There are so many reasons why cruising is great for families. It’s hard to nail down exactly how many reasons there are why cruising is good for families, I had to stop at eleven!
So here are my top eleven reasons why you will not regret deciding to buy a boat and go cruising with your family. Not only will you end up closer as a family. By giving your kids this alternative lifestyle you will see your kids blossom into independent, confident young people.
Traveling The World Together
Could there possibly be anything better than exploring the world together as a family? My number one reason why cruising is great for families is traveling the world together.
While we were in the planning stages to become cruisers, I was most excited about traveling the world with my kids. Over the last four years, I have not been disappointed at all.
When you are cruising, you travel slowly. At your own pace. You are free to stop for weeks or maybe months, in a place you like. And, zip on through the places that aren’t to your fancy.
As you stay in a place as long as you want to, you get to explore much more than you would on a one week holiday. Without having to live out of a suitcase. You get to immerse yourself in the local culture, you may meet a few locals along the way and learn how they live and even think.
You learn what matters most to people in different cultures. Not surprisingly putting family first is hugely important, sometimes we think more than we see in our consumer driven western culture.
You get to eat local cuisine which is normally so different, and delicious. We have added local recipes from all over the world to our regular diet.
The best part of the entire experience is that your kids are there with you interacting and learning as they go. The impact of this travel and learning new cultures will set them on the right track to being informed adults with a global perspective on things.
Knowing Your Children
My number two reason why cruising is great for families is truly getting to know your children.
This is not to say that I didn’t know my children when we were on land. My husband and I were busy executives and worked long hours. We made a point of eating meals together at the dining room table, without distractions, spent evenings, and weekends together. And three weeks of vacation time together a year with our kids.
The question is, how can you honestly get to know your kids, especially in their teenage years? When you are lucky to spend a quality hour or two together at night. And a few hours together each weekend.
The beauty of cruising and it really is something we need to remember that we are very fortunate to do each day as a family. Is that we get to spend most of our time together as a family enjoying quality time.
I am proud to say that as I’ve learned more about my children over the past four years. I think they are intelligent, entertaining people who I enjoy talking to and spending time with. My kids both have a great sense of humor. Maybe it’s even a little wicked at times! On our boat we spend a lot of time laughing, it is a happy place.
I’m not sure we would have ever been lucky enough to get to know each other this well, while still being immersed in our crazy appointment to appointment life we had before.
The Cruiser Community
My number three reason why cruising is great for families is the cruiser community.
The social aspect of the cruising lifestyle is amazing. Families hang together as groups. When we share meals kids and adults eat together (if there is enough space at one table).
If not the kids are happy to host a private dinner party with their friends inside at the table in the salon. But seeing as the real estate is limited on a boat, we still end up spending tons of time with our kids, even at the craziest of cruiser parties.
We have met so so many people from different walks of life. Our kids have been given the opportunity to know and get to love all sorts of people with different perspectives, ideas, income brackets, and backgrounds. This has given them a more open-minded view of the world and the people in it.
Our son has just finished school and has had the opportunity to discuss different career options with a hugely varied group of people. These discussions have taken place in a relaxed social setting and I’m certain he has gained more from their advice and open honesty than he could have ever imagined to have learned at a career day or fair.
Our children have their own relationships with our older cruiser friends. Our daughter often goes and bakes with one of our friends. Our son disappears, and when we ask him where he was, he says I was visiting so and so, we discussed classic cars. Apart from their grandparents, I’m just not sure if they would have had this exposure outside of the cruiser community.
All the cruiser kids we know are self-confident and comfortable having interesting conversations with adults. We have often bumped into a cruiser kid on land when our kids aren’t with us and ended up chatting to them for as long as we would have chatted to their parents.
The cruiser community is important to cruiser kids. They are the first ones to turn on the radio to listen to the morning net. Or helping setup a beach BBQ. Or jumping in the dinghy to help a stranded cruiser with engine issues.
In Marigo Bay, St. Martin there was a boat dragging during a storm while their owners were onshore having dinner. The boat was minutes away from being washed onto the beach. My then 15-year-old son jumped in the dinghy to go and reset the anchor while I radioed for more boats to help. He then managed the entire rescue operation with the group of a half dozen adults that arrived to help.
The kids feel valued in the community and it gives them a great sense of pride. I am so glad my children are growing up in a community that takes care of each other like this one.
Cruiser Kids Hanging Together As A Group
My number four reason why cruising is great for families is cruiser kids hanging together as a group.
When we first started cruising we were in the Caribbean. There were so many cruiser kids. Our kids took a bit of time to get over their shyness. Which was solved the moment I got involved and introduced them to a group of cruiser kids. Within the afternoon they had so many friends they couldn’t list them all by name.
Every afternoon after school, all the cruiser kids get together in a big group, regardless of age or gender. They all head off to hang out together. No boy and girl groups, just a pack of kids from the ages of 5 – 17.
When we were in Sint Marteen, our son was helping an older solo sailor with a few boat jobs. He spent an hour or so helping out every day after school. And was paid by having free use of an old roll-up dinghy, which always had a full tank of gas! For a young kid having this level of independence. His ‘own’ dingy. He was the coolest kid in town!
Every afternoon, he rounded up all the kids and took them to Explorer Island in the lagoon in St. Martin. Explorer Island is a paradise for kids. There is all sorts of junk on the island, old sails, wrecked boats, and other shrapnel. The kids made forts, cleared brush, cleaned the beach, and just had good cruiser kid fun.
One day he picked up a 5-year-old german girl who hardly spoke English. Her parents are friends of ours. Her mom was nervous about letting her go with the kids but knew our son, so she let her join them.
That afternoon she messaged me and asked our son to make sure he picked her up the next afternoon. Their daughter had the best afternoon and was still jabbering on about her day well past bedtime. Soon her English was fluent.
Living A Safe Carefree Lifestyle
My number five reason why cruising is great for families is living a safe, carefree lifestyle.
When you are a cruiser you drop your anchor and explore new places where it is safe. And the locals are friendly.
This is not to say that everyone is always friendly and there are no dangerous people. But, places that have a reputation for being unsafe are normally avoided by cruisers. And honestly, there are so many more good people in the world than bad.
When cruiser parents are confident the land or town around an anchorage is safe. Normally confirmed by a few fellow cruisers. We are happy to allow our kids to join in a group of cruiser kids to go and explore the shore, or local marina, or forests.
I love the fact that the rule is to be home by sunset, and my children are responsible enough to keep safe, and I don’t need to worry about them. Although, at first, when they were younger we kept them on a much shorter leash.
I love that internet is limited. And electronics and the internet are always a second choice to hanging out with friends. Before we left land in the winter our son used to spend his afternoons in the basement playing virtual games with his basement-dwelling friends. He at first resisted the idea of going cruising. As he saw no other way of socializing that wasn’t frightening to a timid kid.
We pretty much let them set their own screen time limits. As I know they choose friends over electronics. But, when it’s raining, or we happen to be alone in an anchorage for a few days, they get to decide how much is enough (within reason and after school and chores).
We have a NAS server with over 2000 movies and about the same amount of TV shows. Which allows a little downtime and alone time for them. It is very seldom I have to restrict screen time.
I know TV can be a hot button item amongst parents and we’ve taken the opinion that they have 10% of the screen time regular land kids have and some TV helps with their understanding of popular culture. We also think that an hour so alone just chilling is important. That’s their free time and when you live in 38ft on a rainy day. Alone time is important.
Given the choice, our kids choose friends and playing lightyears before electronics. They enjoy their freedom and love exploring new anchorages.
Think back to when you were a kid, it is the crazy carefree fort building and playing in the street, you miss the most. Don’t you wish you could give this to your kids? With cruising this is still a reality in most of the places you will visit.
Everyone Working Together and Contributing
My number six reason why cruising is great for families everyone working together and contributing.
When you live on a boat everyone is in a small space and learning to work together and contribute to the running of the boat as a whole.
Our kids have had chores since we moved aboard. As they have gotten older the chores have changed and evolved.
Our 17-year-old son helps with maintenance. He is knowledgeable about all the systems on the boat. Learning about all things sailing is his passion, he is full of good advice.
My daughter is 12 and has taken to cooking and often makes dinner for the family. Yay, less cooking for us. The look of pride on her face when she serves a delicious meal is amazing.
We have learned to work together and think outside the box. When there is a mechanical issue. And you are in the middle of nowhere outside of the box thinking is needed. We have had some interesting temporary fixes to get us to the next port.
When we are stuck we hang around and brainstorm. A few months ago my daughter came up with using a thin Ikea cutting board to make a plastic washer for our throttle shifter that was jamming at times.
Everyone gets involved takes ownership and is proud of their achievements when we as a family get out of a fix.
My number seven reason why cruising is great for families is sailing together.
When we first bought our boat we had little sailing experience. We hired an instructor to join us for ten days and teach us as much as possible while he was with us. At the end he signed us off and our insurance company held their breath as we set-out to explore the Caribbean.
Our first sail alone was a bit nerve-wracking, we had some strong winds and bigish seas. Over time we learned a few important things though. The boat is strong and happy jumping over the waves (catamaran), and we can totally trust her.
Sailing has brought us closer together. We all have our jobs and know what to do when different situations arise. We sat down over two months as part of school and taught our kids how to read the weather for four hours a day. They are part of the crew and now get to read the weather so they can make informed decisions. They are a valuable part of our trip planning process.
Our 12-year-old daughter is the navigator. She is an ace at using OpenCPN and Google Earth Maps to weave us through areas with lots of coral bommies. Where Navionics charts aren’t accurate.
Our system is simple when we are going in somewhere tight. I stand on the bow with my son and we maintain a visual look out. My daughter sits at the Nav station with OpenCPN and calls out the range and bearing of obstacles. If we loose the light or the visibility through the water turns poor, she guides us to safety. While my husband steers by autopilot making the degree by degree turns she calls out.
On one occasion she threaded us and a buddy boat through a very narrow reef section in the San Blass after we were caught off guard by a sudden squall which whipped things up just as we entered a lagoon.
She has recently started doing supervised day sailing shifts.
Our son at the age of 15, was cleared by our insurance as a crew member to cross the Pacific Ocean with us as a third competent crew member. He does an equal share of watches day and night.
We have got to love sailing so much that every so often my son will say “I think we should go on a night passage.” Fortunately, in French Polynesia, the distances between Archipelagoes are great. So we get our fair share of night passages in.
No Need For Stuff
My number eight reason why cruising is great for families is no need for stuff.
When we lived on the land we visited the mall often and always came home with a package or two of stuff we ‘had to have’. The first big mall we really got to after we started cruising was the Allbrook Mall in Panama City. It is huge. After 2 years of cruising, all we really ended up shopping for was new clothes and a new camera.
When I ask my kids what they want for Christmas, their list is full of useful items and not the latest crap that is advertised on TV that every kid has to have. Check here for Cruiser Kid gift ideas.
Now when we head to the store, they ‘need’ candies. For birthdays and Christmas, they ask for money to save up and buy something useful. The camera mentioned above was bought by my daughter with her saved money.
Learn How To Start a WordPress Sailing Blog
I get so many emails on how to start blogging and how to set-up & configure WordPress that I decided to make a quick ‘How-To’ Guide. If you’re thinking of starting up a sailing Blog this should get you started on the right track.
Understanding The Value of Money
My number nine reason why cruising is great for families is understanding the value of money.
Now that we are cruisers we live on a budget. If we want to keep living this lifestyle, which we definitely do, we need to ensure we live within our budget. Our kids understand this and are very conscious of waste from both a monetary and sustainability point of view.
Our kids understand that money doesn’t grow on trees. My son is an excellent Free Diver and likes expensive free diving gear. He makes a little extra money for himself, in anchorages where there is no local bottom cleaning services, cleaning the hulls of boats in the anchorage. Or helping other cruisers out with crappy jobs.
$20 here and $20 there. It soon adds up and he has managed to buy quite an array of cool gear.
Sunsets, Stars and Being Close To Nature
My number ten reason why cruising is great for families is Sunsets, Stars and Being Close to Nature.
Oh, the sunsets we have seen. So often we think this is the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, and then you wait five minutes, and it is even better. We make a point of watching every sunset.
When we are in a quiet anchorage on a moonless night, we like to lie on the trampoline and stargaze. Even when camping at home, there were not as many stars as you see in the middle of the ocean on a moonless night. It is totally awe-inspiring!
Being close to nature is wonderful. I love falling into the ocean before my morning coffee. Then watching the aquarium below, sipping my coffee while slowly easing into the day.
I love being able to share this natural world with our kids. I get a kick out of seeing their appreciation for the big and small things they get excited about watching from the boat. We have also managed to share a few experiences with nature that few ever get the privilege of seeing.
Two years ago we were off the coast of Panama. It was a calm day and we were motor sailing over a flat calm sea. We saw a disturbance in the water directly ahead of us about a quarter mile ahead. Thinking they were whales we stopped the boat, dropped the sails and killed the engine.
Whale Sharks! Six of them! They were really curious and swam over to our boat. We watched them gliding peacefully under the boat. After about ten minutes my son slipped in the water holding on to the transom just to observe. A silent observer. It was incredible. We all took turns. Just staying two feet from the boat watching as these giant. City bus sized creatures swum around us inquisitively checking us out. After about a half hour they got tired of us and slowly swum off. It was one of my most incredible experiences ever, and our kids were with us to share it.
We have dived with turtles, manta rays, octopus, and amazing fish. We have often had pods of dolphin play in front of the bow as we sailed. We have sailed with whales, watching them breach 300 ft away. Many times we have had to change course to keep our distance from whales that were showing off while we were sailing.
Living a Sustainable Lifestyle
My number eleven reason why cruising is great for families is living a sustainable lifestyle.
Most of our power is generated via our solar panels. We have a watermaker which we run every second day. We produce a lot of water about 60 Gal at a time. But all understand water is not to be wasted. Lights and fans are turned off if they aren’t being used. The value of power is always on our minds.
Our kids know that we must recycle. If we have recycling and know that the next island recycles, and this one we are at doesn’t. We keep the recycling on board to make sure it ends up in recycling bin. We buy foods at local markets, use recyclable shopping bags, and cook with first level ingredients to keep the packaging down.
When shopping I love the fact that our kids will make a decision on what candy or ice cream to buy based on the amount of packaging the product is wrapped in.
I love that my children will enter the world as capable, intelligent humans. Who care for people and the world they live in. Our children have blossomed, and our family is a close nit group who really enjoy each other’s company and being together.
If you need ideas on how to sell sailing to your kids take a look at my post.
How do you only put down 11 reasons why cruising is great for families? I’m sure I have missed some here. What have I missed that makes that cruising is great for families? Add it to the comments section below.