Ever wondering if you should go at sea and live your dreamlife sailing around the world with the family? Especially, wondered if the adventure will be enjoyable with young children?
These days, we see more and more newbies or experienced sailors taking the chance to live the adventure of a lifetime. And there is a good reason for that: the 2020 pandemic gave us wings : more time to project ourselves, boat market prices decreasing, an enhanced desire of freedom, a phobia of airports and restrictions. But most of all, we rediscovered family time and how we enjoyed the slow path of our days without the hectiness of school and office runs. Now travelling on a sailyatch is just a continuation of this mindset with a moving house (which sure requires a lot more maintenance and skills…).
Deciding to take a young family on a live aboard experience and travel full time is not a light decision. But though we could do a long list of pros and cons on whether taking the leap of faith or not, the only fact that this question is in your mind is telling a lot about your inner desire for travelling free. It is obvious that these choices are made by the heart and you’ll just have to get your brain focusing on securing the aspects which will turn the dream into a plan.
Some aspects have to be well prepared to make it an enjoyeable experience and help you to keep your cool in most circumstances (we never said than travelling at sea was never stressful).
The first thing we did was to search for a yacht which could be single-handed. This means that one parent can be at the helm and manouvering while the other takes care of the kids. Your best plan if you have one or more toddlers.
After adquiring our first sail yacht, we searched for all safety equipments which would keep our toddler alive… (terrible to word it this way, but this is the open seas dear). Here are the 2 main items you’ll focus on: Firstly, we installed safety nets all around the 45 feet long yacht (quite a big pack of nets!). Secondly, we then bought life jackets… lots of life jackets. Until we found the model which best suited her. Comfort is prime if you don’t want to argue constantly about the concept of keeping the jacket while cruising. (We show the favorite model on our Instagram account island_cruising_family).
Then, you want to do and repeat daily safety tips and consigns, as not walking along on the deck without a jacket on, the no-go zones, how to go down in the cabin alone etc. Most importantly: swimming lessons in the pool and at sea if you can. Our daughter took intensive swimming classes 3 times a week until she could swim by herself, dive and go up to the surface alone. You want your kids not to panic if they are in the middle of the sea, building confidence in the water is your top job.
Subscribe to an international health plan with a worldwide coverage. This includes rapatriation and 24/7 contact with nurses; doctors are also available during the day. Mental health consellors are also on call (hopefully we won’t need that one but family tensions can escalate dramatically in small floating houses…).
As a back up, we made also sure to inform our Family Doctor about our travelling plans and we chose a doctor who is himself sailor. It can help a lot to resume a situation such as the time my husband was stuck in the cabin with a blocked back…
We obviously have all basic medecines onboard for us and our child and plan to take first aids course refreshers. Not going to the stiching part maybe as there are great new gluing technics, but having a first aid course can help you to keep calm and act rationnally while contacting medical experts.
Education is maybe the one subject which raises the most questions from our friends and family, and also the one that we find the easiest to answer. A live aboard experience is full of learning opportunies for those opened to worlschooling. However, depending on your country of origin, you will have to check that you are compliant with your countries’ laws. School age can vary from 3 to 6 years old and you want to have a curriculum in place when the times comes. If homeschooling is legal in your country, you will have the best experience pick and choosing what is best for you and your children. For more academical write/ read learning, we love to recommend the website / app Reading Eggs, best for english speakers from 2 to 8 years old. And pack with a lot of material, art and crafts support etc.
Preparing your children with the idea of living on a boat and travel through the year will be a good thing. We have to say that the youtube channel of SV Delos became one of our favorite tv shows that we watched together with our toddler. She could represent herself what was a life aboard and identify herself with the experience.
Anyway, we had not much struggle there as our daughter naturally prefers being at ‘home’ with mummy and daddy than being at school with kids. The school closue was a relief for her and we transitionned naturally to unschooling/ worldschooling.
We also hear many questions about the social aspects of the life of our child. Well, for those who worry about social life at sea and marinas, we can answer that our social life became much more intense since we moved on the sailboat. The sailing world is social… very social. Maybe the topic for another post.
Anyway, our days are still rythmed by work, learning activities, playtime and neighbors who are much more accessible and willing to share than in the residential areas. Also we meet kids and families at the beach and in all the activities we do when on land. Sure, you will soon know all the kids’ playgrounds nearby the marinas and touristic sites you visit. But how cool to be at Lipari or Syracuse playground after a Museum visit?
On the top, we realized that our 4 years old became less shy and talks with adults with pleasure. Adressing herself everyday with people from 2 to 70 years old will for sure build a future confident adult.
The international exposure is a great benefit of this life. Last week, we were 5 nationalities on a catamaran talking in 4 languages. Since our daughter speaks fluently 2 languages (English and French), she is now learning now words of Spanish and Italian. When I think of all the hours I spent sitting in class learning foreign languages… As I write this article, our girl is teaching french numbers to her friend. This is all about cultural exchanges!
Balanced Sailing Time
At the end of the day, you will have to define what is right for your family. The duration and the frequence of your day cruising versus long crossing. And plan the activities to keep the kids entertained meanwhile. We target a maximum of 60-70 nautical miles per day. We either set sails at dawn when there is a very long day, or wait for mid-day to get some physical activity before the crossing. Then, during the cruise, we listen to music or stories. When the wind and sea conditions allows we even cook together. If you don’t like tablets today, my bet is that you will like to love them but it is everybody’s choice. We personnally have a collection of movies and cartoons, documentaries and favorite channels. Again, this is only a question of balance and making sure that the next day is outdoor and fully active (trecking with a toddler is an intense sport).
Finally, all this is just an excuse for slow travel and enjoy your family to the fullest. Enjoying each day with one another, spending time in each others arms after a day filled with new horizons . Remember that travelling at sea, safety is first and that the rest is just pleasure.