Cruising with Children

This July, the family that co-owns our friendship sloop came for a family cruise in central Maine. We set out to cruise from Rockland to Mount Desert and back. That meant that there were six of us (seven including the ship’s wolf) on a boat that is 35′ on deck, for eight days.
           The success of a cruise with children is to some degree, like all cruises, determined by blind luck. There are ways, however, to stack the proverbial deck in your favor. One way is to be sure that there are ways for children to play a role in shipboard life, whether it is standing a short watch, being in charge of something on board, or just being included in the process of planning the day, kids, like all crew, like to feel that they are contributing.

14 year old on watch

8 year old drying dishes

           That having been said, there are also a number of concessions that need to be made while cruising with children. One of those concessions is distance made good. This is no different from the family car ride, if it is too long then you are going to hear a certain amount of “are we there yet?” Another consideration is that of daily destination, ending up somewhere at the end of the day where there is something to do is key to a successful cruise. A beach, village, or island to explore is much more interesting to younger crew than some harbor that the grown-ups wanted to visit. Our cruise was planned around visiting friends who summer on islands in this region, and on beautiful places to explore. What this agenda allowed was that, every day we sailed part of the day (it might not have been very far), and almost every day we could all get ashore at some point, even if we were all sleeping on board and eating together.

ON a guest mooring of friends on North Haven

           Yet another key ingredient to a successful cruise with children is the kids themselves. The three children who made up “the Port Watch” this July are siblings who get along tolerably well, they are also very creative, and are good at entertaining themselves. Further, each child has a logbook, and is encouraged to add to it often either with drawings or with written entries. I keep art supplies on board so watercolor expeditions or sketching with colored pencils are always an option.

watercolor expedition

Thus, we never ran out of things to do (although we did run out of reading material at one point and the navigation exercise one day consisted of finding the closest bookstore we could sail to).  One member of the “Port Watch” had her eighth Birthday while on this cruise and her siblings spent considerable time making Birthday presents, despite a foggy evening, and an inability to produce a Birthday cake we still had quite a celebration with a Birthday blueberry pie.

Birthday Blueberry Pie

           The last element that I will comment on is weather. You certainly do not need perfect weather, in fact patchy fog with some visibility can be very exciting, especially as there are additional jobs (I put the eight year old on the manual foghorn and the fourteen year old on bow watch). However, heading out in to no visibility, rough weather, or wet and cold is a recipe for mutiny (actually this can be true for just about any crew). Sitting at anchor, having an extra cup of coffee, yarning, or pointing out what is going on with the weather is a far more comfortable and enjoyable experience from everyone’s point of view. These two pictures were taken after waiting all morning for the fog to lift; it was worth it.

Fair weather and everything set

Wolf on watch

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