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12 Questions to 12 Sailing Families

S/V Necesse 41ft Morgan Classic - CANADA

Families Revisited
12 Families

1. How old were your children when you left? Is there a best age to take children cruising?

I don't think there is a “best age” - just whatever suits your situation best.

We started on our 33ft boat when our first daughter was 9 months old. It is a great age, always curious, playful, and portable.

The hard part was that at that time we did not have a boat that suited our needs. Our daughter was trying to learn to walk and had barely anywhere to walk to in the boat, no space. We even removed the salon table to give her more room.

We knew we wanted to expand our family, but a boat that size would not work for us, or my sanity.

So when a 41ft that we liked came up for sale we bought it. This boat suited us better. More space for walking, running, toys, and quiet times.

And a very deep cockpit so I didn't have to worry about the girls while underway.

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2. Did you make modifications to the boat for your children?

My husband made lee cloths for both the V-berth and aft cabin.

They are multi purpose. They worked as playpens when I wanted the girls to stay put while I was cleaning or doing boat work, and they also worked at helping me sleep better knowing that our baby wasn't going to roll out of the crowded bed when we were co-sleeping.

3. Anything you wish you had known before you got started? Any advice for families?

Everything gets easier with time.

Even if sailing doesn't feel natural, and seems like one extra step in a hard direction, with time, the more you sail, the more you anchor, the more you sleep in roll anchorages, the more you get used to it, find tricks that work for you, and adapt to make it the adventure you want it to be.

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4. What is a "typical day" at anchor?

I love watching the wheels spin when people ask me “You're on a boat with your kids?
All of a sudden their brain is bombarded with a ton of logistical questions, neurons are firing, and things just aren't lining up.

Well let me tell you the secret of it. Living on a boat with kids, well it's just as crazy as living on land with kids, just with a touch more of close contact. Kids are crazy little beings in themselves, on land or on a boat. So I do like any mama does, I try my best to have some sort of structure. This is for the girls' benefit, and for my sanity.

On a day to day basis our days look pretty similar, minus those days when we are sailing or discovering a new island.

What I am talking about here are the days, once we have settled in to an anchorage and we start to take back some of our daily routine, where things start to feel normal again.

On those days, this is what a day on our “kid” boat looks like.


6:30 am
Ellia wakes up, then she wakes Arias up, then both of them come and wake Eben up and bug him for breakfast until he is annoyed enough to get out of bed.

Eben gets the girls their first, second, and often third breakfast, as they enjoy some early morning shows on our laptop.

I wake up, get breakfast, sit with the iphone and my breakfast and see what the “World of Facebook” has been up to since I went to bed.

Eben chooses a boat project for the day, puts his swim shorts on and starts working.

I convince the girls to turn off their shows and do some “school work”.

Ellia is done with her school work, I color with her, as I multi task doing another half hour of schooling with Arias.

The girls and I play.

Usually they opt for play dough, or dolls. Or “doing a project” as Arias says, which means crafts.

Total freak out because I have announced 15 minutes until nap time. It is inevitable, I have to fight them on it every single day.

Naptime!!! Otherwise known as Mama and Papa's quiet time.

We will either watch a show on the laptop or I will do some interneting while Eben keeps tinkering on his projects.

Lunch time.

Either play time with friends if we have our buddy boats around, or play time on the beach or in the water.

This time of day is crucial as the rest of our day is dependent on it. This is when the girls dispense of all their energy which will guarantee us a good, normal, early night.

If the girls miss out on this part of the day we, as parents, pay for it later.

Back to the boat for shower time, supper prep time, and kids'play time.

Luckily our girls are really good at cleaning up after themselves and I don't have to worry too much about the late evening mess they will create because they will also be the ones putting it away.

Supper time.

This usually lasts about an hour simply because Arias won't shut up and just blabbers through the entire meal, which means it takes her forever to eat.

And Ellia will eat half her meal and then insist that she doesn't know how to feed herself the second half and needs adult help.

PJ's, brushing teeth, pee-pee time.

Then the girls get a night time story from Mama and songs on the Ukulele from Papa. Lots of hugs and kisses, sips of water, and goodnights.

And then probably at least one more request for more water, more hugs, or just something else really important that they needed to tell us before falling asleep.

We insist that the girls need to fall asleep.

Quiet time. Eben sits on the back of the boat playing games on the iPad, while I sit here writing this, for you.

Showtime. Nope, not what you were thinking.

We snuggle up in our bed, laptop sitting on the bunkbed that now serves as a “tv mount” and we watch shows until midnight-ish.

Next day, happily repeat.

Of course not every day is like this. But in general, if you are wondering what we are up to at a certain hour of the day, 80% of the time this will lead you to the right answer.

(More: On free time while cruising with kids, on our blog)


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5. What is a "typical day" on passage?

On longer passages this is what our “typical” day looks like:

  • Wake up and try and get some food in everyone's stomachs, even though I can barely eat because my stomach is always in knots when we go sailing (I am an anxious mama).
  • Give the girls Kids Dramamine
  • Do the breakfast dishes and stow the last minute things
  • Put blankets, pillows, water bottles, and throw-up buckets in the cockpit
  • Get the whole family in the cockpit, raise anchor, and off we go
  • While underway Eben does most, if not all, the boat stuff, while I cuddle seasick kids, keep them entertained, and nap
  • Meals are made by whomever is feeling the least seasick between Eben and I
  • Dishes get thrown in the sink to be done upon arrival
  • Lots of sleeping
  • If it is calm seas the girls will ask to watch movies on the computer or iPads
  • More sleeping!

6. What are your kid's responsibilities aboard?

We have one clear and simple rule:
Only one toy at a time

The kids aren't very involved with boat work, but they do help me with clean up.

On our boat we have one clear and simple rule “only one toy at a time”. If you are done playing with a toy, or want to switch games, the first one needs to be cleaned up before the second one gets pulled out.

I like “trying” to keep our boat tidy.

7. How do you handle: HEALTH and SAFETY?

Keeping the kids safe aboard

Both our girls have been on the boat since they were babies, so they grew up with the “rules”, and honestly they do not try to deviate from them.

- When at anchor the girls are not allowed out of the cockpit without a parent present.

- They are not allowed on the bow without a parent nearby.

- When getting in the dinghy an adult must first be in the dinghy.

- When underway, they can walk in the cockpit (on the floor) or be on their knees on the cushions, no standing up on the cockpit cushions while underway.

Caring for the kids in rough weather

Kids' Dramamine has been a huge help for us. Both our girls get sick on longer passages.

We tried seabands and other natural tricks but Dramamine works best to keep food and water down on longer passages.

(More: Keeping Kids Safe In Rough Weather, on our blog)

Keeping   the   kids   healthy,   eg   getting   medical   care   

We got ciguatera in Culebra (Puerto Rico) - The bill for 2 ambulance rides as well as the meds, and the doctor's visit, came to a total of $20US.

Medical care has been very easy and cheap to come by everywhere we have gone.

In Bahamas it was $20 to see a doctor, or you could get most prescriptions without an actual prescription in hand.

Dominican Republic was $25 for a hospital visit with doctor consult.

Puerto Rico (Culebra) was $20, and thankfully we have not had to visit a doctor yet in the Virgin Islands.

(More: Medical Insurance? What we do when things go wrong, on our blog)

8. How do you handle: EDUCATION and FULFILLMENT?


Both our girls are still young (5 and 3) so curriculum schooling isn't a huge worry.

But both our girls love to learn, and having both parents on hand 24/7 we often end up “teaching” them inadvertently. We find they are both quite advanced for their age (but doesn't every parent!)

We spend 20 minutes with Ellia doing her sticker-schoolwork by SchoolZone, and 35 minutes with Arias doing her Canadian Grade 2 Curriculum book.

Other than that our girls do “projects” throughout the day (crafting, watching educational videos, playing outdoors).

(More: Boat Babies Making Mommy Proud, on our blog)

Friendships and social interactions  

A morning tour of the bay with WINDTRAVELER.

Most years we have found ourselves some pretty good hubs where there were plenty of boat kids for our girls to play with.

Also, while we waited out hurricane season in the Dominican Republic we enrolled Arias in school, simply to have friends and be immersed in spanish. (More: Arias Goes To Escuela (School), on our blog)

Personal space aboard

The table in our salon is huge and perfect for projects, toys and school work.

Both our girls still nap, which is wonderful, it gives me an hour of “me” time every day.

The girls have their own bedroom, the V berth, where they keep most of their toys and books. That is their space.

But our boat is roomy enough that we never really feel trapped.

Family back home and their concerns

We get to see most of our family at least once a year. Many of them use our sailing destinations are their vacation destinations. They get to hang out with us and get free lodging on our boat.

Our friend Kurtis, who stayed with us on the boat for 7 months, playing with Arias in Staniel Cay, Bahamas.

The blog is also the main way that most of them stay connected with what we are doing, where we are, etc. And then there is always Facebook. We are connected to the internet pretty much anywhere we go.

9. How do you handle: TASKS and CHORES


I am usually in charge of laundry.

We have a hand washing machine on board, but most of the time we let it accumulate until someone runs out of underwear and then we take it in to the local laundromat and I spend an hour or two there doing laundry.

Cleanup and daily maintenance of the boat (inside and out)

The inside of the boat I take care of, unless it is tools or from projects Eben has been working on. He gets to clean up after himself! The girls help me with cleaning up their toys and such.

The outside of the boat falls on to Eben. With the kids we always have to divi up the jobs.

Feeding the family, nutrition and cooking

Eben enjoys cooking. It relaxes him. So he usually takes care of supper time, the bigger meals.

I will make the quick lunch for everyone.

We both take part in grocery shopping and provisioning.

10. How has cruising changed your family?

A sea turtle made 5 year old Arias her best friend

We took off cruising 5 years ago, on a much smaller boat, with only one baby. We figured our daughter was young, small, and portable, so it was an ideal time for us to go adventure. And we had always promised ourselves that we wouldn't let the kids slow us down, so we brought them along!

We planned for one year of sailing and then we would see. Somehow the time has just kept passing and now it is crazy to think that we have been doing this for 5 years, with two babies, and two different boats.

There have been great highs, and low lows, but those are to each their own to discover.

Cruising has allowed us to have a very close relationship with our daughters, watching them grow up, and giving them both their parents by their side 24/7. It has been a privilege.

(More: 10 reasons to cruise with kids, on our blog)

Cruising has allowed us to have a very close relationship with our daughters

All questions

11. If you have gone back to shore, how was the transition back to land?

Moving to land seems like a good change.

We moved back to land in the Dominican Republic, and we quite liked it. We are now considering moving on to land for a while. Most of our family life we have been on the boat and we are starting to feel ready for a change, and moving to land seems like a good change.

Going from land back to the boat was a harder transition, everyone had lost their sea legs, and we had to go through a pretty big bout of seasickness before we all got used to the motion of the ocean again.


About the NECESSE family

My name is Genevieve. My husband Eben and I have raised our two daughters (Arias age 5, and Ellia age 3) on our 41ft Morgan sailboat for the past 5 years.

We started sailing on a smaller boat with Arias at 9 months, and have continued on to now raising two girls aboard.

We have spent all of this time in the Caribbean - from Bahamas to Virgin Islands, where we are currently.

We have no idea what is in store for us next, but we are considering different island options where we could live aboard, work, and send the girls to a school. All hopefully in a Spanish speaking country where the cost of living/healthcare/and school is cheap.

To follow our adventures stop by our blog: www.itsanecessity.net

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Sailing Families Revisited

12 questions to 12 sailing Families (2010)

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