shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Sailing with Kids

October 17, 2011

(Why wait until the kids are grown to go cruising? Mount Gay Rum's Sailing Spoken Here has included my piece Cruising Sooner Rather than Later on their site. Check it out.)

There is no doubt that sailing with kids is more work, but their perspective makes it that much more fun, even when things go wrong. Back when we had Lay Low, our 25' South Coast, we kept her at a little marina off Eastern Bay, on the Chesapeake. Though we were only five miles from the Bay, we were content to explore the little anchorages we found closer to home. One Friday evening, headed for the perfect spot to spend the weekend, we snuck up a narrow channel that according to the chart carried barely enough water for us. The sudden stop of our forward movement, however, told us otherwise.

It is often said that there are two types of sailors on the Chesapeake Bay: those who admit to having run aground and liars. I will admit, this was not the first time our keel had spent some time in contact with good old Chesapeake Bay mud: even with a 4'9" draft we still managed to find the bottom often.

Nicholas, Garrett and David eating pre-sailing ice cream

This time, when we went aground, Dave thought to put the outboard in reverse before we had plowed too far, so she backed off. We were soon on our way again, up the creek where there was scarcely any room outside the channel with enough water for us to anchor. I used our "remote depth sounder" (a weight tied to a fishing pole with a bobber at the "we float" mark) to determine that even though the chart showed much less, we had at least five feet well outside the channel, in a comfortable little cove. I dropped the anchor, and within ten minutes the boys were swimming and rowing the inflatable raft we still used as a dinghy. Dave and I were enjoying a drink in the cockpit before dinner. Even with only a small two burner stove, Dave still managed to turn out some nice meals. After dinner we played cards while the boys fished. At bedtime everyone had to go out into the cockpit so I could convert our dinette into a bunk for the two little ones; there was not enough room to do it with anyone else in the boat. It was camping out, but for long weekends that was fine. Nicholas slept in the quarter berth with room at his feet for the toys he brought each weekend. The five of us fit, though we wondered what we would do when the little boys grew too big to share the dinette. We had had a wonderfully relaxing start to our weekend with all our real-world worries long forgotten.

Dave and I stayed in the cockpit talking and looking at the full moon and stars until the boys were asleep, and then crawled into the V berth, exhausted from sailing, swimming, rowing, and fishing, but thrilled that we still had two more days to enjoy.

She wasn't pretty, but she sure was a good teacher.

A child's scream will instantly bring even the most tired mother flying out of bed. I recognized the cry as David's and was already telling myself that he had probably had a bad dream before I was out of the bunk. Just before I hopped down I saw him staring up at me from the floor; he must have fallen out of bed, which wasn't hard to do on the little bunk they shared. When my feet hit the sole I instantly fell into the hanging locker on the starboard side.
"What the hell?"
"Mommy, I fell out of bed!"
"Yeah, I just fell down, too."
"What is with you people, falling over out there?" Dave had just enough time to ask before he got out of the bunk and proceeded to fall on his ass, into the hanging locker I had just vacated. "What the hell?"
"That's what I just said!" It was so absurd I couldn't help but giggle.

The moon provided sufficient light, but my tired brain could not register what it was seeing: we were listing forty degrees to starboard. While I calmed David and propped him up against Nick's bunk, Dave went up on deck. When we saw what had happened, we remembered the shallow water the chart had shown. The tide had gone out, leaving us high and almost dry, the full moon having created a more drastic tidal change than we had anticipated. We had had more water than charted at high tide and much less at low, which happened to be in the middle of the night.
"Why don't these things happen in the daylight?" Dave was already trying to kedge us out to the deeper water.
"Because then everyone would be awake to see you and make fun of you. Be happy it's dark, Sweetie."

The kid has always had attitude.

The best we could manage was to straighten up the boat enough that David wouldn't fall out of his bunk again, but we were too hard aground to move her to deeper water. We knew we would be floating when morning brought the rising tide, and we were relatively upright, so we decided to go back to bed. I went below to get David settled back in.
"Hey Mommy," he said, grinning as only a five-year-old can.
"Hey, what?"
"We're heeling and we're not even sailing! Cool."
"Yeah, cool. Now go to sleep."

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. David Lee McBride

MONDAY we'll share the details of our favorite weather service: Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center. Don't leave home without him.

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