I love water and water sports, especially sailing. This year, due to obvious reasons (…like having a baby) we’ve not been able to go sailing, as we had vowed to do last year. I decided to get my “boat-fix” at this year’s Southampton Boat Show, so off I went with a baby and a 3 year old… afterall it is advertised as child friendly.
Getting there and parking was a doddle and I also discovered how long it’s been since I’ve been to this neck of the woods when I saw a large blue and yellow box, aka IKEA, also near the docks. At the entrance gate to the Show Little Man was given a wristband with my mobile number on it. (Great idea!)
We went in, whizzed past the first section, got our “bridge avoidance” passes and headed to the Tall Ships Youth Trust, the official marine charity for 2012, ship the Stavros S Niarchos. This magnificent vessel is not as old as she may seem and was only build 12 years ago, yet still as impressive as hell. On board we got a guided tour by some of young people who have recently sailed her. (She operates for the Tall Ships Youth Trust, one of the world’s oldest and largest sail training charities dedicated to the personal development of young people aged 12 to 25, often from disadvantaged backgrounds.)
At the show there are a bewildering array of vendors: everything from engines to special bedding for boats to fine art. There are approximately 500 exhibitors and almost 1,000 boats on display. Absolutely fascinating for mummy, but most of these don’t hold much interest for a 3 year old, though he was most fascinated by the folding propellers. While looking for a place to have lunch, we stumbled upon the Sea Kitchen Theatre, where there was a talk on renewable energy. Great brain fodder while nourishing ourselves!
After the talk we went to try out some paddling (only on a simulator, mind) at the Go Canoeing stand. I did 20 meters in 5 seconds and was shattered from that already. Just imagine, the Olympians do at least 10 times that in even faster! Little Man was a bit too short for the challenge, but still tried it. On the stand they also gave us some useful advise on getting on the water quickly with baby: we were suggested inflatable kayaks for versatility and convenience.
The next highlight, and actually THE highlight, of the day for Little Man was going on board the newly launched boats of the Hampshire Police. Not only was the policeman on the pontoon extra welcoming telling us all about their two new boats but Little Man got to sit at the helm of each and sound both the siren and the horn. He was also excited to go below and discover a galley (kitchen) and a couple of berths (beds) too. Next to the police boats was destroyer too… too much excitement in one place!
There was also a playground, all ship-themed, in one corner of the show ground too. I don’t know how Little Man had the energy to still climb and play, I just sat on the bench with Mini Man (who had been an angel the whole day) and watched.
Soon it was time to go home.
So how would I rate the day with a 3 and half year old and a baby?
Little Man saw lots of exciting and interesting things, but it was full-on keeping him occupied and answering all the questions on what’s what and the whys.
Pushchairs, understandably, aren’t allowed onto the pontoon, so I had to carry Mini Man while we were on the water (this was quite tough considering my back.) The Boat Show organisers do provide a lovely lady to look after pushchairs while you go onto the water (this is where you can change nappies too).
There are plenty of food and drinks vendors, but the prices are definitely “boat show prices”. A portion of fish and chips is £7.50, 500ml water sells at £2.20 and £2 for a cup of tea. If you are on a budget, bring your own picnic.
Overall, we had a good day, about 7 out of 10 for us. I hope I have sparked some more interest towards boats in Little Man, but, in all honesty, he was a bit too young to take full advantage of all the show has to offer. I didn’t get to look at as many boats as I’d have liked to because a I was on my own with the boys (leaving the pushchair outside each time was just not feasible).
There are over 20 free attractions to do and try at the Show including trial sailing, RYA Active Marina workshops. Most of these are aimed at 8 years and above. So for them I think this show has lots to offer and hopefully will inspire a fair few families, who aren’t already doing so, to get into boating- be that in a kayak, a canoe, sail or motor. Despite being too young to enjoy fully we will be back next year… who knows I may even convince Dadonthebrink for us to go back this coming weekend.
The boat show is on 14 – 23 September at the Mayflower Park Southampton.
Do you like these sorts of events with your family?
…or is it just me nuts enough to drag my kids to this?