08-05-2020 | Sailing with kids, how does that work? We asked Zeger van der Zel, proud captain of the Albatros and even prouder father of a 10 year old son. Zeger has sailed with many families, with children of all ages. A real experience expert!
What questions do parents often ask about sailing with children?
Parents ask three things: isn't it dangerous? Aren't they going to be bored? And they want to know if there are life jackets on board. I can always reassure them. The ship has railings everywhere and there are life jackets in all shapes and sizes. If the boat rocks too much on one route, we just take a different course. Children who are not yet able to swim independently have to wear a life jacket. I have thirty years of experience and never had the feeling that a child was at risk of going overboard. And bored? Parents are always surprised that this doesn't happen on board. And that you don't have to organise a lot or bring all sorts of stuff with you to achieve that'.
So what's there to do?
"Children like to help hoist the sails. If some tubular water comes overboard, it's extra fun. From the age of 10 they can help navigate. My son has just steered for the first time. He thought it was fantastic and very cool! Usually I go with families to calm, quieter places where the children can swim, play soccer or play. Oh, and swinging on the jib boom, that's always a favorite too. Dangle on a long rope and then plunge into the water. On the Wadden Sea, they can also choose to fall dry and walk on the mud flats.'
What do you like about sailing with children?
'Oh that's an easy question. Water fights! Parents sometimes feel a bit embarrassed, but to be honest, I'm often the instigator. If we go from salt to fresh water, for example, and we have to scrub the deck. Yes, that often turns into a lot of fun, complete with water pistols. What I always like to see is that adolescents do everything with 'enthusiastic reluctance', but later the ship turns out to be their profile picture. And they keep on posting on the social media.'
What makes it so special?
I think what makes it special is that you all experience the same thing. Not one part of the family on the campsite and the other part in the swimming pool. It's really a family experience. There's space. Fresh air. You really experience the water and the weather because you're outdoors a lot. I've got two cabins connected by a hatch. Six kids can go nuts out there. The hatch can be closed again, of course.'
What if it rains?
'Well, if you've rented a cottage, you go to the indoor water park. That's no different on a sailing trip. You don't have to sail. You can stay in the harbour of a village or town and go shopping. Or dive into the local swimming pool. Or seal watching in Ecomare, exploring the beachcombing museum. Or cycling on Texel in between the showers. I also have loads of games on board'.