Skipper mom logbook: sailing with a baby

Captain Alena describes her experiences and impressions from her sailing trip with an inexperienced crew and a ten-month-old baby. If you are going on a boat with a similar crew, take a page from her (log)book.

Captain Alena went on the boat as a skipper with her ten-month-old son Tadeáš and an inexperienced crew full of kids. What is a sailing trip with a baby like? And what should you take with you? Read her experience.

Going on a boat with such a small baby is probably always a challenge, but after my recent experience, I have to say that being a mom and a skipper at the same time is even more challenging. And to have a crew that has never been on a boat before. In total, we were 5 adults and 5 kids (10 months, 8 years, 11 years and 17 years). We rented a Bavaria 46 Cruiser.

Before we left, I tried to read and seek out as much information, recommendations and experiences of others as possible. Just to prepare myself as best as possible. However, I always spoke to men who were skippers and had experience with a small baby on board, but they always had a mom there to rely on. It was only the act of doing it myself that really showed me how much of a difference it makes.

As the sailing holiday approached, I alternated between a feeling of great anticipation, total fear and remorse for what I had just let myself in for, then calming down and looking forward to it again.

Because of the baby, we were heading to Croatia overnight and a day early. We had booked an apartment for one night right in the marina. The journey was surprisingly quiet, Tadeáš was able to sleep through the night, so we made the Prague-Pirovac trip in 10 hours.

And then all hell broke loose. And by that I mean the hellish heat of around 35 degrees, lugging all the stuff from the car to the apartment and managing a baby. But we made it through and spent the rest of the day on a small beach in the shade of pine trees.

Saturday and Sunday (i.e. day 1 and 2 on the boat) were, from my perspective, the absolute worst. On Saturday we had to be out of the apartment with all our stuff by 10 a.m. (the car park was about a 15-minute walk from the marina) and we didn't end up getting the boat until 6 p.m.. So we had to juggle guarding our things, keeping the older kids entertained, standing in line at the charter office, checking in, and all with a baby glued to his mother, me, dying from the heat and the complete change of scenery...

Once we took over the boat, we decided to sail to Zminjak, an island an hour away, with a restaurant and a pier, which turned out to be very nice. So all morning, the kids had been swimming from the boat, paddleboarding and we even gave Tadeáš a dip in the sea. Unfortunately, it was quite cold all week, so every other "swim" was in a dinghy on board filled with warm water.

YACHTING.COM TIP: What are the basic guidelines to follow in order to make your boating holiday with small children both safe and enjoyable? The key is to choose the right safety equipment, adapt the route and select a boat with the whole family in mind. Check out our article to find out how — Sailing with kids: how to keep all of you safe and happy.

After lunch, we went on a three-hour cruise to Tribunj, and it was very challenging. I handed over the helm to the boys (11 years old) who wanted to steer, but I had to supervise all the time and my son was crying because he wanted to be with me, but also wanted to play and climb on the deck. We ended the whole thing by landing at the town pier in Tribunj, with a powerful side wind and a propeller that refused to work.

Every skipper knows the situation when docking doesn't quite work out. It's quite stressful. We were sideways on the next boat, dealing with getting dragged away from the jetty and trying to grab the mooring (I remind you that I had an inexperienced crew), with a baby crying hysterically and very loudly. That evening I walked around Tribunj cursing myself for going through with it and processing my guilty conscience for hurting my own child.

Fortunately, the next day everything turned around like magic and suddenly things started to feel good — even my baby started laughing and enjoying it again. I discovered that Tadeáš needs much more daytime sleep on the boat than at home. We'd brought a swing with us and a sleepy baby equals a happy baby. I started scheduling our sailing so that he was sleeping right then and there. We would then often have an hour or more where Tadeáš would swing, we could float, and the kids could be pulled on the rope behind the boat.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Kids and a sailing boat? Don't worry. The sooner your children get used to being on board, the more you'll be able to head out to sea and truly enjoy family sailing. From our own experience, we are convinced that children belong aboard a boat. Kids love playing in water, swimming and, more often than not, enjoy sailing too. If this isn't the case for your little ones, don't despair — just give them a little help. Adapt your itinerary to your child's needs and you'll enjoy an unforgettable holiday packed with adventure. We've put together a list of our very own tried-and-tested tips just for you — With kids on board: 4 essential tips for smooth sailing.

Leisurely sailing with a spot of swimming

Also, it turned out that Tadeáš needed to be nursed a lot more (probably for a feeling of security), so I spent a lot of time nursing at the helm checking the young helmsmen. I planned the crossings to take a maximum of 3 hours. It was a cruise very much about swimming and not much sailing. We only hoisted the sail (genoa) once.

If the seas were calm and you could swim behind the boat, you could do the 3=hour trip with the kids because we interspersed it with swimming. However, on the way from Rogoznica to Vodice, the Jugo was blowing strong and there were quite a few big waves. So swimming by the boat was out of the question, plus our 8-year-old sailor was afraid we would capsize. So the journey was just too long for the kids.

Setting course for home

Similarly, on the penultimate day from Prvić to Zminjak, we went against the Bora and the crew was slightly bored. Hoisting sails in strong winds with an inexperienced crew was sheer nonsense.

On the last night, I decided to be on Zminjak again, as they were reporting a powerful Bora for Friday and I wanted to be close to the marina and dock in the marina before the wind picked up, which was supposed to be around 2 pm. This time we couldn't fit on the dock, so we were on the buoy again and my baby rode with us to the island in the dinghy, which surprisingly he wasn't afraid of at all. There's no place to ride in a stroller on Zminjak, so I put him to sleep in a carrier. But this week Tadeáš had pushed his bedtime to ten o'clock, so he crawled through the whole restaurant on all fours and let himself be admired at all tables and by the waiters.

Fortunately, we returned the boat without any problems and started our journey back to Prague, which was spread over 3.5 hours over 3 days. We spent the first night in Trakošćan, which is a hotel on the Slovenian border, with a pool, castle and lake right next door. We drove to Vienna the next day and were finally home on Monday.

Home with the baby, who after the Covid period has socialized beautifully, started sleeping much better and hasn't minded the change of environment so much.

I am writing this article two days after we arrived and we are already planning another sailing trip next year.

After this year's experience, I plan to bring someone with me who will perhaps have a share of the boat for free, but will always be on hand for Tadeáš. I will definitely be doing even shorter crossings, for the sake of the other kids who mainly want to swim. We are already looking forward to it.

A list of things to take when sailing with a baby:

On our "baby" voyage we made a lot of use of the following items for the baby, the swinging baby hammock (Hojdavak) was especially useful.

  • Compact stroller
  • Baby hammock
  • Baby harnesses (we didn't use them once)
  • Inflatable dinghy as a pool
  • Folding high chair (we didn't use it much either)
  • Baby swimming ring with seat
  • Bag of toys
  • Baby first aid kit
  • Swing
  • UV hat and baby shirt
  • Net for the railing (unnecessary from our point of view, Tadeáš didn't leave the cockpit)
  • Carrier
  • Bed barrier

Alena was sailing on a Bavaria 46 Cruiser. Check out the range of these boats suitable for family holidays.

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