View from the Marina: 


By Barb Hansen, April 2, 2002

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     Child psychologists say we should spend quality time with our children and grandchildren. I agree with the experts. Furthermore, I cannot think of any time that has more built-in quality than the time you can spend with a child on a boat cruise. I don't mean the kind of cruise you take on a cruise ship. I mean a cruise on a vessel with two, maybe three cabins and a small galley. Almost by definition a cruise on this vessel will mean you will spend quality time with the young ones onboard. (Nobody can escape to the casino or to the game room.) We tell our charter customers that a cruise with young ones is a memory-building opportunity as well as a character-building opportunity for them and for the kids.

     When a pod of dolphins selects your bow wave to ride, and your young charges get to watch this magnificent animal from just a few feet away, the thrilling memory will stay with them (and you) a very long time. Multiply this thrill by all of the close-to-nature things they will see and do. Then, imagine how much better this vacation can be compared to previous vacations that always seemed to involve an expensive attraction with high-priced junk food and mechanical and stage drop imitations of nature's magnificence. 

     Vic and I have some experience here -- with the boats and with the kids. Every year we cruise for a week or more with a brother, a sister-in-law, a dog, and three precious nieces, ages 8, 10, and 12. We have learned that the best cruises are those with "to do" lists that follow a pretty regular schedule every day. This heads off all manner of unpleasantness. "Are we there yet," is one of the milder complaints.

     We're fortunate, because cruising through our tropical island paradise offers so much, as you'll infer from the items on the list we use to keep young ones happy, occupied and, by the end of the day, pleasantly exhausted. 

Here are the activities we draw on for our daily schedules:

a.. Dolphin watching. We set up "watches' on the bow. 

b.. Exploring. We launch the dinghy and motor or paddle in to a deserted beach so everyone can look for special shells and other treasures.

c.. Swimming. A swim in the surf is terrific fun but we also try to arrange a swim in the pool at a marina where, conveniently, all aboard can shower afterwards with plenty of fresh water.

d.. Fishing. A piece of shrimp on a little hook does the job almost every time in our area. Fishing is a great activity to schedule before dinner. The young anglers might catch something fresh for the grill. By the way, bring lots of good food and interesting snacks but avoid the kinds that produce a sugar-rush, if you catch my drift.

e.. Reading. We encourage this after lunch and, if a nap should happen, that's just fine. When you're underway, the rumble of the engine almost guarantees sleep. After dinner, we often read pirate stories.

f.. Star gazing. Away from the city lights, the stars put on a show better than any planetarium. Bone up on some astronomical factoids so you can help the young ones understand what they're looking at. Or, challenge each of them to teach the rest about a star, planet or constellation. A cruise planned around a full moon is a special treat.

g.. Letter writing. In this era of cell phones and email, a personalletter home or to a friend becomes something really special for therecipient. Encourage this before it becomes a lost art. On Useppa Island, one of our favorite stops, kids can visit "Mister T the Tortoise" and drop off a letter in his mailbox. The best part is, he writes back.

h.. Story writing. Do teachers still ask for a what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation essay? Even if they do not, bring paper and pens and assign it anyway, allowing a little time for this toward the end ofeach day. Be sure to have them include drawings to accompany their stories.Cruising with kids makes for a special cruise. It brings out the "kid' in all of us.

This is another in a series of personal reflections on the water by Barb Hansen, co-founder and manager, with husband Vic Hansen, of Southwest Florida Yachts( North Fort Myers, Fla. SWFY charters luxury poweryachts and sailing vessels. Barb and Vic also run the famous Florida Sailing & Cruising School ( featuring live-aboard sail and power yacht instruction. Contact Barb Hansen at or phone 1-941-656-1339. 2002. Southwest Florida Yachts. All rights reserved.