Sailing with a Baby: First Family Sailing Holiday

This summer, Simon Shaw takes to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) with his young family for an unforgettable sailing adventure. With over 15 years of professional sailing experience under his belt, the Double Match Racing World Champion and America’s Cup host embarked on a different kind of sailing challenge — planning his son Babar’s first holiday on the open ocean!

Even for the most seasoned of sailors, choosing the right yacht that meets your family’s needs on holiday is essential. For cruising in the BVI’s all-year-round smooth conditions, Simon took The Moorings 4500 4 cabin catamaran out, with his wife Ita and little Babar on tow. With the catamaran’s easy rigging and accessible handling, Ita had no problem taking the helm, sailing and mooring the boat herself. The couple were surprised at how effortless sailing was with great stability even at 20 knots, leaving Babar sleeping peacefully downstairs.

Simon mentioned that with all the on board amenities, like a blender, microwave, hot plates and BBQ grill outside, the family ate on the yacht a lot more than they anticipated, simply because they had a lot more space and equipment to do so. He also said that as far as travelling with a young family goes, being on a yacht was actually better than staying at a hotel. Instead of having to go back to the hotel every time Babar needed a nap or needed changing, they could do all that from the comfort of their own private yacht without limiting themselves to activities they wanted to do throughout the day!

From early morning breakfasts with Babar in his clip on high chair, to evening dinners in the forward covered cockpit watching sunsets, the yacht provided the perfect holiday home from home. Babar even enjoyed watching tropical fish swimming around the yachts blue underwater lighting before bed. After initial reservations of how easy it would be to sail with a baby, the pair said since their experience on The Moorings it would encourage them to sail further next time round with a couple of friends and family as well.

Provisions for the Baby

When going on a 10 day island-hop sailing holiday, the first thing parents think of is: will there be enough provisions for my child without having to drop anchor and find provisions every other day? Will the yacht be baby friendly? Will I have to buy anything before we depart that I wouldn’t be able to find at the first base?

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Luckily for Simon, when it came to provisions, it was smooth sailing. He recommends parents with younger children to bring a baby sling, so you can move freely around the boat with your baby securely attached, and even start teaching them at a young age how to take the helm in the cockpit. Another must have is a travel cot, that fits beautifully into the cabin so your baby can have a restful sleep whether at anchor or in full sail.

When it came to food provisions, the family did most of their shopping at the beginning on their first pit stop at The Moorings base in Tortola. In the supermarket, they found a lot of stock from Waitrose, with great supplies for babies that meant they weren’t constantly worrying about refilling provisions while sailing through the BVI.

Top Spots

During the trip, Simon was pleasantly surprised with how child-friendly anchorages in the BVI were, from Babar’s first swim on Salt Island to coral exploring in Eustatia Island. Here are a couple of places that made the top of his list:

Eustatia Island: Take the opportunity to kick back on the fresh white sands of Eustatia. This was one of Simon’s first anchorages, which made the perfect spot for dropping anchor to watch orange-hued sunsets over the horizon from the shore. They ended up spending 24 hours there exploring coral with Babar and enjoying a refreshing Carib larger on the sands.

Salt Island: Situated just south of Tortola and the Sir Francis Drake Channel, Salt Island is famous for one of the biggest wrecks in the BVI: RMS Rhone. Ita enjoyed her first snorkelling experience with full-face masks around the vibrant coral reefs. Swimming with rainbow parrotfish, fairy basslets and angelfish on one of the first days out on the yacht was hard to top!

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Jost Van Dyke: No trip to the BVI is complete without a trip to Jost Van Dykes’ iconic granite boulders, turquoise waters and natural bubbling pools. For Simon, they had a great chance encounter with another family sailing nearby and spent the afternoon paddle boarding with them in some of the world’s most crystalline waters. After what felt like an “episode from the National Geographic Channel”, Simon then headed to the family-friendly Soggy Dollar bar that “oozes personality” and Caribbean charm to try painkillers (a perfect mix of Pusser’s rum, coconut, nutmeg and fresh fruit juice).


Norman Island:
Found at the southern tip of the BVI’s archipelago, the couple took the time to visit the islands storied underwater caves. With mooring balls easily accessible around the area, it’s a prime spot for feasting your eyes on thousands of orange cup coral and red sponge covering the cave walls.

When asked to sum up their experience in the BVI, Simon explained “we felt more like explorers than tourists”, saying that the after-effects of the hurricane didn’t impact their enjoyment of the trip at all. In fact, they recalled being humbled by the sheer tenacity and spirit of the locals and how they interacted with Babar, affectionately reminiscing, “it’s like he was smiling and the world was smiling back”.

Explore the BVI

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