Expecting guests? With prior planning and plenty of flexibility everyone can enjoy a vacation.
Kids make some of the best guests aboard, especially in groups. Kids are very adept at entertaining themselves and each other—swimming, books, and puzzles are some favorites around our boat. If you're sailing or doing boat-related tasks, let them help when you can. My three-year old is an expert with the screwdriver now, and both girls delight in helping turn winch handles, collect rainwater and hunt down tools.
Again, make contingency plans for bad weather; a portable DVD player can be a godsend when everyone is cranky after day three of cold, rainy weather.
If you live aboard, you have the added wrinkle of fitting guests not just into your holiday, but into your home. Try to envision a visit as a vacation for yourselves, even if you are spending it “at home.” When we have visitors, we usually suspend school for our two girls. This lends a relaxed, weekend air to the visit, and allows the kids to participate. Whatever your situation, be willing to depart from your regular routine while guests are around. It helps makes the visit into a fun break for everyone.
When everyone arrives on board and the hugs and toasts are taken care of, save a few minutes to discuss what to do if problems arise. Do this even if your visitors are experienced sailors and have been aboard before. This is no time for reticence—if something breaks, or leaks, or sounds funny, or plugs, or overflows or just plain smells bad, your friends must tell you right away. The sooner a problem is identified, usually the easier it is to fix. And no one wants to be responsible for a small problem becoming a gigantic problem.
Similarly, run through emergency procedures, fire extinguisher and EPIRB locations, and how to operate the VHF. It may sound overdramatic, but if you're incapacitated, your guests may be the only ones who can muster help. Give them the tools they need.
By my reckoning, we've had a total of 21 visitors in eight locations during our first year living aboard. Some dropped by for a few hours; some were with us for nearly a month. Whether we were reading with grandparents at dockside or watching dolphins dive under the bow as we sailed the Florida Keys, we worked out a plan to suit each visit and always had fun.
So don’t be shy! You and the Smiths are going to have a great time.
What are some of your tips for cruising with guests?