Latest News: Forums Cruising Day sailing with family of four

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  • #3702

    Hi all,
    Am contemplating day sailing with family of four and could do with some seating/sailing advice please. The daughters are 13 and 9. All have some knowledge and the 13 year old is my usual crew and light weather helm. I assume the best seating arrangement is kids up front and adults rear, but are there any natty tricks for tack/gybing without ending in a heap or headbutting each other? Boat can be centre or rear sheeted. I guess rear would give more room. My wife is the least experienced sailor, so I guess I could alternate helm with the 13 yr old, but she is a lightwieght and struggles to manage the uncleated main for long in a breeze.

    Otherwise the adults might have to cross in the rear. I can only assume the idea might be to tack without the tiller extension (goes against the grain!) with the helm crossing slightly urther aft than usual, and the other bod sliding across the thwart facing aft. When the music stops last person without a seat falls overboard. This should all be set to a viennese waltz.

    I look forward to practicing it dry in the dinghy park on a busy Sunday. I’m sure it’s straightforward really. Any choreographers out there please ❓ ?


    Have you taken out the rear seats ? Subject to conditions, is it Possible to have Port & Starboard Crews( this works well if not to windy) plan Tacks & Gybes early and make sure every one knows what everyone is going to do before they do it.

    Dave Barker

    Hi David,

    Deviating slightly from your main question, I’m wondering if your mainsheet could be rigged differently to make it easier for other family members. Is it currently 2:1 or 3:1?

    Another way to ease the load in a breeze is of course to reef the mainsail (and compensate up front, for a balanced sail plan 🙄 ).

    We did a couple of day sails “4 up” last summer (our kids were then 15 and 17, and are tall) and used the tiller exchanging technique until a combination of apathy and closely spaced moorings resulted in 15 year old reclining on the floorboards and leaving me to helm. The others worked out their own best seating between them, including stretching out on the foredeck at times (subject to conditions).

    If the others are all keen to join you in the boat it’s got to be worth considering making a few adjustments to encourage their longer-term participation.


    I too have a family of four although my little ‘uns are quite a bit younger. We sail with everyone but the helm up front – kids on benches/decks, adult sat on the thwart. This works really well as the adult can easily move weight for conditions but is also available for moral support, tricky jobs etc.. The only time we change this is when the smallest one falls asleep(!) or when the older one wants to helm. When I use to instruct on wayfarers we sometimes had 5 adults on board in total and stuck to the same arrangement but with instructor to leeward of helm. Tacking was cramped so we always planned well in advance.

    Try the West Country for your family sailing – it’s great!



    Thanks for that. The advice got me thinking of other possibilities as well. In answer to the above – rear sheeted it’s 3:1 but still hard work for a very lightweight.
    The rear benches are in – means we can sit in but also provides plenty of quick access stowage underneath.
    The intention is to pick conditions – reef appropriately, etc. Given sizes/weights I think the kids up front and one adult astride the thwart and crossing when needed would be a good start although we could achieve all the suggestions above.
    You’ve made me realise the obvious, like everything else you need to be adaptable. The discussion made me think about longer leisurely tacks and looking for destinations that largely involve reaching or have sheltered routes.
    Any further suggestions appreciated. Wish I knew the proper way to answer on the forums!


    Hi. I think you have got it all there in the above, including your last answer. Lots of tacking is a real pain in a crowded boat but the person who cops it most is my wife. She sits facing forward on the thwart and gets fed up avoiding the kicker and boom in repeated tacking. This is a situation I try to avoid… 🙂

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