Kids and Boating:
opportunity to instill Recreational Boating Safety values that will last
By Wayne Spivak; National Press Corps United States Coast Guard
It is often said that
a young mind is an impressionable one. There is great truth to this
saying, as countless academic studies have proven that a young mind is
like a sponge; it will just keep soaking up knowledge.
While it's important
for these young minds to soak up knowledge about the 3R's (reading,
writing and arithmetic), for those who enjoy the water, or whose parents
enjoy the water, there is no better time than to instill recreational
boating safety values into those little adorable sponges.
Some of my earliest
memories about boating consist of my father and uncle's on small
rowboats. We'd go out fishing on small lakes throughout upstate New
York; a couple of oars, fishing rods, bait, tackle box, but I really
don't remember any life jackets. I do remember mostly having a single
worn out cushion. Whether it floated, or was a floatation device, I
Today, even if there
wasn't a Federal Law in place, we as adults should be inculcating our
children on the need to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's). For
those of us who do a lot of boating, think about spending a few extra
bucks and getting a PFD which is as comfortable, and bulk less as
Don't forget snazzy!
Children are style conscious. If you ever walk around docks where there
are kids, you're bound to hear complaining about wearing their PFD's.
The old style horseshoe Type II jackets just don't cut it with today's
aspiring child stars. However, a sporty Type II or Type III jacket with
psychedelic colors or hearts on them will get the kids excited!
Here again, is an easy
way to increase your child's educational quotient, while at the same
time instilling information that can serve to increase the safety of
all, while aboard yours or someone else's boat. Starboard, Port,
forward, aft - these simple terms are extremely important when
describing an action in relation to a given boat.
terminology can be life saving for both the child and adult, because it
As a kid, we never had
a radio in our boats. They were just too expensive. We also didn't have
Ebay! But today, Ebay aside, VHF radios of all kinds, sizes, and dollar
That being said, ever
listen to the marine radio on a fine summer weekend? No, I'm not talking
about the rude adults, or those who need some radio manners and
education; I'm talking about the unsupervised children who get on the
radio, because it's a cool toy!
Educating our children
on the "who, what, where and why's" of radio procedures can benefit
recreational boating safety in several ways. First, it gets the kids off
the radio. Second, should your child ever need to really use the radio,
they will know how, and both the Coast Guard and others who listen to
Channel 16 will hear a difference in tone - and quality of information.
Proper use of nautical
terminology helps in this area. Using proper terminology and radio
procedure can be crucial in "trusting" the information the child is
Lastly, teaching your
child how to use the radio will help them in school. Public speaking,
whether in front of a small class or on the radio, is a learned trait.
This unfortunately isn't taught until college, so you're actually
preparing the child early.
Nothing could be worse
than providing all the aforementioned training, and leaving out basic
navigation. All children (obviously age dependent) can be taught to read
a chart, and by using landmarks, give an approximation of their current
By making it a game,
you can instill more safety values, as well as again, assist your child
advance in terrestrial life (school) by giving them real-life experience
in skills that they may not learn for several years, or only learn in
Lastly, and certainly
not least, we should teach our children about the safety equipment we
carry on our boats. The fire extinguisher, flares, whistles, mirrors,
the radio are all items that should not be foreign to them. Remember,
even though they are a child, they are a member of the crew, and while
again, this is age dependent, they can be crucial to observing, and
avoiding dangerous situations.
Teach your child and a
fire extinguisher works. Teach them the ABC's of fire fighting. Have
them practice with an extinguisher. You may never know when this
experience can come in handy, whether on the boat or in the kitchen.
Teach them about
flares, the dangers and the benefits of using them properly. Teach them
how to use them, when to use them, and most of all, that they are NOT A
TOY. Side stepping this issue is dangerous. Ask any police officer about
how they've taught their children about (not) handling their firearms,
and that they are anything but a toy.
Teach our children
about whistles and mirrors, which should be attached to their PFD's.
Tell them, show them, and practice with them, not only using these
pieces of safety equipment, but man overboard drills.
Our children are never
too young to learn. It is just how we go about teaching them
recreational boating safety that is the difference. Make a game of each
lesson. Make it enjoyable. As they get older, add more and more
information, so by the time our children become teenagers, they are not
only able to take the boat out (local law permitting), but are fully
knowledgeable about the operation of both vessel and recreational
The United States
Coast Guard Auxiliary can assist in this process. We have several
programs available for children, such as Boating Fun (4 – 9 year olds),
and Waypoints (10 – 12 year olds). Many of the older children (9 years
old and up) take Boating Safely with their parents.
For more information, please contact
your local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla. You can find them by
contacting your local Coast Guard unit or on the web at