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 row boats. 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 couldn’t say.
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
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.
Using proper terminology can be life saving for both the child
and adult, because it eliminates confusion.
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 ranges abound.
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 giving.
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 location.
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 “book”
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
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 boating
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.