Boating Safety

Children On Board: Preparation Leads to Fun

mom and kids on a boat, cruising with kids

Start kids boating young and they will learn lifelong skills and a love for the water.

Free space on any boat is a valuable commodity, but we can always make room for the children. With basic preparation, even young kids can accompany us on our oceanic excursions even though they might deprive us of some of our freedom, but the memories made as a family will last a lifetime.

Subconsciously, having the kids on board will probably make some captains more responsible and organized without knowing we are. If we are more relaxed and resilient regarding our own rigid habits when on board, we can also ease up on the stern-ness and rigidity that we used to keep our progeny in line.

That doesn’t mean we should be any less meticulous when planning out our trip to ensure the family’s safety. That being said, before we decide to give small children the name "crew" we must be certain they are ready.

As the captain and first mate, are dad and mom in a position to take on the responsibility. Are they experienced enough? Do they trust themselves and their boat?

kids in lifejackets, kids on a boat

A boat with a deep cockpit will help keep the kids safe.

Work Your Way Up

Let's not forget that we are on the sea and if we are called to face a difficult, unpredictable situation, things will be more difficult when children are on board. Our reactions will be limited and our priorities different. The most basic prerequisite though, is to feel competent and certain that we can protect our family in all conditions.

Before we take the kids offshore, start with nearby excursions so that we will be aware of the new situations that arise with little ones aboard.

So, after we discuss things with our co-captain, we can define responsibilities and plan an oceanic excursion. If we agree that planning our voyage is the leading factor for its success, then we must be that much more precise with the preparation and every parameter must be examined until its last detail. We should also know the weather conditions that usually prevail in the areas where we will cruise.

kids jumping off a boat, family fun on a boat

Of course, we need to make time for the kids to stop and jump in the water.

Strategic Spots for Spending the Night

After we pick our destination, we move on to the choice of places we will visit en route for daily excursions. If we belong to the category of those people who prefer to anchor and spend the night in natural bays, we must choose shelters that are safe in bad weather, have shallow water so the kids can swim and be near interesting beaches and seaside villages.

If the parents prefer to stay in a port, then things are more simplified as long as we choose quiet ports without fuss and vehicle traffic children can play carefree without being forced to constantly have our attention on them.

Plan Primary and Alternative Routes

On the water, there are always more ways to reach a destination and return to our base. By spreading the nautical map on the table to define our routes, we must take into consideration the children's presence. Choose shorter distances with intermediate stops to give everyone a chance to rest.

With the route planned, now we need to figure out how to organize the boat when the kids will be on board. A bow tent for an open boat like a bowrider, dual console or RIB is necessary when planning a trip with the kids. Little ones need a place to nap and the dodger provides a "nest" where they can sleep, play, read their favorite fairytale.

bow tent on a RIB, kids napping on a boat

A dodger or bow tent can easily be erected to provide shade and a quiet place to rest. This one is on a RIB.

Stern Tent

Also important is the stern tent that protects the children's fair complexion from the harmful sun rays. Underneath the stern tent we can set a table for lunch, play a board game or just relax.

Storage for the Children's Things

It’s smart to dedicate a big storage compartment for the children's things. They will learn to have their own space that they will take care of on their own so that they will be more autonomous. They won’t interfere with on-board equipment, searching the whole boat to find something that belongs to them.

boat dodger, center console on a dodger

Here we see a dodger on a center console.

Inside the kids’ locker, we must provide dry storage for their clothes and towels, seaside pails and toys, seasick-preventing arm bands, books with their favorite bedtime stories and beloved toys. The more things they have to keep them occupied, the less likely they will be to whine and nag mom and dad.