Father and daughter aboard a sailboat

Liveaboard sailing with kids – Five tips to keep your sails cool

Living the sailing dream together with the family is probably one of the greatest lifetime projects for passionate sailors. More and more newbies or experienced yacht-skippers take the chance to live the dream together with their kids. It’s all about rediscovering family time without the rush of school and office runs. But how can you make this enjoyable for young children? Nora and Cyril Pimont shared some experiences with us that made life on board their Hanse 445 most enjoyable for her 4-year-old daughter Kiara.

Father and child at the wheel of a sailboat
Happy family eating and relaxing on board a sailboat

Balanced Sailing Time

Before setting sail, you should define which sailing duration is right for your family: a day’s cruising or a long crossing. If the swell is uncomfortable, Nora takes Kiara outside on her lap to keep her relaxed. Her personal advice: Feed a bit of dry food, water, but not too much milk. Plan activities to keep your kids entertained in the meantime. Nora and Cyril usually listen to music or stories. For this purpose they have a collection of movies and cartoons, educational shows and documentaries on board. When the wind and sea conditions allow, they play onboard games or cook. Make sure your tablet is fully charged – in case of bad weather conditions when you need your full focus on the sea, your child will be able to fully immerse themselves in no time with what’s happening on-screen. It’s a question of balance - the next day should be outdoor and fully active.

Family sitting on board their sailing yacht

Social Aspects

The sailing world is social − mostly, neighbors are much more accessible than in the classic residential area. Spontaneous get-togethers are a great chance for kids to mingle with all the mariners. This kind of socializing makes them more daring and well-worded. Kiara became less shy and talks with adults with pleasure. It even built up her confidence, addressing herself to a variety of people every day. Meeting different nationalities and talking in different languages let kids learn new languages very quickly. Kiara speaks English and French fluently already, and is now learning Spanish, Italian and Russian words. She has even started to teach French numbers to her friend. It’s all about cultural exchanges!

Child having fun on board a sailboat

Education

Education is the subject which raises the most questions. Depending on your country of origin, you will have to check that you are compliant with your country’s laws. School age can vary from three to six years old, and you want to have a curriculum in place for when the time comes. If homeschooling is legal in your country, you are in a position to choose what’s best for your child. For more academical learning, Nora recommends the website and the app “Reading Eggs”, as her kids were passionate about its games and fun creative learning features.

Child meditating on board a sailboat

Health

Subscribe to an international health plan with a worldwide coverage. This includes repatriation and nurses available 24/7. General practice doctors are available during the day and call back quickly. Nora and Cyril chose a global health care company and informed their family doctor, who is also a sailor, about their travelling plans. This has helped to resolve a situation when Cyril was stuck in the cabin with acute back pains.

Collect all basic medicines onboard, especially for your child. Refresh your first aid course to keep calm and act rationally when contacting medical experts. Leave the travel sickness gums for children (as from four years old) and for yourself at an accessible spot near the companionway.

Child discovering and learning about ocean life on board a sailboat

Importance of nature

Kids are naturally curious and enchanted by the little things in nature. It is possible to have great learning adventures if properly equipped, don't forget to pack snacks and plenty of water and the clothing necessary to keep everyone comfortable. Adults who are able to exercise patience will thrive, prepare yourself for answering 100 questions an hour and stopping for yet another break. Nora goes hiking with Kiara most of the time, they take lots of breaks while growing their collection of rocks, shells, and gravel. This gives kids the chance to analyze their natural environment, which is so much different from school.

Family getting ready for a snorkeling water adventure on their sailboat

Safety

For families, it is certainly a great help to own a cruising yacht that can be sailed single-handed. One parent can be at the helm, maneuvering while the other takes care of the kids. Nora and Cyril have set up safety nets all around their Hanse 445 and bought life jackets which best suited Kiara. Comfort is most important if you don’t want to argue constantly about the concept of keeping the jacket on while cruising. Repeating daily safety instructions e.g. not walking along on the deck without a jacket might be unavoidable for small children. Most importantly: Let them take swimming lessons in the pool and at sea. Kiara took swimming classes three times a week until she could swim, dive and get up to the surface by herself. You want your kids not to panic if they are in the middle of the sea. Lessons will help build up their confidence in the water.

One last tip for both safety and comfort: prepare a tiny cabin with nets for the toddlers to prevent them from rolling over and falling off during a nap or at night. For example, simply put them to sleep in the middle of the large XL bed and surround them with big pillows.

French sailing family and their Hanse 445 sailboat

About the family

French sailors Cyril and Nora follow the idea of a slow travel lifestyle for a better work-family balance with their daughter Kiara. In 2019, they bought their first Hanse 445 called “Alegria III” and transferred her to Malta. In less than a year, they transitioned from expatriate globetrotters to newbie sailors and into a part-time live-aboard family. Their journey is about making life worth living, inspiring other sailors to live their dream life on a floating home and travelling the world with their children. Beyond offering a blog, videos and photography books, they share local artists’ and craftsmen’s unique creations in an online shop on their website.

Join their adventures at: www.islandcruisingfamily.com