How to convince your teenagers to sail with you

Published on December 15th, 2020

by Nick Hayes, Sailing magazine
The question I’m asked about most often is about family sailing. The scenario differs only slightly: Usually a parent of teenagers aspires to sail in a family group, but can’t convince the kids to go. Sometimes the parents learned to crew as younger adults and hope to replay the experience. Sometimes a parent took a lesson or two, saw a deal on a 1978 fixer-upper and feels ready to skipper a family boat.

There are one of two constants: 1. Either the kids were junior sailors and lost interest by the age of 15, or 2. The kids didn’t know that junior sailing was a thing and think that sailing is “so 1970s,” and only about Mom and Dad’s 1970s friends. Either way, the adult skipper wannabe may as well be pulling teeth.

Sometimes the way to solve a problem is to avoid it in the first place, but that takes longer range planning than most families can reasonably do. It is luckier to blindly miss a problem without knowing that it is there at all. That’s what happened to us.

My wife and I sailed together before we had kids, and as soon as they were infants we slathered on the sunscreen and strapped them into car seats lashed to the stern rail. Later, we lifted toddlers up to swing from the boom or make forts out of berths. We gave the helm to grade schoolers, and then, by the time our daughters were teenagers, they had become talented, contributing members of our racing team.

The kids are now adults and we’re still sailing together. As I write this, we’re social distancing on a three week all-adult family COVID-cruise, but that is another story. For our kids, it was never a choice to sail or not to sail; it was what the family did. It might seem to you to be regressive—a more traditional, perhaps controlling way of parenting—but I assure you it was not. It felt more like moving in a pack. Furthermore, we can claim no foresight nor grand plan. We happened to have been surrounded by other families for whom the cycle was generations long—sailing passed from grandparent to parents to kids—so it simply seemed to us like the natural thing to do. – Full report

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