Avoiding boat mishaps with babies and children on board is certain to prevent issues with being fearful and providing memories that can last a lifetime.
Here are seven safety tips to abide by when boating with children:
1 – Encourage the family
Let other members of the family become familiar with certain aspects of operating the boat. A family with more knowledge and experience is certain to mean less danger and accidents on board. Children can be shown how to trim the sails, operate the anchor, switch electrical items on and off, use manual winches, and start or stop the engine.
2 – Get Home
Are other family members able to helm the boat and set sail for home if the skipper is in distress? If planning to go boating with a child it is a practical precaution to teach the basic skills of using the VHF radio, engine starting and stopping, Chartplotter reading, electrical switchboard use, and emergency channel knowledge.
3 – Inflatables & Dinghies
Small children love to engage with inflatable toys and dinghies, while an outboard motor attached can also be quite appealing. Make sure the children are instructed with basic safety and handling techniques. A danger area is other boat users or swimmers, so ensure an inflatable is kept well clear of others and proper boundary rules are outlined.
4 – Life jackets
Abide by standard rules and regulations and ensure each child on board has a life jacket to increase safety in the event of falling overboard. Any life jacket worn should be at the appropriate size to match the child. Avoid an over-sized life jacket because this has the potential to entangle a child and make things more difficult in an emergency situation. A well-fitted life jacket should give a snug fit and should stay securely in place. A life vest can also benefit from a neck support to ensure a child’s head is kept out of the water. Plus, use a life jacket that automatically inflates for extra safety.
5 – No Go Areas
Let the children know the no go areas on the boat like forward of the cockpit on a motor-driven yacht or bow of a motor-launch when in motion. Plus, make sure children don’t use (or left close to) the companion way when the boat is under power. A small child left close to an open companion way might well fall through in a heavy breeze or wave. Plus, boating activities like berthing or mooring up can be quite stressful, so asking the children to be quite during this time is often advised.
6 – Pontoon or dock safety
Don’t let the children run on the pontoon or deck area, and for extra safety ensure a life jacket is worn. A dock area has joints, hoses, ropes, cleats, etc. that can easily result in trip hazards. Falling in the water at a marina can be dangerous for a small child, so take extra care and attention around this particular area.
7 – Safety drills
Regularly conduct fire and safety drills to ensure everyone on board knows what to do in the event of an emergency. Locations of escape hatches should be known.