Hey Mum, let's go and mess about in boats

I had a bad experience the first time I took my children on a boat. It was a beautiful, hand-crafted vessel - one we were secretly rather proud to be seen in - and we had total control of it until the sea got rough with us. I'll never forget the kids' shrieks as the waves came crashing over the sides, leaving us knee-deep in water. Our crazed attempts to bail out had little effect - the boat was breaking up beneath us, and we were forced to abandon ship, just in time to watch our little vessel disappear under the waves.

I suppose the fact that it was made of sand was its main design fault. But it didn't stop the kids building another one the day after that (and the day after that) - all of them meeting the same tragic-but-thrilling end on the beach at Camber Sands.

On our next holiday, we decided to go to sea in something made of sterner stuff, and booked some sailing lessons. The kids soon found their sea legs and were off tacking up the coast with their instructor (if you're holidaying in the Scilly Isles, check out the Sailing Centre on St Marys: 01720 422060). The way it worked best was like this: the children had their own private lessons while I sat on the beach drinking tea. Bliss.

But if you want to spend your entire holiday afloat, companies to check out include Exclusive Escapes (020-8605 3500; hiddenturkey.com), and Sail Croatia (0871 7338686; sailcroatia.net), where your skipper will even double up as a children's entertainer while you relax. Sunsail is another good bet - it operates family flotilla holidays (0870-428 4145; sunsail.com/flotillas) in the Med as well as the British Virgin Islands, and some even feature Kids Activity instructors, who organise beach games and water fun for all ages.

But for out-and-out decadence, why not charter your own 120ft luxury schooner Midsummer, complete with a crew of six? Take in the islands off the coast of East Africa, in true style - maid, cook and cleaner are all supplied (01869 276250; audleytravel.com) and there's even a piano on board so you can get your little darlings to keep up with their practice while they're at it.

All this is a far cry from our little boats on Camber Sands. Obviously, my kids would miss all that bailing out and soaking wet feet - but, given time, I'm sure that they'd get used to it.

Katy's Top Tip

Club Med offers great sailing facilities, courses and academies for children in many of their all-inclusive villages. For details, call 0845 3676767; clubmed.co.uk

Katy Holland is deputy editor of 'Mother and Baby' and motherand babymagazine.com. She has written several books on childcare

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