Use jacklines, harnesses and tethers. Safety is a major consideration whenever you sail with kids, but what exactly do you need to do differently? If we're cruising, we typically have our jacklines installed on deck, even if the kids aren't with us. But when they are with us, the rule on our boat is that the kids must wear harnesses and be tethered to the jacklines if they are on deck while we're underway. Obviously, conditions must be calm for the kids to be allowed on deck in the first place. Depending on your cockpit design and the conditions, you might also consider tethering your kids when they are in the cockpit. A simple pad eye provides a good tether attachment. There are multiple kid-friendly harness and tether systems available. We use the Children's Safety Tether/Harness from Cal June. This rig is lightweight and kid-sized. It's not necessarily designed with offshore work in mind, but considering it's for kids it does the trick.
|Notice the PFD's, jacklines, and tethers. Harnesses are hidden |
beneath the PFD's. Lifeline netting is also visible.
Get kids involved. Let them turn a halyard winch, or steer, or operate the GPS, or help with the dock lines. The more they're involved with actually sailing the boat, the more they'll love and understand sailing. Both of our daughters now instinctively know that it's their job to help secure dock lines when we return from a sail. They also both can name most of the features on the boat (standing rigging, mainsail, mainsheet, tiller, shroud, spreader, etc.) and their purpose.
|Learning how to stand watch at just 5 years old!|
Give them their own "corner" of the boat. Just like at home, kids need a space on the boat that they can call their own and set up to their liking. Our kids use this policy liberally and often commandeer the entire cabin while we're out sailing. It's not uncommon to see stuffed animals, Polly Pockets and coloring books strewn from the chain locker in the vee berth clear back to the aft quarter berth. Maybe we need to tighten up the boundaries on their personal boat space, but you get the idea.
|You can tell these two don't like cruising at all.|