When we started this site, I’m not exactly sure the subject of kids and sailing on the Hobie Cat 16 actually entered my mind. I saw plenty of young families out on the water with their sails up, but I never imagined what it would be like to invite my own daughter out on the boat. Now that I have kids of my own, I’m starting to think about sailing like a parent.
Since she’s still pretty young (we’re talking pre-toddler age) there isn’t a lot hard core instruction going on. In fact the only hard truth she may actually understand about sailing is “water!” We have taken her out a few times on the Catalina 22. In someways it’s a bit easier to manage a small child on a bigger monohull with its cockpit below, and the bench seats. But the Hobie 16 is my first love and it’s never too early to share your love of sailing with your kids. Here are a few tips I learned from our first sail with her on the Hobie over the fourth of July.
1. Always, ALWAYS, wear a life jacket. This may sound redundant, but everyone (even adults) should be doing this anyway. I know it was a lot easier to get her to wear and keep her life jacket on, when she saw that we all had one on too.
2. Go Slow. We were nervous about having too much wind when we first set out. My wife held her tight at the beginning while I took the tiller. As the wind slowed down we loosened up a bit. It definitely wasn’t the adrenaline rush experience I’m used to, but it helped our little girl (and me) feel more comfortable on the water.
3. Take Pictures. I highly doubt she’ll be able to remember this experience when she gets older, but our memories coupled with the pictures make it a reality. She was sailing before she was two!
4. Let them warm up to the water and the feeling of being on the boat. She was afraid of the waves and feeling unbalanced at the beginning of the day, but we turned the waves into a good thing by chanting, “More waves! More waves!” She came to love it by the end. It helps that our girl loves the water in the first place, but gently dipping her feet in the water helped her feel more and more comfortable about being on the boat. From there she could explore a bit at her own pace.
5. Lots of People to help. This one isn’t necessary, but it worked for us on this particular trip. Since it was a holiday weekend, we had a lot of people that wanted to go sailing at the same time. So we crowded on 4 adults and 1 child. It was a little more than normal, it was also to help ensure a slower pace. Being in tight quarters on the tramp, we were all prepared to grab a falling baby of the side if needs be. Thankfully, none of us had to take a dive for her. 😉
6. Bring snacks. Spend some time on the beach. Most parents of young children and babies know that their attention span lasts maybe 2 minutes, if you’re lucky. Having multiple activities that day both on and off the water helped make this day a success.
I sure hope my little girl grows up to love sailing as much as I do. But if she doesn’t, that’s okay too. At least I got her out on the Hobie and enjoyed at least one, hopefully many more afternoons out on the water with her and my family. Kids and sailing, it’s a great combination.