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.