulf that I have been to that are good for kids.



-          -Mansion house bay, beautiful grass area with a cafe (ice creams..) and peacocks. Our kids always talk about the peacocks there. Perfect place for kicking a ball around and having non sandy fun.

-          -Kawau island boat club, so glad this has been started up again. Perfect for rainy days too as there are heaps of games and toys(haven’t been there this season yet but I hope its the same!). kawau burgers were legenary too!

-          -Comper mine, good for exploring with older kids. Some nice walks between mansion house and copermine too.

-          -Moturekareka, the wreck of the Rewi. Great snorkling and exploring, a swing ashore and some short walks around the island.

-          -Bostaquet bay(southern side) has a nice beach for the kids.



-          Lagoon bay, nice shallow bay with warm water in a outgoing tide due to the lagoon heating the water up. The lagoon itself is not much good for swimming.

-          Sulivans bay, good to meet up with land based people, its a nice drive out there and pretty good beach so getting friends to head up there for the day works well.

-          Warkworth, a fantastic mission up the creek to warkworth.  Its about 5nm so a pretty long mission but well worth it. I have taken yachts up there a few times and some very big yachts have been up to the Robertsons(?) boatyard on high tides so its navigatable but unmarked so you would only take a small yacht up there without knowing the river. Easy trip in a dinghy thou with an outboard. Heaps of cafes and fish in chips shops + gas station and supermarket for restocking. All right on the waterfront with a beat little wharf. Its a cool day mission.

-          Pohoi, you can also go up the Pohoi river to the pub for lunch. I would only take a dingy on this one thou! A great mission in a dinghy or kayak.


Great barrier

-          Fitzroy shops, good to go and get supplied and ice blocks for the kids. Good burgers down by the water as well. Walk a bit further up(about another 5min walk up the road) to the boating club and its a mint spot to kill an afternoon  with a few beers and lunch. There is often cool games for the kids to play on the lawn up there too.

-          Smokehouse bay, huge swings, laundry facilities (all very basic handwashing), hot water(if you make a fire) and very social. Its always pretty busy over the summer months but a great place to meet people.

-          Kaiarara bay, great walk to a swimming hole up the river. Go down to the head of the bay on the right hand side and there is a big grassy area. From there take the path to the pools. By memory its pretty well signposted.

-          Kiwiriki bay (2 island bay). Nice bay with a river at the head of it which is good for exploring in a dinghy. There is also a little estuary on the first bay to the north, just past the 2 islands thats good for exploring in the dinghy. Its good to anchor and stern line to the shore of the little peninsular just to the right as you enter the bay. Stunning view of the high headlands on the other side of the bay.

-          Whangaparapara, good exploring around the wrecks, nice walk up to the shop and a great lawn with a big kids swing. Meals available.

-          Tryphenna, a bit more of a populated bay but there is lots to do ashore and some good fish and chip shops.

-          Whangapoua beach(outside of the barrier), a great anchorage on the NE end of the bay. The smaller beach in the corner is best for the kids. Beaut beach with clear water and a nice deep sandy rock pool that keeps the kids entertained for days. Watch out for swell from the east.

-          Arid Island (the Cove), a MUST do spot. Possibly one of the most idyllic spots in NZ. Seriously cool place. Good exploring on shore, clear water and most of all some seriously cool caves. On the western side there are some cool long caves with some of them going right through to the other side. Great for taking the dinghy in. On the eastern side there is one big open cave that you can go right into with heaps of dinghys. Seriously cool spot for the kids and parents!

-          Haretonga good shelter from the south winds. Nice sandy beach, a good campsite.

-          Korotiti bay, good shelter, not much in the way of a beach but still a nice spot to take the kids exploring around the coast.



The Mercury Islands

-          The cove, the most sheltered part of the island, a nice beach in the little bay just outside the cove which is good for the kids, the cove itsself is pretty dull. Good kid friendly new years party for everyone(free and everyone welcome BYO booze) at the barn. Its the big wharf on the right near the end of the cove. About a 2 min walk up the track. Well worth while if you are int he area. There were about 50 kids all running around with torches and glow sticks. Gret memorys for them.

-          Peach grove, just stunning. The best beach ever. Real nice little lagoon running down the western side of the beach with warm water and plenty of shade. Seriouly the best spot ever for kids. Nice little kids surf on the beach too when the tide is right. Walk up the river to the waterfalls and swiming hole, about a 15min walk. Take the track from the middle of the beach and turn right just before the second bridge. The path gets small but just keep going. You cross the creek and go bush. Its a cool place. You can walk to the top of the falls and jump in from there. Water is very cold! Peach grove bay is probably my favorte spot in the whole of the gulf.

-          Whalers bay and momona bay, the next ones west with a bit more shelter from the easterly swells and nice beaches. Momona bay especially is pretty good for kids with a stream runing down the side and small sand dunes. All of the bays along that coast are pretty nice.

-          Coralie bay. This is on the outside. Beautiful bay but can be rolly in the swell. Nice beaches and good snorkling with kids.

-          Koropuki island, its the close island just outside Peach grove bay. There are cool caves that go right through into the center of the island. A really fun mission in the dinghys. Anchoring can be a pain as its all rock. A mission well worth doing with the kids.

-          Opito bay. This is on the coromandel coast, nice beach and shelter from the SW winds. All the locals have tractors and a tractor ride along the beach is great fun. Easy road access too if you want to meet someone. There is a string of glamour beaches north of there.



-          Elephant cove, happy jack islands, not a decent beach but a pretty cool place for a night or day trip. Some caves at the enterance and pretty spectacular tight cove.

-          Ngohitanu bay, nice beach and semi lagoon at low tide. Some cool rocks and rock pools if you walk around the southern end of the bay, good for snorkling and rock jumping.

-          Coromandel harbor, good to go to the town for lunch and supplies. You can anchor in any of the bays on the south side of Whanganui island or Deep bay on the north side and take the channel in your dinghy to the town.




-          Garden cove, esential spot for a day trip. Its a glamour cove, pretty shallow at low tide(about 1m on a spring low). Take the narrow right hand entrance, not the wider left hand one. A good beach, a swing for the kids. Just a cool place.

-          Owhiti bay. Real nice beach, cool rock pools for the kids. Glamor bay

-          Catus bay, real nice beach.

-          Onetangi, nice beach, cafe(ice blocks!). we perfer the little beach on the western end for the kids. Heaps of little rock pools and exploring for the kids. Low tide is glamour.

-          Man o war bay. Go to the winery, its very cool for both the parents and kids. Glamour lawn with a cricket set and heaps of other games and stuff for the kids to do while the parents relax and drink wine. You cant get real food there yet but you can get platters. Its a great place to relax and feel like a human after roughing it on the boat for a while and the klids have a great time too.

-          Chaimberlains bay (North Harbour), some good beaches and exploring and just a nice bay.

-          Shark bay, once saw a kiwi on the beach there which was under an old stump. All the kids had a good look. Good swing and swiming creek on the south side of the beach.



-          Woody and west bays. Our favorite close spot. Glamour beaches.



-          Mullet bay, good to go between here and rakino for (almost) all weather anchoring. There is a good walk up to the gun emplacements with specacular views. Walking through felids with curious cows who follow you(thinking you are going to feed them I think). A very cool walk for the kids and nice tunnels and views when you get there. The tunnels have been resored and upkept so are good to go into.

-          Izzy bay, not my favorite spot but very close and still cool to look at the old houses. Havent done the walk up to the top of rangi yet but will when the kids are old enough. Heard its pretty cool.

-          Home bay, the beach is average but there is a great grassy area for the kids to run around and play cricket. There is also a camp ground if the kids want a night ashore in thr tents.



-          Close and with great beaches and walks. Can be very busy but a great place to take friends with kids out for a day trip. Either side is good. The biggest problem here is the boat wakes making it rooly on anchor. These die down at night though.



Have got heaps of other places around NZ, especially Marbrough sounds and Able Tasman. Maybe in round 2 one day.

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Here is a video of our cruise on the Pork Chop this year. Big Thanks for Tom and Emma for letting us use this awesome boat while we wait for the new boat to arrive (big news to come soon). The Pork Chop really is the ultimate boat. perfect for family cruising with all the cruising extras and also a very fast race boat. Nice to be able to motor everywhere at 7.5kts with the super quiet and smooth new engine! 


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That is an awesome summary Booboo. Thank you.  Ours is a bit small to care about much yet, but not long till it will become a lot more important.


I can't believe you haven't walked up rangi yet!







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Thx Josh, another great article and video! 

That really sums up family cruising in NZ, and could easily have been my family 15 -20 years ago. Should be used to promote sailing/boating in NZ. Fantastic!

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Thanks for the post BB.

On so many levels this thread invokes a lot of happy emotions.

I was introduced to becoming a sea person by my father.

Despite our differences and difficulties I have managed to pass to my kids and grand children the greatest gift that I in a lot of ways inadvertently received from my dad.

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BooBoo - awesome mate - this is just perfect timing for us now that the boat is lying close at hand.



How long before you move Voom out of w/haven - need to come have a nosey as I work to setting up the boat for the kids.  Looks like there's been a few innovations since I last sailed on her!

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