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13 Boating Tips That Could Save Your Child's Life

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Here are 13 boating safety tips to keep your kids from harm, make their boating experience enjoyable, and increase the odds they’ll want to go out again. 

1) Give them a properly fitted life jacket. Kids grow quickly, so they may end up in a jacket that’s too small, or an adult jacket that’s too big, which won’t save them in an emergency. A comfortable jacket will be worn; an uncomfortable one won’t. And unless you donate the jackets your kids have outgrown, hang onto them. Someone may bring a smaller child for a ride, and you might just have the jacket they need.

2) Teach the kids to swim early. Check with the American Red Cross or your local YMCA for swimming lessons. It will make boating safer for the kids, but also more fun when they can jump in the water at the next anchoring spot.

3) Have them take a boating course. Boating safety can help reduce the chances of personal injury, and kids may be more invested in the rules when they learn them from someone other than their parent. If an in-person course is difficult to find, an online boating safety course is a good alternative.

4) Give the kids a tour of the boat. They need to know where they’ll be safe, but also know where the danger areas are. Don’t just tell your kids about the boat. Show them everything and explain each function and its potential risk. Propellers cause 18 percent of all boating injuries, and according to an article published in the Annals of Plastic Surgery journal, propellers are responsible for around 16 percent of boating fatalities. You don’t need to scare the kids, but they should know about the most dangerous parts of the boat.

5) Teach kids to follow emergency procedures. It’s important to go over the emergency procedures before every boating trip to ensure that the kids (and the adults) know them. Some basics include putting on a life jacket (if they’re not already wearing one), staying with the boat unless it’s about to sink, and not jumping into the water unless it’s safe to do so.

6) Teach kids how to call for help. Kids should be taught to use the boat’s communication equipment in case the adult in charge of the boat is incapacitated. Keep a card in the vessel with simple instructions that kids can follow. It will also empower them and make them feel like they’re part of the crew.

7) Ensure the kids are fit to travel. Sometimes determining whether a child is in shape to go boating could be as simple as asking them if they’re feeling ok. If they’re not feeling well, consider cancelling the trip.

8) Check the vessel. The integrity and structure of the boat should be sound, and all equipment should work.there should be ample fuel, enough life jackets, and proper navigation equipment.

9) Check the weather. A quick way to get the kids hurt or scare them away from boating is to have them out in bad weather. Always check the local marine forecast before departure and trust your senses. If you see thickening or darkening clouds, a lowering cloud deck, vertically rising clouds, temperature drops, a sudden change in wind speed or direction, or growing seas, return to port. If you have a barometer onboard and the pressure starts dropping, bad weather is on the way.

10) Check your safety gear. If it remains in the boat between trips, ensure that it is in good order. Check your medical kit, anchor, bilge pump, cellphone, VHF radio, flashlight and water supply. Do you have a sharp knife handy in case you need to cut a line in a hurry?

11) Harness the little kids. If your eyes are on the water, they may not be on your child, no matter how attentive you are. A child can fall overboard when you’re not looking, especially at speed. Safety harnesses are especially important for toddlers or energetic kids.

12) Wear the engine cut-off switch device. Their use is now mandatory by law. If you fall overboard, you don’t want your child alone in the boat as it keeps going. When you wear your engine cut-off switch the boat will lose power if you’re ejected and give you a chance to get back aboard. It’s another reason for you to wear your lifejacket. If you don’t like the old-fashioned kill-switch cords, install one of the newer, wireless kill switches.

13) Don’t drink and boat. Operating a boat requires good judgment. Alcohol and boating are a bad mix, and you’ll want to set a good example. Someone needs to be the adult on the boat, and it shouldn’t have to be the child.

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