As a kid, I never sailed. I lived close enough to the ocean that people I knew would go there, but my working-class father never really saw it fit to head to the shore for a day at the beach. He certainly did not need to be on a boat. “I have legs that work perfectly fine on land. I don’t have fins. I don’t need to be surrounded by water.” These were common refrains by my landlubbing father.
Fast forward to me becoming a father, and times have changed. While dating my future wife, we would eye sailboats and talk about “one day” becoming boat owners. We sailed on boats in Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. It was only a matter of time before we were the proud owners of a 1977 Catalina 27. It also meant that our family would be boat people. When our family expanded to three and then to four, it meant that we would have more hands on deck.
Young sailors, your sailing education is not just about learning to read charts and pull lines. Your generation faces a whole new set of challenges on par with the great explorers of ancient times. Unfathomably widespread plastic, fisheries collapse, water pollution… the list of problems facing the ocean continues to grow. The mistakes of the past are not your fault, but there is hope: you can be part of the solutions of the future! Continue reading →
One the absolute greatest things about sailing with kids is how it brings families together. There may be no better place on earth for bonding than on and around the family sailboat. Lessons can be taught, fences can be mended and lifelong memories can be established in the very special environment and small confines of a sailboat. Ordinarily, kids love sailing with no need for salesmanship but it’s important to be thoughtful about the indelible nature of this time together. Here are five thoughts to bear in mind when sailing with kids.
Patience and Perspective Some skippers (AKA moms/dads) find themselves losing patience with their crew (AKA kids) and the sailing experience becomes a place where yelling and impatience rule the roost. It’s understandable, but it’s not cool. Kids should never bear the brunt of an adult’s frustration just by virtue of their presence. Do yoga, go running, meditate; whatever it takes, just try to be mindful of creating an atmosphere of enjoyment and positivity. The disciplined “lesson” you are aiming to teach might just be the one where your kids avoid sailing for the rest of their lives based on negative experiences. Have fun – they are only young once.
Independence and Responsibility Sailing with kids is an incredible opportunity for parents to lay true responsibility on kids at an arm’s length. On a boat they are able to witness the consequences of their actions and decisions without the normal and all too familiar parental voice. The parent is there representing safety, but the boat is letting them know if they are right or wrong. This responsibility leads to a healthy confidence and independence that will serve them in all they do.
Friendships Encourage the kids to bring friends along for sailing trips. For kids of a certain age, an outing with parents and the friends of parents can be something of an interminable yawn but having a buddy to hang out with while the parents and company yammer on is a great day. To maintain the connection of fun and adventure when it comes to sailing is important. When they return to the sport after attending college or pursuing other interests, they will be returning to the comfort of solid happy memories and will therefore perpetuate this positivity going forward.
Educational Benefits There is no underestimating the amount of life lessons (big and small) to be had when it comes to sailing. It is a vast expanse of learning opportunity and can’t be squandered. Give kids fun jobs that challenge their intellects. Give them a Sailing Fun booklet to read so they can learn the basics before going out on the water. Ask them questions during the day. Why does the boat go faster when they trim the sail? Why aren’t we sliding sideways? What do the tell tales tell us? The list can go on forever. Sailing with kids is truly a learning laboratory that all happens under the disguise of fun – exploit it.
Instilling Habits Regular sailing is an opportunity to instill valuable habits in kids that might not be so easy to cement in other ways. The orderly nature of a boat is one example and illustration of how being organized just makes sense. Kids can actually see the benefits of this behavior in a very simple and understandable way. To have them form the habit of always straightening up – coiling lines, putting things away, will make them less likely to view this negatively in other parts of their lives. We can’t guarantee that, but you know what we mean. Sailing is the home of habit-making and it serves the broader ideal of good habits being a key ingredient to success and prosperity.
Whether you have a six-year-old son or a sixteen-year-old daughter, sailing is a wonderful bonding experience that everyone in the family will enjoy. Next time you suggest board games and the kids roll their eyes, try something new that you’ll delight in as well. The adventure-seeker in your family will be drawn to exploring new coastlines and traveling the world. The risk-taker will love the prospect of heavy-wind sailing through relentless seas. The artist will be inspired by the boat’s beautiful lines and the ocean’s ever-changing shades of blue and green. The athlete will catch sight of a fierce catamaran or laser and yearn to try it out. Even the indoor kid with an affinity for physics will find joy in understanding how everything works. Sailing really is for everyone. Continue reading →