The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Attainably Adventurous Children


A thousand nautical miles from the Galapagos and halfway to Easter Island, a new member of the crew, a 20 year old family friend, has asked for help getting our wind self-steering settled back onto the correct course. The conditions were tricky: light airs coming over the stern quarter with waves coming from the opposite quarter.

While I was getting ready to help, another crew member turns on the electronic autopilot, trims the sails to balance the helm, disengages the autopilot while engaging the wind steering gear (always a tricky manoeuver), and then patiently tweaks the wind steering and sail trim to get us exactly on course. Arriving on deck, there is nothing for me to do but bask in the proud parent moment, given what our 10 year old son has accomplished all by himself.

As we write, we are anchored in Porto Profundo, just north of the Straits of Magellan in Patagonia. It is very exciting for us to be this far south in Chile, close to such an important area in nautical history. We are, as a family of four, off on an adventure.

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pedr turner

wonderful family story. i know the cape george 36 cutter very well.
One life safety ding.
The photo of the person driving the dinghy shows that the “red squiggly thing” is not clipped on to the operator as our net control reminds us to remember every morning at sign off.

Wonderful parenting story
Fair Winds

Dick Stevenson

Dear Christopher,
That is a nice beginning to what I am sure will be many articles for AAC.
As to the safety of taking children offshore, I could not agree more. When we took our then 16yo to Bermuda with us on our 38 foot yawl, his grandparents (and a number of our friends) were well behaved, but not supportive, quite the contrary. I said at the time that he would be safer offshore than on the Hutchison River Parkway (our local highway) the only road I know that is dangerous at posted speeds.
It was a particularly rough trip there and we gave him the option of bailing and flying back (with other crew). It was that or assume full crew duties. He assumed full crew duties and very much rose to the occasion and ended up writing his college essay on the growing experience he felt he had been through. We, as parents, clearly started to see and treat him differently from then on. Our coastal cruising with our 3 children continues to be looked at as some of the best times of our lives, and we have been blessed with lots of good times.
My best, Dick Stevenson, Alchemy
Ps. As to making grandparents nervous, there can be a silver lining. Our first trip to Maine from NY had one set of grandparents asking about dealing with fog. Our answers were as expected from a vessel with no radar, it being out of our budget. But it was not out of theirs. Years later, the other set of grandparents declared they wished to be able to communicate with us on the way to Bermuda and were not happy when we said that was really not possible Our first SSB was the result of this exchange and the grandparents were happy to have contributed to our safety, as were we.

Marc Dacey

What a great inaugural post: thank you! While we will be leaving with a young teen (the last three years of his high schooling will be taught at sea by his mother, who earned a teaching degree to run the provincial curriculum as well as tutor others), much of what you say and advocate is echoed by our own experience. In lieu of “just doing it”, we’ve had our son sailing Optis and 420s, our own dinghy and our 33 footer here in Lake Ontario. He’s a bit obsessive about trim and balance (as a dinghy sailor tends to be) and I’m looking forward to re-introducing him to the deck of our 41 footer this summer. I await more reports from the back of beyond: this is great stuff.

Danny Blake

I really loved this piece, having 3 children of my own I can really relate to this, John great decision getting some others to do some posts, makes my membership even better value for money!
Danny Blake

Bill Balme

I wish I had a couple of crew members like yours!!!

Well done, Good luck! Great voyage!



Nice article! Welcome aboard.
Now that I think of it, more than a few adults could profit from a personal growth and apprentice program like the one you’ve provided for your kids. I doubt if they would be as quick learners though—–.

Logan Bugenig

Nice blog!!!!
I have a blog just like you!
My brother has one also. It’s not finished quite yet but you can check it out if you want at “!my mom and dad both worked to build a full summary about our trips!
Right now, we are still fixing our boat named Caramba and we have made some good progress!
However, I am impressed about how good your crew members are at working on your boat!
Me and my brother don’t really now that much.:(
Also, I forgot to mention how old me and my brother are.
I am the oldest, I am 10 years old.
My brother is 7 years old.
And finally, I hope you are enjoying your trip or have enjoyed it.
Look at it sideways, it’s a pack man!

Colin Speedie

Hi Logan

your blog looks great, and I’m sure it won’t be long before you and your brother know a lot more about sailing. And writers need to start young, so keep it up.
Good luck!

Steven Schapera

Great article! Welcome aboard…I look forward to your contributions here. I think its a fantastic way for kids to spend a few years. I saw your presentation on TED, and how to “manage” risk in the context of kids growing up and gaining life experience. I couldn’t agree more!

pat synge

Our 2 children were born aboard (literally) and our boat was home for our oldest for her first 9 years and her brother’s first 6. It was hard work for us at times and was particularly exhausting when making long coastal passages.

There were moments of panic: like when our 4 yo daughter disappeared one afternoon when we were sailing some 500 miles offshore. We searched everywhere with rising panic but space is limited aboard a 40′ yacht. Eventually we found her fast asleep where she had crawled deep inside the spinnaker bundled in its bag in the forepeak.

They enjoyed many aspects of the lifestyle, especially the times we spent on small tropical islands of the S. Pacific, and no doubt benefited from the close parental contact and inevitable (and easily justifiable) discipline imposed by life aboard. As well as home schooling they spent time in a number of schools in different countries with children of different cultures and having to learn new languages.

Eventually we recognised that it was getting harder and harder to uproot them after a extended spell spent in one place as friendships became more and more important and this was one reason we decided to settle on land and give them the opportunity to establish ‘long term’ relationships with all the responsibilities and commitment that go with that. They settled in to school in Tasmania fairly easily and both did well academically having had a good grounding in learning and are now leading independent interesting and fulfilling lives with our daughter doing her Masters in international law at NYU and our son in Rio de Janeiro embarking on an interesting and worthwhile project that you might be interested in reading more about:

Did our peripatetic lifestyle create young adults that will never settle down? I don’t think so and, anyway, is that important? Now that I’m approaching retirement we are refitting and upgrading the old boat to head off into the Pacific again and hope that the ‘children’ will join us back on board from time to time. They might find their old bunks a bit cramped!

Colin Speedie

Many years ago when I was sailing with my young children, I was extolling the virtues of doing so in terms of child development to some friends, when one of them remarked that it was fine, but it ‘wasn’t real life, was it?’
It seems real enough to me. Our children played a part in everything that we did, learned new skills and began to evaluate risk for themselves – how real is that?
Through the centuries everywhere that adults went, children went, too, and played an active role in the proceedings. It’s only in our sedentary age that their active participation is in danger of becoming the exception rather than the rule. The excellent example portrayed in Christopher’s opening article shows that the old ways still have real merit.
Pat’s comment above bears that out, and in a welcome addition young Logan has given it his stamp of approval.
If you’re thinking of going long-haul with your kids, this article is required reading.

Best wishes

Marc Dacey

I wonder how many others got as big a charge as I did over the sight of a boy using dividers, and by the looks of it correctly, over a paper chart? Illogical, but there’s no accounting for an emotional response.

Greg Yates

You can’t see the tear stains & jitter on the page that comes from my wet keyboard; but you all have plucked a soul string of yearning that commands my acknowledgment, to you & a quiet time with my journal to process the raw, unfulfilled drives to grow my young, & now theirs so wholly.
Thank you & many blessings, Greg

richard (s/v lakota)

shouldn’t this important post have been in at least two parts with three even better ? lot to digest in one piece…cheers though

richard s., based in tampa bay but currently in caneel bay st john after tough upwind slog yesterday from culebra…about 40 nm…have classic square rigger for company about 600 yards off stern port quarter

John Harries

Hi Richard,

Good question. We did think about splitting it into two, but in the end found that there was not a really good point to do that. In other words, it just read better as a full piece.

We also found that when we have tried splitting an article just because it’s long, readers lose interest in the second instalment.

Having said that, who knows after the fact. You may indeed be right, this editing thing is an inexact science and we are still, and always will be, learning…kind of like offshore sailing!

John Harries

Hi All,

Thanks for all the great comments. Looks like Christopher really hit a cord that resonated with many of you, which makes us even more excited than we already where about hosting his writing here at AAC.

His story also made me think back fondly to my times sailing with my daughter. Must write about that some time. Tentative title “Sailing with a Dancer”.

Terje M


My favorite sailing blog with kids is Brittany and her family. They started with two adults and now sailing with a three year old and a set of twins under 1 year. Scott the captain must be very brave.

Over the years we have exchanged a few email but never met. I am looking forward to meet them on the water.

richard (s/v lakota)

questions for the barnes’ please…where are they now and what are the weather conditions there as well as their forecast for the next several days

questions please for the barnes’: current location relative to south america…current weather, and current forecast…also are kids doing well ? quite impressed with their experiences

richard based in tampa bay…currently in tortola

John Harries

Hi Richard,

Here’s an update from the Barnes family:

Hello from the South Atlantic. We are on Day 18 & have sailed 2,200nm from South Georgia. We should arrive to Ascension Island in one week (850nm to go). Then we are headed to the Cape Verdes, Azores, Ireland, and hopefully to Norway this summer… but we will see where the wind blows us… 100+º of latitude in a 100 days is a lot of sailing but we are dreaming of an endless summer (austral to boreal summer in one go…) Just now we are slogging north… slow trip overall (125nm/day) with a lot of close reach sailing but smooth overall.

Ben Tucker

Thanks Chris for an inspiring first post. Timely for me, as just yesterday I had a great day aboard with our 1 1/2 year old, our first trip away on the new boat as a family, having just got the new motor in and all hooked up.

It was a great feeling to see the little fella strutting around the deck with his big orange lifejacket on, grabbing the helm and generally having a ball.

It wasn’t so fun when he decided afternoon naps where not for sailors, but exhaustion soon wore him out, and the buzz of the engine finally put him to sleep in the v berth after we decided to get underway again.

Anyway fair winds on you trip north, and I look forward to further posts from you. Cheers Ben

Christopher & Molly

Thanks to all for the nice comments and we are glad to hear it stuck a cord for many. We are now in Scotland and keeping an eye out for a weather window to head to Norway (the prevailing SW winds are on hliday apparently). – Christopher & Molly

Dick Stevenson

Hi all,
John, I was not sure where to put this, but it seemed appropriate here.
For those cruising with children (and all of us interested in the possibilities of cruising widely) I wanted to flag an extra-ordinary family we met and spent time with in Iceland last summer. They are Dario and Sabine with their 6 children on Pachamama (Inca for Mother Earth). Their mission is to “inspire youth to save our planet”, but they accomplish so much more. Dario is a climatologist and International Mountain Guide and, with Sabine, have been ingeniously combined their passions into a family life that, somewhat magically, seems to draw in everyone around them: whether lone couple cruisers or school children in remote villages in Greenland. They have well over 100,000 miles of wandering around the globe and their videos of family outings doing so are both entertaining and inspirational. The latest video, unfortunately, shows the family and boat being battered while docked in a freak early fall storm in Iceland. The family was safe but the boat damaged.
I could go on, but I realize all I could say is better said (and seen) on their web site:
Our best to all, Dick & Ginger Stevenson, s/v Alchemy