Sailing with kids? Check out our easy, DIY swim enclosure for catamarans

Our family owns a full gamut of safety products, including: self-inflating life jackets, offshore life jackets, dinghy life jackets, harnesses, tethers, two life rings, a man-over-board module, jackstays and the list goes on. But, our DIY swim enclosure is something rather inexpensive and was inspired by our friend and professional skipper, Mark Burton from Isle of Wight, UK. As I’ll describe, the swim enclosure provides many benefits that go well beyond providing a colourful, floating swim boundary.

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Aphrodite’s swim enclosure

We like our swim enclosure for many reasons. First, and as I’ve suggested, perhaps the most obvious, is that it provides our children with a boundary as to where they can swim. It also provides something to hold onto, especially if they are tired, or if there is a current.

Second, the movement of the pool noodles provides us with a good visual cue as to whether our boat is repositioning itself. By that, I mean if the wind changes suddenly, the movement of the boat can be quite quick. So if we observe that the pool noodles are starting to lose their semi-circular shape, then we might ask our kids to get out of the water until the boat has settled in one spot. Otherwise, they might enter the water in one spot, only to bump their head under a moving boat.

In truth, in the entire time we’ve owned Aphrodite, I think that the ‘head-hitting-boat’ situation has only happened to me, and it’s only happened to me once. It actually wasn’t such a big deal. But, there was no wave action at the time. As a parent who is often watching four children in the water, I like to err on the side of safety.

Our swim enclosure also provides other cruisers with an easy way to locate us in harbour. Cruisers do socialize, and there are lots of us. So, to help identify our boat from other white boats, we tell people that we are the boat with the colourful pool noodles that run in a semi-circle behind it.

We also use the swim enclosure to help with boat cleaning. Stretched out fore to aft, the swim enclosure holds us close to the hull as we clean the waterlines of the boat.

Finally, the swim enclosure gives other boaters a visual cue that there are swimmers in the water. On at least one occasion, our pool noodles might have helped us avoid being hit by other boats, though in that situation, there were no swimmers in the water.

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Aphrodite during the National Family Island Regatta 2016, George Town, Bahamas.  In this race, competitors sail amongst boats anchored in the harbour.

To make our swim enclosure we cut 10 large pool noodles into thirds, and then threaded the segments like beads onto a line. We use carabiners to attach the lines to the handrails on each side of our sugar scoops.

We usually store our pool noodles in our dinghy when we sail. But, we have also stored the pool noodles in an aft locker.

As our children have become stronger swimmers they have requested more swimming space. To expand their swimming area, we have added more pool noodles to the line that forms the swim enclosure.

Sometimes our children have to be reminded to stay within the swim enclosure but at least the pool noodles give us an area that we can define. Here is a picture of Paul, for example, swinging out on our ‘Tarzan swing’ before the swim enclosure has been put out. I should point out that this is perhaps not the best example to show, as he’s about to land within spitting distance of the boat. Sometimes, however, our kids can get carried away exploring and stray beyond the limits that we’ve set for them.

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Paul uses our ‘Tarzan swing’ off the back of our boat.

Our pool noodles have had great longevity. But, after two years of hard use, the foam is starting to deteriorate. We will be replacing them soon, when we reach Prickly Bay or Secret Harbour in Grenada.

We plan to be in Prickly Bay in the next few days. I am writing this blog post from our catamaran near a resort on Petit Saint Vincent in the Grenadines. I can see Carriacou, Grenada from where we are anchored.

We are looking forward to meeting other cruisers and cruising families. It is hurricane season. And, we will be staying in Grenada, which is south of the hurricane area. We plan to stay in Grenada until mid- to late August.

3 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing! My name is Chad and my wife, Julia and our two daughters,Dasha 6, and Lucia 1 , will be in Grenada from July 5th through the 17th. We are staying at a place called the True Blue Hotel while we are surveying our potential new home, a used Lagoon. We do not have that much experience under our belts and would like to connect if you have time to review your safety onboard. I am sure Dasha would also like to meet and play with other children too. Thanks again for your safety share and we hope to see you in the bay. Warm regards. Chad

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