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Kids Aboard

July 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

kids aboard 1

Kids Aboard sidebarBoating is a family-friendly activity. While it’s exciting to spend quality time together with all family members, boating with little ones can be quite daunting.  Images of kids wailing about boredom and falling overboard flit through parents’ minds, playing out like two alternating horror movies stuck on repeat.

Click off those images and watch instead as many highly entertaining family boating adventures unfold — after proper preparation and precautions, of course.

kids aboard 2Robert Siciliano teaches kids about safety as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and he knows that boating safety begins before the first boating outing of the season. A vessel safety check is recommended, where a U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Power Squadrons inspector will assure that your boat is properly fitted out and safe (or give you a homework assignment on how to bring it up to snuff). The checklist includes life jackets, a first aid kit, proper communication devices, and emergency flares.

Just as important as a well-equipped boat is a well-prepared family, Siciliano advises. Does everyone know how to swim? He recommends that kids take swimming lessons before getting out on the water (adults, too).

When you’re ready to go boating, don’t just wing things on the way out the door — have all supplies, including sunscreen, food storage containers, extra clothes, diapers (if necessary), towels, medications and other necessities ready well in advance. And don’t just make a boat outing with kids a spur of the moment decision. Ensure that two capable adults go on every trip — expecting a young child or teenager to handle an emergency should something happen to the sole adult aboard is just not smart thinking.

When you arrive at the boat, adult vigilance must be ramped up. Closely monitor kids’ whereabouts and, despite the objections of any contrary child or fashion-conscious teen, hold your ground and insist that kids wear their life jackets at all times. It would be hard enough for an adult to put on a life jacket while already in the water, so it would be near impossible for a child to do it,” says Siciliano.  He compares life jackets to seat belts, especially because life jackets are required for kids just as seat belts are mandated for all.

When the boat’s moving, things can get dicey. Kids often want the best view, and that’s at the bow of the boat. Siciliano stresses that it should be the last place they should sit — there’s too great a risk of falling over especially should the boat hit rough waters. Children should always sit in the seats in the back of the boat and only let them walk around if the boat is moving at a fairly slow speed.

What if the worst happens, and a child falls in the water? The best case scenario is that he or she can swim, the pilot stops the engine(s) after drawing close enough for the child to swim to the boat and be helped in. But if the child cannot swim, Siciliano urges parents to resist the urge to jump in the water (unless the child is unconscious or struggling). “There are many things you could reach or throw them, like a beach ball, life jacket, cooler, boat hook, stick or rope,” he says. “Anything that might float or the child could reach for to hold onto.”

He also points out that even when anchored, kids shouldn’t jump out of the boat. “There could be rocks or tree stumps, so leaping into a lake off a boat or rocky ledge is not a very safe thing to do,” Siciliano says. “You [and your child] should carefully enter the water and learn what is there so you do not become injured.”

Exercising precautions doesn’t mean that it’s too complicated to go boating with kids, and being careful need not completely strip a trip of any fun. Just use common sense and be prepared. Then, says Siciliano, the next thing you’ll hear at the end of every boating day is, “When can we go out on the boat again?”

By Michael Griffin

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