Transferring precious cargo & slings – getting little ones on & off the boat

Transferring precious cargo & slings – getting little ones on & off the boat

October 31, 2014

Whilst out sailing earlier this year we found ourselves in the position of being called to help a couple and their 18 month old twins. A string of mechanical and equipment failure on their yacht meant that they had found themselves with no engine power. They had managed to grab a mooring buoy on the tidal river, but had no way of getting ashore with their little ones. We were more than happy to strap their similarly sized boat to ours and towed them into the marina.

What was notable about the situation (apart from the fact that they had had a string of unfortunate disasters) was their very clear delineation of tasks. Dad took control of sorting the difficult boat situation, whilst mum focused solely on keeping the two every young toddlers safe, calm and secure – quite a challenge under the stressful circumstances. Having clear duties can really make the family ‘team’ work!

Getting on and off the boat can be particularly demanding with babies and very small children and it is always safest (and easiest) to have two people involved. So as needed – one for the child(ren) and the other for the boat. If you’re transferring to and from your boat with a dinghy there are a few ways of making it easier:

Always secure the dinghy alongside the boat, pontoon or hard. You might think you can hold it but it may all too easily slip away.

Ideally it’s best to have a rigid ladder to get on and off the main boat – rope ones can be a bit fiddly and put off little ones wanting to use them. Many adults don’t feel confident using them either and this anxiety will only pass on to children.

Slings and ladders - blog

Harbour wall ladders need careful attention – Precious cargo, getting on and off boats with little ones

Always put one adult in the dinghy before you placing the child in. Having a clear order protocol might seem a little regimented but this is one of the most dangerous points of boating and accidents all too easily happen. Everyone finds their working pattern!

We would certainly suggest (as per previous blogs) that life jackets are worn at all times by children in the dinghy or transferring. (Remember – we stock a range of children’s life jackets

If you’re transferring babies, the easiest way for many is to use a sling. These are great as they can be used by both parent and are great ashore – especially as you are most unlikely to have pushchairs on board! Check Windtraveler’s superb skills at carrying twins in a sling – perfect! They have lots of really useful tips on their superb blog.

Twins in sling for sailing

Sailing family: Windtraveler Twins double sling

If you find yourselves in a position where you need to use a tall harbour ladder, make sure you go up very closely behind young children to make them feel more secure and to shield them from any falls.

Working as a team might sound a bit corny, but that’s what you need to do on board – especially when boating with children. If the little ones are safe, you will all feel happy – and feeling happy is what it’s all about!

Blog thumbnail: details of illustration by Alexis Winter 

Baby Slings can be found from major retailers and a range of independent retailers e.g.:

Little Possums

Kari Me

Amawrap Nipper Skipper Blog - Baby sling for getting on and off boats

Baby sling for getting on and off boats

Kari Me sling - sailing family

Slings from Kari Me


We offer functional and fashionable clothing for outdoor adventurers 2-10 years throughout all seasons, and specialise in providing reliable, high quality waterproofs. Nipper Skipper supplies Forest Schools, Kindergarten and Nurseries and we are happy to discuss bulk requirements (please email).
We also offer practical sailing kit and technical safety gear, for children aged 0-10 years who enjoy messing about in boats or sailing.

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