Safety Tips for Boating with Kids
The Sea Tow Foundation, a 501[c] nonprofit organization dedicated to boating safety and education, offers the following list of “10 Tips for Boating with Kids”.
10 Tips for Keeping Youngsters Safe & Happy on the Water
1. Lifejackets Save Lives…
Be sure all kids wear a lifejacket when the boat is moving. In most states, it’s the law. The Coast Guard requires that all children under 13 years of age must wear a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket while the vessel is being operated unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin onboard. Children’s lifejackets come in different sizes appropriate to the child’s body weight. Make sure you have one that fits each child onboard and let the children try out their lifejackets in the water so that they know how they work to keep them afloat. Infant lifejackets have a strap that runs between the legs and extra flotation behind the head to ensure the baby floats face up at all times. Keep an extra child’s lifejacket or 2 on hand in case a friend comes along or a child has an unexpected growth spurt over the summer and needs a new size.
2. …But Only if You Wear Them!
Kids often complain about having to wear their life jackets on a hot day. Here are some ways to encourage them to “wear it” without a fuss.
- Get the kids “invested” in their lifejacket by taking them to a marine retail store and letting them pick one out for themselves. There are lots of designs and colors to choose from.
- Make sure the lifejacket fits the child properly, both for comfort and safety’s sake.
- Be a good role model. If the kids see you wearing your lifejacket, they’ll be more likely to want to wear theirs.
3. Safety Starts Ashore
Get the kids in the habit of putting on sunblock and a hat even before you get to the boat. If you have small children, put them in their lifejackets in the parking lot. That way, they’re protected if they accidentally tumble off the dock into the water.
4. Clear the Decks
When you climb aboard, have everyone stow their gear and any water toys away neatly, but keep the lifejackets on. Be sure there are no loose lines, mops, buckets, etc. on deck that someone might trip over.
5. The Captain’s in Charge
The adult who is driving the boat should give the kids a safety lesson before leaving the dock. Make it a point to tell them that there can only be one captain, and it’s important to follow his or her orders quickly and quietly. Set a few basic rules, including:
- No running on deck.
- No sitting on the side rails, foredeck, dashboard, aft sunpad or swim platform when the boat is under way.
- Advise them to leave “one hand for themselves and one for the boat” by using grabrails to steady themselves if the boat rocks. Instruct children not to walk around while the boat is in motion.
6. Ahoy, Matey
Kids get a bigger kick out of a boat trip when you make them your First Mate. Before you leave, show them where you’re going on a chart. While under way, have them keep a lookout for marker buoys. Teach them how to work the chart plotter and find your GPS coordinates.
7. Radio Check
Be sure everyone knows how to operate the boat’s VHF radio in case of an emergency. A good way to practice is to call Sea Tow’s Automated Radio Check service. This will not only show the kids how to key the microphone and talk over the VHF, it also lets you know if the radio is in good working order. To find the Automated Radio Check VHF channel in your boating area, visit http://www.seatow.com/boating-safety/automated-radio-checks.
8. Toys for Girls and Boys
When you tow kids behind the boat on inflatable water toys, water skis or a wakeboard, be sure to designate an adult or teen to be the official watcher, keeping his or her eyes on the towed rider at all times. Teach the kids hand signals they can use to tell you to speed up, go slower or stop. Be sure they wear their lifejackets while skiing, boarding or riding.
9. Where the Fish Are Biting
Angling is another fun family pastime, and it’s even more fun on a boat. However, it’s important to establish a few safety procedures for this activity as well. Teach kids to be careful with fishhooks, as well as reels and line when a fish is “on”. Have them take turns so they don’t cross their lines. Remember, kids have a shorter attention span; on a slow day, take a snack break or knock off early and go swimming.
10. Places, Please!
Give the kids assigned seats on the boat while docking, so that they don’t accidentally block the driver’s view. Make sure they know to keep their fingers and toes inside during this process!