Sailing is a great way to explore the world. Discovering new bays, swimming with sea life and immersing yourself in local culture make such getaways so appealing – and the best part is, all of this can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Over the years, I’ve sailed with countless families helping them explore some amazing corners of the world. Some of the most successful family charters I’ve been involved with have been in some pretty remote locations. So having children onboard doesn’t mean that you have to limit where you go sailing, you just have to adapt how you go sailing. Get it right, and it can be one of the most rewarding experiences for all on board – not just the kids! So here are my tips for making family sailing holidays a success:
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT BOAT
Step one is arguably the most important. Handling, deck space and living space are all important factors in choosing the right yacht. If the vessel is too high-performance, you could find yourself struggling to operate the crew intensive yacht. So consider a more cruiser set-up than usual. Electric and hydraulic winches, as well as automatic furling systems, can be a great help.
Deck space is your friend. Children get bored easily, so space for them to move around is key. Also look to see if netting on the safety rails is included and that there is plenty of shelter to hide from the midday sun.
Cabin space. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to cabins. Smaller aft cabins provide a great contained space for children to sleep and they can remove the possibility of them falling out of bed in the middle of a night at anchor!
2. PLAN A FUN ITINERARY
For you, long passages may be a big tick, but for children, the idea of 6 hours of non-stop sailing can be daunting. Plan short 45min to 1.5hr hops and break the day down into two chunks: morning sail, anchor for lunch and swim, afternoon sail. Also consider “lay days” where you stay at anchor all day, explore ashore or just relax on the boat.
Facilities ashore can also be a big factor. If you want to dine off the boat, use a tool like trip advisor to locate the best child friendly restaurants and plan around visiting them. Also, make sure that you throw in a night anchored off a quiet secluded beach for a BBQ and bonfire. And most importantly, involve the whole family in the planning.
3. PICK THE PERFECT CRUISING AREA
Your location should complement your ideal style of itinerary. Long straight coastlines traditionally involve having to be more inventive with planning and often require longer and exposed sailing passages. Instead, pick a location that is either island-based or near an archipelago. Not only do islands create shelter and a flatter sea state – great for those untested sea legs – but they also provide a naturally diverse sailing area. Island sailing makes you feel like you’re exploring more, but without having to sail too far away.
4. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TOYS
Off boat activity doesn’t have to mean going onshore. Charter yachts can come with a whole host of “toys” including Kayaks, SUPs, kitesurfing kit, SeaScooters as well as the standard snorkels and fishing gear. Make sure you know what’s included and what the possibilities are – which are usually endless!
5. DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOURSELF
Remember, sailing holidays are supposed to be fun. Consider having help from other sailors. This could mean chartering with another family and sharing the sailing between those who want to get involved. Hiring a skipper, deckhand or host is also a great option. Having a professional pair of hands onboard can certainly help make light work of docking, making your adventure that bit more enjoyable.