I am a truly lucky guy; my whole family loves the boat. Sailing on it, swimming off it, sleeping on it—the whole package. There are two keys to creating this situation. First, spouses with less sailing or boating experience need to be comfortable, feel safe and trust that you won’t put them—or children/grandchildren—in a bad spot. You need to convince them that you have the capability and judgment to handle what comes along.
This of course means you should build your knowledge and skills and progress with your sailing and boating so you don’t get ahead of yourself. It is part of the process to gradually expose yourself to more challenging conditions, but don’t intentionally bite off more than you can chew. One bad experience can turn someone off for good. My wife knows I will always do my best not get her into a scary place on the water.
The next key to family boating is to start the kids out very young. The sooner they become accustomed to the boat and the water, the better they are and the less you need to constantly worry about them. This makes for less stress on the parents and grandparents. Time spent teaching them, setting the limits, using the language of boating, involving them as age-appropriate—it all pays off.
The first thing is to train them that they always wear a “boat coat” as we call them, a lifejacket or PFD, anytime we get close to the water, and all the time on deck. The kids’ PFDs of today are far more comfortable and colorful than those of the past. If wearing one is natural, like their car seat or seat belts in a vehicle, it becomes a normal habit and eliminates any arguments.
The payoff for all this is when the family members tell you they want to go out on the boat, before you must ask them. It is wonderful when a plan comes together!