As noted in the prior post, we received a number of questions about our passage and are aggregating them for responses on the blog. Several questions were specifically related to cruising with children, and are combining them here. If you have differences or something to add, post a comment!
How did the children do on the passage?
They did really, really well! I’m so proud of them. Jamie and I came down the coast (Seattle-San Francisco) without them, so their prior passage experience was limited to shorter hops -3 days at most. As a result, we weren’t really sure how the longer passages would work for them. They did have some mild seasickness during the first few days out, which were managed with Meclazine. Having a couple years of cruising experience under their belts was definitely a big help: they are adept at finding things to do and never need to be entertained. They play board games, create highly involved imaginary worlds and role play, draw, read, talk, play with legos, and watch the odd movie. I fully expected them to get cabin fever, but it didn’t really happen.
Where do the children sleep? What are your thoughts on sharing a v-berth vs. having separate spaces and privacy needs when they get older?
Our girls currently share the v-berth, and our son sleeps in a bunk in the cabin aft of theirs. Space for the children was a significant factor in our choice of cruising boat. In our old boat, an HR 35 (aft master, v-berth forward), the kids were happy puppy-piling into the master bunk, the v-berth, and/or the settees. They were also that much younger, and weren’t living aboard at the time. Still, it didn’t seem like a viable long term layout for our family. We felt it would be important for the girls and our son to have separate cabins as they edge toward adolescence, and enough space to call their own. It’s hard to find a layout in an offshore monohull that accommodates this in less than 50′, and is one of the reasons we decided that the Stevens 47 was perfect for us. Some boats are able to make the shared v-berth work for boy-girl siblings by hanging a curtain or otherwise creating some separation, but we don’t know any teenagers currently in this situation. Frankly, I don’t think it’s workable for longer term cruising.
What do you think are good ages for kids to go cruising?
I think we’re smack in a cruising sweet spot of age 5 to 12, where the kids are young enough that they like hanging out a LOT with mom & dad, but old enough to have safety sense, and old enough to learn about, appreciate, and remember the places we’re visiting. At the same time, they are not so old that a set peer group is the center of their lives. They are very adaptable to new situations and new friends. It also helps with adjusting to living aboard, although being on boats since they were babies also helped fast-forward through some of the acclimatization to living aboard full time.
I really think kids can go cruising at any age, although it seems that the very young and teenagers add different pressure. One of the most nerve-wracking ages for the kids on board, at least for me as a parent, was the year or two once they become mobile. I will never forget the shock and horror of waking up one morning to realize that our babe had managed to climb up a steep companionway INTO the cockpit, and was laughing down into the cabin at us! Partly because of the added demands on watchful parenting with young children, we had an artificial departure timeline in mind of “whenever the youngest turns 5.” As it turns out, we ran out of patience and left when the youngest was barely four. but she was particularly happy on board and we were past the challenges of toddler years.
At the other end, while we do know a number of teenagers out cruising, I can only think of one who is older than 14. I’m sure they are out there, but it’s much less common. We have seen several families stop cruising based on the needs or desires of their teenage children to be in a land-based school with a larger and steadier peer community.