Marion and Arthur (@sailing_silene) decided to take part in the ARC 2023 accompanied by two friends and their 6-month-old baby, Arsène! A great challenge completed aboard their Excess 11 catamaran, Silène.
Thanks to good planning and properly arranging the boat, their crossing with Arsène went perfectly, even allowing them to cross the line in second place in the ARC! Below, you can discover their account of the race.
If you’re looking to take your baby sailing too, but don't dare take the plunge yet, Marion shares some advice on what you need to know for a safe crossing! Thank you to her for this precious testimony. Enjoy reading!
1/ When did you start sailing with Arsène?
In actual fact, Arsène first came aboard Silène very early, at a month and a half old. The boat wasn’t even in the water yet, and we’d gone to check the progress of the build. So Arsène enjoyed his first meal and grabbed his first line, all while the boat was still on the hard!
At 2 months old, he crossed the Bay of Biscay, then we sailed on to southern Portugal. It was the first time we sailed as a trio! We went back sailing when he was 5 months old, heading down to the Canaries, and at 6 months old, he crossed the Atlantic with us. Since then, we’ve been living aboard and cruising the Caribbean.
2/ How did you prepare for putting to sea with Arsène?
Before setting off, we asked a lot of questions of our friends and family and those around us. We had the approval of our pediatrician, and even though we are doctors, it was important for us to have his approval. Thanks to video-consultations, he was even able to answer questions while we were off the coast of Morocco! Testimonies from other sailing moms gave me plenty of tips, but above all to be reassured. In the end, the only people who advised us against sailing with our baby were people who’ve never done it!
3/ What are the essential bits of kit you mustn’t forget?
In order to sail serenely with baby, you’ve got to have on board safety equipment that’s adapted to his age. We have a lifejacket in his size, which we put on him regularly in order to get him used to wearing it but also to get us used to putting it on him! When we’re going offshore, we have a grab bag specifically for Arsène: it contains powdered milk (even if you are breastfeeding!). You have to be able to feed your baby if the mother is not able to breastfeed him), a bottle, water, some diapers and wipes. A changing mat is very practical but if not, a folded towel will be enough. As for toys, there is no need to overload yourselves, a few books that make a noise and some beach toys will be ample!
4/ What things have you adapted on your Excess 11 for Arsène?
The Excess 11 offers great habitability, which makes our daily life on board with Arsène much easier. For sleeping, we have installed a Cododo bed which fits perfectly under the desk in our owner's cabin.
When he was very small, and especially for crossing the Bay of Biscay, we attached his car seat with straps to the bench seat in the middle of the saloon, and this allowed us to secure him in a safe place and within sight even in the event of sailing maneuvers. As he started to get a bit bigger, we replaced it with a baby chair attached to the table in the saloon. This was practical for meals but also for playtime.
When the 3 of us are sailing together, we use one of the port cabins just for him: a changing mat on the bed, diapers in the bulkhead bags, etc. Everything is within reach, so it's very easy! We also fitted a net in front of the bed, turning that bunk into a playpen, without risk of him falling out... and he’s got sea view!
We’ve got a little baby bouncer that we can move around if needed, to have him close to us: he used to take big naps in the shade in the afternoons when he was very small, and is always with us when we’re having our meals outside.
Finally, we have a small inflatable pool that allows us to have him take his bath easily but also to splash around outside in the shade when it's hot: fun and a good nap afterwards is guaranteed!!
5/ What are the advantages of sailing with your family?
When we were working ashore, like every mother, I felt guilty about leaving in the morning and coming back in the evening and not spending enough time with him. Sailing as a family gives us the opportunity to make the most of our time together.
He is constantly being stimulated: new landscapes, new people... he wakes up very quickly. And life in the open air seems to be beneficial: he hasn’t been sick once! He is calm and sleeps very well, probably lulled by the motion...
6/ What advice would you give to a family who is thinking of setting off with their baby?
Just go for it! Aboard our Excess 11, we enjoy both great sailing sensations, while being very comfortable, and feeling safe. And trust in yourself (and him): babies adapt very well. Living aboard is a dream life for a baby: he is always close to his parents and.... “Happy baby = happy parents!”