Boating With Your Tribe
It’s a beautiful July morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Wake up the kids and get them ready and out the door. You notice that the smiles you were expecting are not quite happening. Joan is still “tired”, Mike forgot his I pad filled with his games and Timmy is crying cause his first tooth is ready to fall out. You turn around to your beloved for a little encouragement and as you pull away from the dock she says “We left the cooler in the kitchen. What to do! What to do!!!!
Well , lets back up here a little bit. Gone are those great days when you sped around the bay as a young couple with nary a responsibility. But the changes came and now you have a great family. You even bought a bigger boat so you could enjoy the pleasures of the harbor together. Now you realize that maybe it was all a fantasy or maybe there is a secret formula to family boating success. Well there is and its all in the planning.
Rule 1. KNOWLEDGE OF YOUR VESSEL. Before you even put one child’s toe on board be sure you know what your boat can and cannot do. If you are a new boater get some experience under that Captain’s hat they gave you at the dealership. Take a Boating Safety Coarse! (This is a must!)
Check the weather, tides and all the essentials on board like fuel, water, radio and GPS function. Let someone know where you intend to boat. Even experienced boaters should always go through these rudimentary checks. One last thing , and this is KEY! When the family is aboard you must know what YOU are doing. You must show confidence. You can’t be yelling “Fend off! Grab that line! We’re running aground, #%@&* it.! That’s a sure way to discourage your little crew for sure.
Rule 2. SAFETY IS SUPREME Life jackets that fit properly on children must always be worn when under way. It is preferable youngsters wear the type that holds the head above the water automatically. This is most important for the preschoolers. Make sure your flares are up to date and you carry a back up anchor. Check navigation lights but with younger children aboard it is preferable to be back at the dock before sunset. Your young crew members should get an early start on swimming lessons. Develop your own emergency reaction plan should you run into a situation such as a potential collision or taking on water. It is your job as Captain to remain calm and composed so that you can alert aid and keep the crew as comfortable and safe as possible.
Rule 3. TIME PLANNING As with most experience sharing with children you start out with smaller doses. Shorter trips and limiting range acclimates younger crew members to the new environment surrounding them. It gives them time to pique their imaginations and feel comfortable in the water world. Certainly if you have a mix of age ranges in your tribe the older one can help enrich the younger boater’s experience.As familiarity and confidence increase the excursions can become longer and if your boat is equipped for overnight or lengthier jaunts, they can be can then be planned for.
Rule 4. TEACHING THE ROPES. Make sure each child knows where to sit while underway and never let anyone ride on the bow. Explain how important it is not to jump around and move from one side of the boat to the other while underway. When you anchor in a cove or at a destination dock be sure the family knows the “Exit’’ plan so they can get ashore safely with smiles on their faces. You, as Captain, set the guidelines of behavior in a fun non-draconian way so that both the little crew and parents have a rewarding voyage.
Rule 5. PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING. Before you leave the house and dock check that you have everything needed to attend to everyone needs. Water, food, towels, sunblock (put it on before leaving and replenish throughout the day), all types of eye glasses needed, sweatshirts, medicines and first aid box, food, hats, soap and hand cleaner, wallet, purse, cell phones, water footwear, boat keys and anything required for any child with special needs.
Make sure you carry small nets and a seining net, pails and shovels that can nest, collapsible kites, easy to use fishing rods (remember to flatten out the hook barbs) snorkel masks, small binoculars, inflatable beach balls and kids card games for down time. It is your call whether they should bring their computer devices and tablets with them but lets face it – it is a distraction and they just don’t need to be on a boat or beach to have fun. You can put down your cell phone for an afternoon and devote time to them. That’s what it’s all about. Have fun!