After 8 long months at the dock, we finally went sailing again! Memorial Day weekend was just too gorgeous to ignore, and the water was calling to us. It was the first time with our little family of 3 (plus Scout, of course) and we had a blast. We weren’t as rusty as I feared we would be. Story Time sailed like a dream, and seeing her sails up filled me with such joy and contentment.
While we were prepping the boat after a stagnant winter, I was jittery with nerves. How in the world could we safely sail with an infant? Were we negligent parents to even consider doing so? Let me tell you, seeing my baby girl gaze in wonder out at the water while safely strapped to her dad made all doubts fly out the window. Here’s how we sailed with a baby, and cardinal rules we have decided to follow:
1. Wait until baby has good head control. For us, that was 5 months. W can roll over and is close to sitting up unassisted. She is huge for her age and has strong body control. I definitely wouldn’t take a baby out who is younger than 3 months, but that is personal preference.
2. Pick a day with perfect weather. We had a max of 10 mph winds, and it made for such a calm experience. If there was any chance of high winds or storms, we would not have gone out.
3. Go over your casting off and docking steps. Who is doing what, when, and with which line. Review it over and over until you’re confident with your plan of action. Worrying about the baby took up massive space in my brain, so it was necessary to be able to move without second-guessing myself as we left the marina and came back.
4. Stay local. Don’t push your luck and risk a fussy and unhappy baby who is hot and tired. We only sailed around New River and were gone a total of 4 hours. As W gets older, we will go for longer stretches, but this was a good start.
5. Babywear. Seriously. We have a Lillebaby carrier that can be adjusted to both me and Conor, and W loves it. Conor wore W during the sail because he was at the helm the whole time. I like to run the sails, so I needed to be free to maneuver. This brings me to rule #6:
6. Baby does not leave the cockpit, ever, except to go down below into the cabin with Mom to eat/stretch out/etc. If she is not in her Lillebaby, then she is in her Stohlquist infant lifejacket.
7. For casting off and docking, baby goes in her crib down below. She protested a little when we were casting off, wondering why she couldn’t be in on the action, but it was better for her to fuss in a safe place for 5 minutes while we got underway. While we were docking, she was quite content to wait for us and babbled in her crib. Her crib is strapped down in the v-berth, and won’t move.
8. Leave and return while your marina is open and there are staff members to help you. It is quicker and smoother than trying to do it with just two people. I’m a fan of whatever makes life easier with a baby.
All in all, it was easier than I expected it to be. I had thought that we might need to rig up some sort of car seat contraption in the cockpit to put W in while underway, but once we came up with these rules, it was pretty much unnecessary. We are looking forward to more adventures this summer, especially anchoring out. If you have any additional tips for sailing with babies, please post them in the comment section!
Taylor, Conor, and W