Cruising with children, especially younger children (under 10 years) can be especially fun if the adults plan to visit areas with activities and opportunities for kids. (Additionally, it helps a lot if the adults are willing to abandon a few pretexts of maturity and indulge a bit themselves.) Hide and seek in the woods, exploring tide-pools, climbing rocks, and swimming in cold water need not be reserved for kids alone.
By and large the most fun places for kids are the State and County Parks (in Washington) and the National and Provincial Parks in British Columbia. Second on the list are some of the resort marinas. Although adults may gravitate to a secluded harbor or gunk-hole often those spots do not afford easy access to shore and that spells much less fun for kids.
The parks provide easy access to the shore either by landing a dinghy on the beach or by tying up to a dock. Parks that have docks also provide a great place for kids to fish and its almost impossible not to catch bullhead or piling perch (which you can then use for crab bait). Many parks have enclosed harbors that are perfect for kids to explore in an inflatable kayak or by rowing around in your dinghy. (Don’t forget the lifejackets!!) We have found that the inflatable kayak is a great source of fun for kids of suitable age and skill.
Roaming in the woods is another great activity at the parks. Places like Stuart Island (Reid Harbor or Prevost Harbor), Jones Island and Sucia Island are wonderful places for kids. You might get lucky and get tied up at one of the docks so the kids can come and go with ease. Even being tied up at a buoy or lying at anchor keeps you within easy reach of the beach via a short dinghy ride.
Some of the resort marinas are also great places for kids. Rosario Resort on Orcas Island and the Islander Lopez have pools, kayak rentals, bicycle rentals and other shore-side activities. (These are the types of activities to check for when you put together your itinerary). At Friday Harbor kids can catch ghost shrimp from the docks with nets and get ice cream or other goodies at the top of the marina.
There may be times when its just not that easy to go ashore (rainy weather in particular) and those are the times when its best to be tied to a dock at a park or marina. However, if you find yourself stuck aboard you will need easy and fun entertainment to fill the otherwise boring hours. Good reading material fits the bill as do card games and board games. Colored pencils and sketch pads are crucial. We even carry basket making supplies and Mary teaches how to make simple baskets. (This is an activity that can easily fill a rainy afternoon.) When all else fails remember that most laptop computers these days can play DVD’s so movies and TV shows are an option. For cruising with kids, consider investing in one of those DVD “box sets” of TV shows. It may be the best $50.00 investment you ever make.
Here’s a short list of things you should remember to bring along for a successful cruise.
Fishing poles, small and medium hooks (for catching small fish), some lures (small ‘buzz bombs and some rubber worms) and some lead weights (small and medium). Remember, this is not deep sea fishing or trophy fishing. You are outfitting to catch scrap fish off the dock. This is even more fun for the kids if you use the fish they catch for crab bait and then get some delicious dungeness!
Nylon net for catching shrimp and minnows off the dock. This activity can keep them busy for hours.
A cheap digital camera and a memory card so the kids can take as many pictures as they want.
Coloring books and pencils, reading material, some DVD’s (if you have a computer that will play them or a portable DVD player).
Inflatable swimming toys, and some cheap face masks or goggles.
A “nature” book that identifies sea life such as anemones, star fish, crabs, various shellfish, etc. For some kids this may entice them to go exploring on the beach or around the tide-pools, an activity that can occupy the good part of an afternoon.