Safe Boating and Sailing With Children
There’s no doubt that water can be a danger to children, but the dangers can be reduced by careful planning and organisation. If you enjoy boating or sailing and want to take your children with you, then it can be a safe activity for the whole family to enjoy.
Boating and sailing can be very enjoyable hobbies – there’s something magical about taking to the high seas – and whether it’s a regular hobby, or something you indulge in on holiday, there’s no reason why children can’t get involved, too. Water can, of course, be dangerous, but as long as you take safety issues into consideration from the start, and properly prepare for it, everyone on board should remain safe and well.
Water Knowledge and SafetyBefore embarking on any sailing or boating, it’s first important to ensure that children have a good knowledge of Water Safety Issues and how to behave when on a boat. Ideally, provide some basic rules for boat safety, such as never running around on a boat, holding onto the hand rails or jumping on or off boats.
It’s advisable that children already have experience of water and can swim competently, although life jackets should always be available on board and worn at all times. Sensible shoes are also important, so some basic suggestions for the most appropriate shoes to wear on board is useful.
Boat FamiliarityFor children who have no prior experience of being on a boat, it’s helpful to spend some time helping them get familiar with the boat before actually sailing on it. Sometimes a sailing course is beneficial, especially a course specifically aimed at children.
Learning how the boat works and the processes that are involved in sailing or boating is a great way of getting children interested. Where possible, they can be involved in all sorts of ways and have their own jobs to do on the boat, especially during a boating holiday. Even young children can have a pretend go at helping steer the boat, whilst sitting on mum or dad’s knee.
Some children can get bored being on board all the time, so regular stops and trips ashore can help provide a good balance. Boating holidays, such as a canal barge holiday, can be good fun for families, but you need to take extra care when going through locks. Older children may be better suited to help with the locks, as they can be surprisingly hard work (with younger kids, you run the risk of them losing interest mid-way through the week and having to do all the locks yourself).
General Sailing Safety IssuesAll members of a sailing party, whether young or old, should be familiar with general sailing safety issues. Before you set off on any trip, it’s a good idea to advise other people of your plans and where you’re going, in case an emergency occurs.
Always ensure you have flares on board, as well as a functioning radio, and a first aid kit. It’s also advisable that everyone on board know what to do if an unexpected situation arises.