How to Teach Your Children Boat and Yacht Safety

Spending time on the water in a boat or a yacht can be great fun for the whole family. While kids of all ages usually enjoy boating, swimming, and other activities on the water, parents must take extreme care to supervise youngsters at all times when they are near or on the water. Even if the children are strong swimmers, it's still crucial to supervise all activities carefully to prevent accidents and injuries: It only takes a few moments of inattention for a good time to turn tragic. But with a keen eye on safety, families can enjoy a boat or yacht excursion with children and make many happy memories.

Swimming Lessons

Learning to swim during childhood is an important skill that will serve a person well throughout their lifetime. Vacations often involve visiting the beach or a swimming pool, so knowing how to swim is a vital skill for everyone to have. When planned activities involve excursions on the water in a boat or yacht, ideally, everyone on the watercraft should know how to swim. Strong swimming skills enhance safety and reduce the likelihood of a water-related injury. Drowning deaths are a significant problem throughout the world, but many of these deaths could have been prevented if the victims had known how to swim. Even if children can swim well, though, parents cannot rely on these skills as a substitute for careful supervision around the water. Any time a family excursion involves play near, in, or on the water, parents or other responsible adults must watch children at all times to make sure that they stay safe.

Sun Safety

Fun on the water usually involves being out in the sun, but damage can occur to the skin after only about 15 minutes in the sun. To minimize skin damage from harmful UV rays, parents must monitor their children's exposure as well as their own. When possible, family members should cover their skin with clothing such as long sleeves, long pants, and hats that shade the face. Sunglasses with lenses that block UVA and UVB rays can protect the eyes from the sun. When it's not possible to cover the skin with clothing, slathering on a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF rating of at least 15 is crucial. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or perspiring. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the sun's rays are the strongest, so when possible, stay indoors during this time and plan a boating excursion for times of the day when the sun's rays are weaker. As an added bonus, fishing also tends to be better early or late in the day.

Set a Positive Example

Children commonly look to parents to learn how to conduct themselves. Boating as a family is an excellent opportunity for parents to teach children boating safety guidelines by setting a positive example. Safe boating involves following U.S. Coast Guard rules such as operating the boat at safe speeds, giving the right of way to other boaters, watching the surroundings carefully, and avoiding drinking alcohol while driving a boat or yacht. Taking a boating safety course to learn about safe boat operation and applicable regulations will help ensure that parents operate watercraft correctly and safely. Parents can then teach children these skills to help them learn about safe boating and the rules of the water.

Life Jackets

All states have specific laws that require the use of life jackets for children. Many states have also instituted laws that require that a life jacket be on board for every person on the boat. Life jackets are personal flotation devices that people wear to help keep their heads above the surface while they are in the water, and they can save lives if a boat capsizes, if a storm occurs, if a boating collision occurs, or if someone falls overboard. To be effective, life jackets must fit snugly, so children must wear child-sized life jackets and not adult ones. To ensure that life jackets remain effective, they should be tested for buoyancy once a year. A life jacket that is faded or becomes waterlogged should probably be replaced. Have children wear life jackets at all times while in a boat or a yacht. Ideally, all adults on board a boat or yacht will wear them as well, in order to set a good example as well as to ensure their safety. Do not stow life jackets for adults in an inaccessible location, as it's crucial that everyone on board be able to put on a life jacket quickly if an emergency situation should arise.

Written by Stephen Moynihan