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jca's avatar

What do think about parents who take their 1 year old and 3 year old on a months-long sailing trip on the Pacific, in which they end up needing to be rescued?

Asked by jca (28414 points ) April 8th, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/08/us/2-tots-a-sailboat-and-a-storm-over-parenting.html?hp

Two little kids on a sailboat, going from Mexico to New Zealand, with parents. They needed to be rescued, a rescue which involved several Federal and State agencies.

This ignited a storm of controversy about their parenting and the logic of taking two little kids sailing on what would be a long and dangerous trip, even for the most experienced sailors. Some are even saying the family should chip in for the rescue costs.

As of the time of this question being formulated, their are over 600 comments on the NY Times article. I just skimmed the article, and not read the comments yet, because I didn’t want to put bias into my asking of this question.

What do you think?

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40 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

The age of the children really has no bearing on this. One of the kids got sick; what does the age matter? If the kids were 16 and 14, and got appendicitis, what difference? Same if there were no kids, but one of the couple got sick.

I think criticism comes from a place of envy.

syz's avatar

I don’t see the problem; it’s a calculated risk.

janbb's avatar

I read the article and am quite familiar with the idea of families who cruise with young children. It is a risk many experienced sailors do take. However, with only the couple to skipper and crew the boat and the very young age of their children, I do think it was too risky a venture. The youngest had an outbreak of salmonella before they left which delayed their start.

It does matter how old the children are @zenvelo even though sickness can happen to anyone. A one year old needs holding a lot and watching a great deal; as would the older toddler. They lost the steering on the boat which is what necessitated the rescue. It is a lot to be parenting and dealing with that kind of crisis whereas experienced teenagers could be of use as crew.

However, I do not think that they were being awful parents or excoriate them. There is far too much gotcha-ing and finger pointing at parents in our society.

I do have a question about who should pay for rescues at sea but that applies in all cases and particularly those where sailors are clearly unskilled.

Seek's avatar

If the parents had left the kids with family and then sank, what would the people say? How dare those parents go traipsing around the globe and leave their children behind! How dare they put that burden on family members! Blah blah.

Should everyone give up any opportunity to have an adventure the day their first child is born?

ragingloli's avatar

@syz
You can take risks on your own. You do not force it on others.
These parents should lose custody of their children, and be barred from having any more.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Just glad Mrs squeeky and I chose not to have kids .

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I think they are wonderful parents. How many parents have the cahonies to take their children on an adventure of this magnitude?!?!!

GloPro's avatar

If I’m not mistaken she was preggers when they deployed, she had the youngest at sea.

janbb's avatar

@GloPro Not according to the Times article. The youngest had an illness before they left which delayed their departure. That would be the height of foolishness.

GloPro's avatar

Ah. I listened to a talk radio show yesterday morning saying otherwise. My bad.

janbb's avatar

@GloPro Good ol’ media frenzy!

GloPro's avatar

Here it is. The youngest, Lyra, was born in Mexico while the family was on a boating excursion. Not born at sea, but the mother was pregnant while traveling and had to pit stop in Mexico to deliver. This is a separate trip.

These kids are practically mermaids. There are a lot of parents making horrible parenting decisions. This may or may not qualify. I have no issue with them choosing to continue their lives at sea even as they grow a family.
This is separated from what my thoughts are in having to be rescued. I haven’t fully formed an opinion on that aspect.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I think that the risks of sailing are exaggerated. There are many places in society with higher levels of risk.

hominid's avatar

Oh please. Really? People have a problem with this? They even have an opinion? I suspect @zenvelo might have nailed it with, “I think criticism comes from a place of envy.”

janbb's avatar

@PhiNotPi You are just wrong. Long distance cruising across oceans is very risky. I am amazed at how certain people, who have no knowledge of cruising, are that this was a wonderful thing to have done.

I have cruised and thrown up and been on boats that run aground and heard stories of people whose boats were hit by ships or had lost communication for days in storms. I’m not saying the parents were necessarily wrong to do this but it was highly risky.

CWOTUS's avatar

As a fairly experienced (though not “offshore experienced”) sailor myself, I have long thought that sailors (captains and owners, anyway) should have some form of insurance to cover at least part of the cost of rescue, should it be needed. It truly is not fair for those who are well-heeled enough to be able to afford the cost of the vessel as well as the time off work that most of us can’t afford for more than a few weeks a year of paid vacation (if that!) to shift the cost of services that may be required to save their lives to the general fund that taxpayers have to support. The further irony is that while these folks are on their boat, they probably are not even paying any nominal taxes, which compounds the injustice.

If it’s right for private and semi-public firefighting companies to watch a house burn to the ground because the owners thought to skate on fire insurance, then it should be right to absolutely require that people on such voyages either have insurance coverage to cover potential rescue costs (however that is managed; I’m not going to try to lay out an entire coverage scheme, deductibles and terms and conditions in this post) ... or accept the rescue and sacrifice the vessel and contents (if they can be salvaged) in recompense.

There should definitely be some cost sharing. The other side of being a libertarian is “being responsible for oneself”, and these people need to be that.

As for the ethical issues of taking children across an ocean on a small boat, well, most of us of European descent wouldn’t be here now if someone hadn’t done that in our own past. And those voyages were undertaken in far riskier conditions and with far less certainty of a good outcome.

syz's avatar

@ragingloli And parents make decisions for their children every day of their lives as minors. What they eat, what vaccines they receive, who they can play with, when they can drive…calculating risk is pretty much what makes you a parent.

ragingloli's avatar

@syz
Well, that is good to know. I will remember that when I take my children into the middle of a warzone. Calculated risk.

marinelife's avatar

I think there are dangers and sickness everywhere. I, however, would not have done it.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I think worse of people who choose to raise families in regions where tornadoes are common. Life is risk.

To be more precise: I think that people don’t judge others for risky behaviour that is familiar to them. Risky behaviour that seems exotic gets judged more harshly. I do not think that is fair.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@CWOTUS Not sure what you mean by nominal taxes, but, buddy, I’m sure I’ve paid them. I pay a tax every year, based on the price I paid for my vessel, to keep that number on my bow. I pay even more while stateside if I live aboard. I pay a fee everytime I enter an official foreign Port of Entry, which I must do upon initial entry into any foriegn country or risk time in a foregn jail. I pay every time I hoist the yellow Q, even when I re-enter my own country. I pay three types of insurance with enormous surcharges to protect my vessel, other vessels my vessel may damage, and to protect the people aboard my vessel. I paid taxes on my earnings for 43 years in the US and abroad. Hidden in the insurance surcharges, docking fees, entry fees, and other taxes are plenty of funds bled off for maritime exigencies.

This isn’t even counting the income and property taxes I’ve paid throughout my life to support our huge US military budget which includes the US Coast Guard. And not to mention the costs buried in the price I paid for my vessel’s saltwater-activated EPIRBs and the smaller EPIRBs you will find on every lifejacket on board, and the fees to keep them online. Then there are the surcharges on docking fees, charges imbedded into fuel taxes, radio and radar equipment, and the fees and surcharges on wastewater disposal, and power to the dock. Even so, if I ever require the USCG to save me or my vessel out at sea, I will get a bill and it will be enormous. A low altitude, 45-mile emergency USCG SAR chopper flight from off the coast of Cedar Key, Florida to nearby Shands Hospital in the case of the bends will cost anyone around ten grand last I checked. And they’re very democratic about it: they’ll send the bill to anybody who requires the service. Good insurance policies cover this. This isn’t some sweet little freshwater pond near Saratoga, NY., or central Florida, CWOTUS. This is bluewater sailing. We fucking pay, buddy. We pay through the goddamned nose. You ought to park that dinghy and try it sometime.

Most of the people who screw up and end up requiring these services are uninsured tyros, weekenders, amateurs who don’t spend enough time on the water to gain the experience to sail it safely, or they don’t take the dangers of sailing seriously, or they are just tourists momentarily liberated from the social controls of their own stomping grounds, or just plain idiots who think mixing alcohol and saltwater is somehow cool. Just ask any USCG SAR team member. These people crowd the waters on the weekends and major holidays—the 4th of July weekend being the absolute worst time to be in American waters. These are the average citizen and they really need these services, believe me. Next comes commercial fisherman who are also taxed to death. Even I wouldn’t broach this subject with them the way you have here. I like having front teeth.

I’m a romantic, in love with the craft, the art, the tradition and history of sailing. It feeds something in me to live my life seriously like this, meaningfully, among elements that cannot be bargained with, on an eggshell of a vessel in a vast, blue, tempermental sea. But most of all, I’m really fucking lucky. I’ve known the best sailors to get into trouble. It happens. And they pay dearly. There are no free rides out here.

I never had children, but I never complained about paying the millage on my home in order that the children in my society would get a crack at an education. I don’t complain about the taxes I paid most of my working life that went toward nuclear proliferation because I knew there wasn’t a goddamned thing I could do about it. And, even though I really despise many of the people who make the waters on the weekends nearly unnavigable through their lack of knowledge and willful ignorance, I don’t want to see them or their families drown because of their bottomless stupidity.

To answer the question posed here, I agree with everything @janbb has said: There is no way I’d ever make that trip with those kids aboard if I didn’t absolutely have to. The infant wouldn’t profit at all from the experience and neither would the toddler on a vessel that size. I would have to dedicate two crew to the infant’s 24-hr care, one being the mother who would no longer be available to work above decks and share in handling the vessel. The toddler would also require 24hr supervision and when above decks would be harnessed and on a leash. That kid would never want to get near the water ever again after that, but they both would probably arrive alive. It would be a pain in the ass for everybody and for what? Ahat would the kids get out of it? Best wait till the youngest is at least a mature seven or eight, then I might think about it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It sounds very risky with babies. Just have them pay & hope nothing horrible happens in future.

CWOTUS's avatar

Thanks, @Espiritus_Corvus. I stand corrected. I know that you pay for a lot more equipment than I do for a larger boat, but I did not realize (aside from boat registration fees, which I cannot imagine fund much of the Coast Guard) that there were additional surcharges built into the costs and taxes charged on those services, equipment and fuel. So thanks for the edification.

As you say, you’re already paying a premium of sorts (aside from the direct premium on your own private insurance policy), but as you also note, not all do. Those are the ones that I’d still direct my prior comments to, now modified by your comprehensive and detailed list.

I would be more than happy to “park the dinghy and go blue-water sailing”, but that’s not a likely option for me at this point.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

OH… MY…..... GAWD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I agree 100% with @ragingloli!
Should parents have to give up everything they care about, just to have kids? No. But geez people, have you no boundries? If they want to hit the ocean, they could take a cruise SHIP. If they feel they must sail, a day trip is one thing, transitting an ocean is another. Being responsible for children includes feeding, bathing, teaching, encouraging, proving medical care. There is no way these and other neccessities can be adequately provided on a trip of this sort.
Sure, there are parts of the world where people are raising children in very bad conditions. Most though, if given the chance to improve those conditions, or change to better conditions in a new location, would jump at the change to better protect their children.

janbb's avatar

@Jonesn4burgers I agree with you that tempering one’s activities to suit the needs of your children at certain ages ispart of the contract. I think that live-aboard cruising can be a life-enriching experience for older children though – if the parents are knowledgeable and the kids welcome it. I agree with @Espiritus_Corvus that 7 or 8 would be the minimum age I would consider for a long distance cruise. (And I certainly was never competent enough at sailing to cruise with my kids. Besides, they hated sailing from the get-go.)

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

My bad. I made the edit. I misrepresented myself by saying “cruise” instead of “cruise ship”. I think it’s okay on board a ship serving the purpose of transporting people and providing recreation. Sailing your own ship with small children for longer than just a day trip is nuts.

janbb's avatar

I knew what you meant.

syz's avatar

@ragingloli I hardly think a sailboat is a war zone.

flutherother's avatar

It seems irresponsible to me and I am not at all envious of that nightmarish experience.

ragingloli's avatar

*snide comment about ending your sentence after the third word

The wide sea, just as a warzone, puts you in danger of a calamity that can end you in an instant, with equally little hope of rescue.
A stray bullet, a misstep on a land mine, or a storm that sinks your boat, an accident that strands you at high sea until you starve and thirst to death.
It makes no different. The dangers are known and they are just as likely.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I must agree that when the ocean waves rise in stormy conditions you can indeed be tossed about as if in a war zone. Just look

However, with a fearless crew, you can brave the stormy weather.

elbanditoroso's avatar

On the one hand, it seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do.

On the other hand, it’s none of your (or my) damned business.

Who has the authority – does the authority even exist – to tell people how to raise their kids? I would be much more fearful of a “nanny government” that sticks its tentacles into every decision that parents make in raising their children. The possibility of parents having to go to some authority to take a boat trip – boggles the mind.

What a horrible precedent that would set.

josie's avatar

Sounds like an adventure. To bad the kids weren’t older. The one year old won’t even remember it.Maybe the 3 yr old won’t either. Too bad. Lots and lots of lessons to be learned there.

syz's avatar

On topic. (Personally, I think it would’ve been awesome to grow up traveling the world on a boat!)

jca's avatar

Just watching it on the news now. The mom said she thinks it was the stupidest thing they ever did. They said they’ll talk on the air later.

janbb's avatar

@syz It can be a wonderful thing for many families. But two kids under the age of three with two parents who are the sole crew of the boat just does not make sense even if they are the best of sailors.

jca's avatar

Also, it’s not just a day or a few days. It’s a several months long trip, which is a lot for little kids, and a lot for parents with little kids, even under ideal circumstances, I’d think.

janbb's avatar

@jca yes, but that is the point of that lifestyle. They don’t call them “live-aboards” for nothing.

JLeslie's avatar

I was wondering how old the parents are? Are they very young and don’t quite believe that things really do go wrong? I think the age of the children does matter. Taking such young children puts the child and the entire family more at risk. I am ok with parents doing things outside the norm with their kids to follow their passions or live a lifestyle they feel is best for themselves, but not to the point that it puts their children at risk for great harm.

If they want their kids to be in a boat early in their lives, fine, but choose shorter routes and calmer seas. Sailing is not a passive sport. People need to be alert, changing sails, steering, you can’t be distracted during rough seas.

A parent’s first priority should be their children and the most overwhelming part of that is keeping them safe. Very young children are completely dependent on their parents, so for those first few years it simply is a sacrifice to raise children. You sacrifice your own desires to care for your children. As the children grow up the balance changes and a parent can go back to pursuing more adventurous things. Or, if they want to do risky things it should not be the parents doing it together where they both can be seriously injured or die, and they should not take great risks with their children’s life.

CWOTUS's avatar

As to the risk of cruising with infants, which I hadn’t addressed earlier, I find myself – somewhat reluctantly – on the same side of the issue as @janbb. I think sailing a long voyage with “small children” is fine and should be encouraged, but “infants and toddlers” are a different story. Since they can’t care for themselves at all or follow even the most rudimentary instruction “get below and strap yourself into your berth”, for example, or “put on your lifejacket and safety harness, and then join me in the cockpit”, but instead sometimes require full-time care from the one “extra” crew member (without assuming whether the “extra crew” is the male or female partner in a traditional family), it means that in survival-type conditions, which even the best planning and navigating can’t always avoid, only one full-time crew member may be available to handle and steer the boat, and he (or she) will have all of the others to worry about as well. (Single-handing on ocean voyages is not a new or extraordinarily dangerous recreation, but it’s still not for novices or those who are unprepared or incapable either equipment-wise, temperament-wise or physically able to go without sleep for long stretches, perform strenuously in all kinds of wind and weather and so forth.)

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