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    Hi, I am a new member just having bought a Mkll GRP 4375 with the view to taking the family sailing / cruising. (Wife and twin 6 year old boys). As all my sailing has previously been larger offshore stuff (without children) I would like some advice on safety equipment for the children. What is recommended for lake and coastal bay sailing in terms of Life Jackets / boyancy aids for children? Also the club I was intending to join will not accept boats over 15″ so I am also looking for a club to join in striking distance of York if any one has any suggestions.


    Hi Brysmis,
    With children it is most important that they enjoy themselves. They won’t if they a) get frightened and b) get wet and cold.
    Choice of bouyancy aides I don’t think is too critical. Choice of clothing is. Don’t stint on warm fleece and waterproofs.
    Secondly, invest in an efficient reefing system. They don’t like sails thrashing about. You might well go slower than every other boat, but you will be in control and relaxed and so then will your young crew.
    Also limit your voyages – my early trips with children were from the slip down into the harbour and onto a decent beach.
    Good luck.


    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


    Just an small alternative to Dave Macs super suggestions. Keep spare/additional clothing for all of you in drybags in the cockpit or under the fore deck, much easier to access when sailing and easier to take up the beach.


    Regarding the query – ‘life-jackets or buoyancy aid’ – it seems generally accepted that buoyancy aids are more appropriate for all forms of dinghy sailing. Basically they are less bulky, provide immediate support when in the water, and provide additional thermal insulation. Chandlers offer a full selection including children’s sizes.

    For general advice on independent sailing there is a very useful (and authoritative) publication from the RNLI called ‘Dinghy Sailing – Sea Safety Guidelines’ which can be obtained free from their web-site or phone 0800 3280 600


    Many Thanks for all your help.
    We are now all kitted out and have sucessfully sailed at our “new” home club in Welton and also on Windermere.

    So far so good.

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