Kids on Boats: Chartering with the
Virgin Islands Style
How are we going to keep them occupied?
There isn't going to be enough space.
What if one of the kids goes overboard?
Do you want us to do it again?
"Yes. Definitely." I was bobbing
in the water holding our digital camera in its (currently marginally)
waterproof bag. Sierra and Wiley had already jumped off the boat
for the camera at least six times, but the shutter delay that
can be such a nuisance with digital cameras was making me guess
at the timing to get the shot I wanted. I ended up with a lot
of splashes, and a couple with the kids not quite off the boat.
It was the last day, and I was still hunting for the perfect
shot to end the perfect vacation with kids.
|| When we began planning
this trip with my brother, his wife, kids, her sister, husband,
their kids, Grandpa and Holly, there were a number of things
that we were concerned about. And the parents were concerned
about. And they all seemed legitimate, given that we'd never
had any kids aboard yet, let alone five ranging in age from eight
years down to only 18 months. Could the boat handle this? Could
Early on we all realized that there
was no way we could all stay on the boat, so as is tradition
in Gretchen's family, they made arrangements for part of the
group to stay ashore. After many years of staying at a resort
in the BVI, they made the jump to the north shore of St. John
to stay at the campground cabins at the park in Cinnamon Bay.
This would split up the group, make sure the everyone got plenty
of beach time, give sailors a chance to sail, sun-soakers a chance
to do their thing, and kids a chance to be kids.
The week began with us meeting Toby, Gretchen
and their three kids (Sierra 6, Wiley 4, Payson 18 Months) at
the airport with a taxi. In five minutes we had the whole family
at the boat and we were ready to get underway first thing in
We stayed one night at the dock at CYOA,
and took off early. We were out and cruising, and it felt great.
We could already tell the kids were going
to do just fine. The boat is large, flat, and quite safe. A couple
of simple safety rules regarding life jackets and places they
couldn't go without adults, and that was it. Payson was fighting
an ear/nose infection at the time, so he was sleeping most of
the time anyway.
| So off we went, and hooked
up with the rest of the family in a few hours. They had flown
in that morning, rented a runabout out of Red Hook, and gotten
the rest of the crew over to Cinnamon Bay. The campground there
is primitive but clean, with simple cement cabins lining the
beach, a restaurant, small store, and shared showers. The main
attraction, of course, is the beach. Almost a mile long arc of
perfect, white Caribbean sand with waves gently lapping, kids
playing, people reading under the shade of sea grape trees and
palms. It was idyllic. Everyone seemed quite pleased, although
it was a bit of a surprise to find the facilities available on
the boat were quite plush when compared to those ashore.
|| We had picked up a mooring
ball about 70 yards off shore, and used this as our base of sailing
operations for the week. Most trips were simple day sails to
nowhere in particular, with a group of four or five. We also
used these trips to shuttle to our favorite snorkeling spots,
and had one day sail to Magen's Bay on the north shore of St
Thomas with the whole group of thirteen, most of whom passed
out asleep on the foredeck in the light winds and warm sun. Tough
| Most of the time was spent
frolicking on the beach with the kids, playing football in the
water, and generating a frightening load of empty beer bottles
and cans. By the end of the week, everyone was tan, happy, a
bit tired, and very, very relaxed. The kids had adapted to the
boat with no problems whatsoever. The only damage done was to
the cockpit cushions, which seemed to take the brunt of the food/drink
spills coming out of the hands of distracted kids. Nobody fell
overboard (at least, not by accident), no one got sick, no one
got hurt. What more could you ask for?
|| Which brings us back to
the last day of sailing, now with just Toby, Gretchen and kids.
The others had flown out that morning after returning the rental
boat to Red Hook, and we were free to take a leisurely sail back
toward St. Thomas, stopping at Buck Island to swim with the turtles
and take these photos. The kids never tired of climbing back
up to jump in, and I finally go the shot I wanted. Sierra and
Wiley in the air, grinning, over the logo of our beloved Free
Luff. What an end to a great week. We anchored off the south
end of Water Island that night, had a great dinner aboard, and
flew out the next morning.
Months later, Sierra would do a project for school that asked
her to find her three favorite photos of all time, and tell a
little about each one and what she liked about it. Guess who made
the cut! And to think we were worried about the kids having a
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