In this series of excerpts from my book, Cruising the Caribbean with Kids, I’ll share ideas for keeping sailing kids busy, happy, and tuned in to their surroundings. Part 1 here!
Sailing for hours from harbor to harbor quickly bores most kids unless they’re involved in operating the boat: steering, trimming, raising the sail. But even this can grow monotonous for young minds, and the kids will soon be seeking stimulation elsewhere. A second problem is that the sheer size and forces on most cruising boats makes it difficult for younger kids to be involved safely. Our young son couldn’t even see over the dodger of our 35 foot sloop on our first Caribbean cruise! For him, steering meant constantly eying the compass. Not exactly a barrel of laughs, much as he liked the responsibility.
Luckily, there are many other ways to keep the kids involved in boat operations. Hourly log book entries are one, since even very young children can learn to make weather observations, read a barometer, check the GPS, and even plot a position on a chart. Yes, that’s right — a good old-fashioned chart, one with a large enough scale that give a gratifying feeling of progress. While sailing, kids can measure the distance to next anchorage, learn various GPS functions, and estimate true wind speed and direction — all of which reinforce broader skills they’ll have picked up or will soon be addressing in school (measurement, estimation, land features, etc). Referring to charts frequently will also help a child learn the geography of an area, helping them develop a sense of what “the Caribbean” (or other cruising area) really means.
For more ideas on fun and educational activities to do on board, check out Cruising the Caribbean with Kids, which sells for only $2.99 in ebook format!