Children aboard

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Not a Boat Show or a week goes by without one of our readers contacting us about the question of children aboard: from babies to teenagers, there are many questions and genuine worries. However, after having chartered for a week in the Grenadines, or sailed round the Atlantic over a year, the return shows that everything goes incredibly well (fortunately)…
Why? Quite simply, because children have an ability to adapt which is 100 times greater than ours…

The catamaran: space and privacy

The general opinion of cruising families is that the hardest thing to cope with remains the boat’s cramped conditions, and what inevitably follows: the lack of privacy, for both children and their parents. And this privacy, this space available for each person, is easier to find in a catamaran than in any other boat…
So the system which appears to work most naturally is to have a children’s area, a parents’ area and a common area… It is up to everyone to define these spaces as they think best. For example, during a week’s cruise in the Virgin Islands, with two families (four adults and four children) the solution adopted was one hull per family (the children thus having two cabins available), the saloon for the children, who could then eat, watch a film, draw, etc., whilst the parents took over the cockpit, where they could put the world to rights until early in the morning, without disturbing their offspring with their libations… This system is even more attractive, as from a safety point of view it allows the children’s comings and goings between the inside and the outside of the boat to be supervised.
In the case of a family on an Atlantic circuit (for example), it is much simpler - one hull for the children, one hull for the parents, and everything is sorted! Sometimes this arrangement has to be changed: if the youngest (less than 6 years old) are in a cabin in the parents’ hull, an eye can be kept on them and their movements during the nights, to avoid them being alone, outside… The ideal is to let the oldest children, especially the teenagers, have their own cabin. At that age, it is really important for them to be able to be alone, in their own little world. Teenagers do not necessarily have the same motivation to leave their friends and live on a boat for a year or more… It is up to you to help them as much as possible, by offering them a personal space that they can arrange as they wish.  

Safety aboard

This is the crucial point, the big issue for any parent taking their children aboard, one which is as valid for a week’s charter as for a year or more aboard. In fact, children have a remarkable ability to adapt and quickly understand safety requirements. The first weeks are the riskiest, before the automatic reactions are fixed in their heads. Geoffroy de Bouillane talks about his fears as father and captain of  Kadavu (an Outremer 45) brilliantly, in his book ‘Un temps pour un rêve’. He describes his nightmares, but also how he obliged his children ...

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