Noting gives parents and grandparents more delight than showing the kids a good time on the water. Unfortunately, in our desire to please, we often jump into situations without thinking of the dire consequences, such as the forces when making a sharp turn with a tube or while pulling a wake board.
One extremely dangerous practice for any age is bow riding. Children are on a slippery curved surface with minimum side rail protection while receiving a maximum jolt from waves and passing wakes. Recently, a boat went by with three kids sitting on the bow with their feet dragging in the water. They had to reach over their heads to hang on to the bow rail. The owner probably never pictured churning propellers running over his kids.
Remember that an initial boating experience can be very scary and disorienting for a child. Put yourself in the position of being too small to see over the rails, or being deafened by the roar of the engine, or being tossed off balance by the pounding waves. You can help their stability by making sure they wear secure shoes with soft soles for traction. It is a good idea to employ lightweight clothing for children and disposable swim diapers for toddlers. These items will not get too heavy when wet.
Many children fall into the water while boarding a boat or playing on the dock. It is a good practice to have them don life jackets all the time, on or near the water. A life jacket should fit snugly so as to not rise over their heads when in the water. A good test is to grasp the life jacket at the shoulders and life the child off the ground, simulating flotation. When children fall unexpectedly into the water, they will experience sudden panic. Have them wear the jacket in your pool or at beachside to check the fit and to get them comfortable with the feeling of flotation. Don’t let an emergency be a child’s first time in a life jacket.
With the Independence Day approaching, many boaters will be out on the water. Stick to these safety tips for your children and you are sure to have a safe and fun Fourth of July.
To learn more about boating safety with kids or in general, contact the Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron for information about teaching courses and seminars on all aspects of boating and safety. Call Chuck Wilson, squadron education officer, at 239-389-9587 or visit www.marcoislandsailandpowersquadron.org.