Boating is fun for adults, however, at times, it can be dull for children. These tips will help make boating more fun for everyone – there will never be a dull time onboard again.
When on long passages it can be dull especially for young children. There are however many things to do while on passage to keep children entertained.
- Helming – Helming is great fun for all ages although sometimes it can be stressful. When children get older they can even helm when berthing or in tight spaces. I especially like helming in difficult sea conditions. Also it is much harder to get sea sick when concentrating on helming.
- Fishing – When going boating bring a fishing line even if you are just sailing from place to place. Fishing is great as even if no fish are caught, hours can be spent checking the lines for fish and throwing out new tackle. Mackerel lines are great if sailing at less than 5 knots. If you are cruising at more than 5 knots putting out a larger line may result in larger fish caught. Sometimes we will sail straight through a shoal of fish and we will pick up too many fish to eat, which can be exchanged in anchorages for chocolate.
- Jobs – Doing something useful onboard is rewarding. When berthing, however useful roving fenders are, it is much more exciting to throw the ropes or tie the knots for the younger children. Be careful, though, repetitive jobs like drying up or untangling lines are about the worst thing you can make a child do.
- Visiting new places – this is particularly exciting for everyone. That same beach round the corner is fun, however it can be a little repetitive. Visiting the larger beach that is a couple of hours sail away is often a better bet, especially as young ones love exploring.
- Bird watching – Birds seem to be everywhere at sea, so buy a good bird identifier book and start identifying species. Set up a competition to find as many different species as possible and the long passages will fly by.
When in harbour there can be a lot of relaxing, this is great for the adults but children get bored very easily. Below are some of the many things you can do to keep children entertained.
- Optimist sailing dinghies – Although I am a bit big for sailing Optimist dinghies they easily fit onboard the coachroof of our yacht and are a highlight to use in harbour. Dinghies give children a chance to explore places themselves and it gives them some real freedom.
- Snorkelling and swimming – If the water is warm and there are fish about, snorkelling is great fun. When I visited the Caribbean, snorkelling was my favourite thing to do. Even if there are no fish, just messing about in the water is enjoyable. I love to tie a loop in the halyard and swing off the boat into the water.
- Windsurfing – We bought an inflatable windsurfer that fits in a locker and can be pumped up and ready in about ten minutes. It is great for sailing in stronger winds although it can be difficult to go upwind so a tender available to be used as a rescue boat is useful.
- Paddleboarding – Our windsurfer doubles up as a paddleboard. Paddleboarding is good for all ages as it is easy to use and very stable. Paddleboards are also very quick to setup and are relatively safe, so even young children can go out on their own. I love visiting uninhabited islands or coves on the paddleboard.
- Crabbing – Crabbing is one of the best things to do with young (or older) children. If the boat is moored in shallow water then masses of crabs can be caught. Make sure you don’t throw away bacon fat as crabs love it. Crab racing is also entertaining although watch out as crabs have been known to fall down hatches!
- Wildlife photography – wildlife photography is great for all ages and, as sailors are often in remote areas, wildlife is always abundant. Challenge children to take the best photo and they will be captivated for hours by anything that moves.
- Art – Young children love art, I used to spend hours drawing and painting all kinds of things onboard. I loved designing boats which were hundreds of meters long without a care for the cost of them. Make sure you bring enough paper and art supplies, especially colouring pencils, paint and paint brushes – I think that watercolour works the best as other paints can be quite messy.
- Making things – I love making useful items for the boat. It is really satisfying being able to use the boat related things that I have made. If you set your children a task to overcome a problem you have on the boat, with a prize for the best one, even the older children will spend time trying to figure out a way to solve the problem.
- Rowing – Rowing is an important skill to learn and is good exercise, however it is often overlooked until the engine breaks down. Rowing is very enjoyable and it doesn’t upset the neighbours as much as young children blasting around in a tender.
- Exploring – Exploring is especially entertaining for children. Let them run wild around a desert island and let their vivid imagination do the rest of the work.