Hi. Matt’s reply has started me off on a bit of a tangent since you specify safety equipment but I have written this and you might want to hear it! I have probably made every mistake in the book so feel free to read between the lines!….
I agree with Matt and I am sure you will too, don’t be too ambitious. I have 6 yr old twins and two bigger ones and these would be my key points:-
avoid flogging jib sheets bigtime …also it is remarkable how the kids can get them stuck around their backs. Just using the mainsail is really mellow.
When beating your crew can get very wet and cold while you are warm and dry, you might not need waterproofs, they will in a slight breeze. Lifejackets/ bouyancy aids are essential but which ones depends on their ability and where you sail but a crutch strap and snug fit will give peace of mind. I got mine second hand at boat jumbles/ local paper.
Here’s the best one………listen to your wife! If she is happy the kids are happy. If she knows anything about sailing that is an advantage, my communication skills go out the window under stress too so expect the worst (I’ll say no more except the number of times I have been approaching the shallows and said get ready to jump in and found my wife /daughter swimming in behind us…….) In our boat what is obvious to me simply would not cross their minds….and basically why should it, they trust me to do everything while they mess about/squabble/chat? I have not cracked it!
And avoid food until you reach the picnic zone, singing silly songs/games are suprisingly therapeutic and digging food out the second you start moving is a real distraction/pain. Don’t launch with hungry kids.
If you are launching somewhere tidal with little room to manoevre use the outboard unless 100% confident, put the sails up in a bit more space. Also more warm spare clothes in the locker to change into at the picnic, otherwise you might have to finish a lot earlier with very unhappy bunnies.
Safety-wise my guess is most accidents happen on launching/recovery or while you are distracted stepping the mast and they fall off the pontoon, wade off into the mud etc etc, cut feet on rusty bits of metal. There is quite a good log in the Cruising section of the website on cruising with kids (about 1985 but the issues don’t change). Basically slipways and pontoons are dangerous places!
So there you go, pick your weather and go for it, just make your mistakes small ones. Apologies since you did not ask for all this but I could not resist……….its been fun finding out. cheers Dave