Almost 90 million American adults participate in recreational boating every year. Many of these adults are accompanied by children, since recreational boating and sailing are enjoyable activities for the entire family. These are some fun and safety tips for boating with kids under 13. For those of you who plan to go on a sailing trip with children under 3, check out what our friends at Deepsailing.com have to say about toddler safety onboard.
Life Vests - U.S. Coast Guard rules requires all children under 13 on moving boats to a wear a bright-colored, reflective life vest at all times. The life vests should have buckles in the back in case the child fidgets with the straps, and have a pull strap on the collar to pull the child safely out of the water.
Sunscreen is essential in order to protect children’s skin from the sun. Choose one with an SPF of at least 30 and protection against both UVA and UVB rays.It should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outside and then reapplied once every two hours.
Stay hydrated - make sure there is adequate quantity of water and snacks available onboard. Nothing is worse than a thirsty or hungry child!
Swim lessons - swimming is an important life skill that is easier when taught at a young age. It is especially important for families that go boating frequently, either on their own boat or on a boat charter.
Hat - sunscreen is important, but it is not a complete solution for sun protection. Wearing a hat will protect a child’s head from harsh UV rays during a day of boating.
Sunglasses - children under the age of 10 are at high risk for skin and eye damage. They should wear sunglasses that offer 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Safety netting - having netting on the lifelines is a great way to ensure the safety of small children, pets and personal belongings onboard.It is inexpensive and easily detachable.
Inside cabin area - owning or renting a boat with a cabin is especially helpful for families with small children. This provides an area for children to nap or just take a break from the sun during the hottest parts of the day.
Dodger and Bimini - a dodger is a canvas attachment that offers protection in the front and on the sides of a boat. A Bimini top is an open-front canvas top for the cockpit. A Dodger and Bimini are mostly used for sun protection, but can also provide shelter from the rain and wind.
ENTERTAINMENT - in addition to safe boating practices, here some fun activities to enjoy on your boat or yacht rental.
Fishing is a great way to spend time on a boat, and catch dinner at the same time! Buy an ultra-light rod and reel, and have an adult bait the hooks, or purchase barbless hooks.
Water Toys - there are an infinite number of water toys available for children of all ages. Water rafts, towables, inflatable trampolines, paddleboarding, slides. You can read more about water toys in our summer blog series on water toys.
Snorkeling/Scuba Diving - even infants can snorkel as long as they are comfortable in the water. Scuba diving classes are offered to children as young as 8 years old.
Water ski/Personal Watercraft - for more adventurous children, you can get them trainer water skis that are shorter and wider and come with a stabilizer bar that keeps the skis together and parallel at shoulder width. Small children may ride personal watercrafts at slower speeds. They should sit in between two adults. In both instances, children should wear life jackets at all times that are appropriate for their weight.
Sailing races - many yacht clubs and athletic facilities around the country offer Junior Sailing for children and teenagers. This is an excellent way to get them involved in competitive racing and teach them the importance of teamwork. Perhaps one day they can sail in the America's Cup!
With best safety practices, boating can provide children with a lifetime of exposure to new places, people, and exciting outdoor activities. Be safe and have fun!