Yachting with Tots: The Perils of Charters with Children

21 January 2009 By Kelly Sanford

A charter broker calls up and says she has a family interested in chartering the yacht. She mentions the family will be bringing their three children (all under the age of five), but she tells you not to worry…there’s a nanny.

Of course, a nanny is always a welcome addition to a charter with children; but the nanny’s presence alone does not eliminate the risks associated with having children on board, so the crew should proceed with caution.

In particular, a red flag should go up if one of the children in the party is an infant. If there is only one nanny, chances are he or she will take responsibility for the baby, but not the older kids. The nanny may help with all of the children during meals and the bedtime routine, but when it comes to supervising them the rest of the time, that responsibility will rank low on her list of priorities if she’s caring for an infant.

One chef told us about an incident on a charter that scared her half to death. “I really do enjoy children, and I always befriend them easily. And I don’t mind the silly questions if the kids are good,” she said. “Anyway, the charter guests knew their four-and-a-half-year old son liked to watch me work in the galley, so while we were under way, they sat him down at the galley settee and put on a movie for him. The parents then went below to ‘take a nap.' Well, I had to run back to the lazarette to get something out of a freezer, and when I came back he was gone.” The chef ran through the salon looking for him without success, then told the captain what had happened. Soon, the whole crew was madly searching the boat for the little boy. “It crossed my mind that he may have followed me to the lazarette and possibly fallen overboard,” the chef said. “My stress level was over the moon.”

A stew went below to see if the boy had gone to his room, but the door was locked because the nanny was in there napping with an infant. The stew started opening doors to cabinets in the off chance the little boy was playing hide and seek. Suddenly, the door to the master stateroom rattled and the stew’s heart went to her throat. A disheveled mom pushed her son out the door and asked the stew to take him back to the galley.

How to fix it? Consider including a separate addendum to the charter contract stating that the crew are not qualified to supervise young children and cannot be asked to do so under any circumstances. Also make it clear that all children under the age of five must be under the direct supervision of an adult member of the charter party (not the crew) at all times.

Other than spelling out to your guests that they have to take responsibility for their kids, there are several other precautions to keep in mind:

Set strict boundaries – let the kids know what parts of the yacht are off limits, like the machinery spaces, tender garage and crew quarters.

Child-proof the galley, the wheelhouse and any other place kids might get into trouble. Don’t leave keys in ignition switches or boiling water unattended on the stove. Kids have no fear; they love to push buttons and flip switches just to see what will happen.

Supervise the Crestron touch-screen controls and other sensitive instruments to protect them from a system crash at the hands of an idle child.

Older kids will head straight for the Xbox or Wii, but when tots are in the charter party, it’s wise to have toys aboard that are similar to gear you use (because that’s what they’’ll want to play with). Some ideas include toy radios, small fenders the kids can carry on deck, and an extra chamois or two. Chefs should have child-sized mixing bowls and spoons.

Stock kid-friendly provisions like chicken nuggets, pasta, hot dogs, breakfast cereals, applesauce and grilled cheese.

Have the appropriate emergency gear and medicines on board. Make sure you have life jackets rated for all the kids. And since drowning is a leading cause of death in children, make sure you have pediatric accessories for your AED.

Have you chartered with children? Share your thoughts, trials and tribulations with