"Make Boating Safety a Family Affair"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013

Schools out, vacation time is approaching. Plans for boat trips, perhaps even cruises, are being made. I would like to suggest you make safe boating a family affair, from the smallest sailor right on up to the captain — who could be; Dad, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa or perhaps an aunt or uncle who takes you boating.

Bring all the family seafarers together to acquaint them with the use of the boat’s safety equipment. Get the life jackets out and check them for wear or damaged floatation. Each family member should examine their own. If they are free of wear and able to be used, try them on and re-adjust to fit properly. Be aware youngsters grow each year and adult dimensions change.

If a lifejacket needs replacement, have the family member who will wear it pick out their own, especially the kids. It may cost a couple dollars more for a bright, colored Mermaid or Spiderman design but the kids will be more likely to wear them. While making their choice, they can learn how to put the PFD on properly, buckle it up and adjust the straps. The fact that they picked out their own will give them a sense of pride they will share with others as they proudly wear them on the boat.

Note – the Coast Guard requires all children under the age of 13, on a vessel underway, wear a PFD while aboard any boat. Some states have established their own child PFD wear requirements which will apply. Check the age requirement for the area where you plan to go boating.

Don’t stop at lifejackets. Youngsters should learn how to read the gauge on a fire extinguisher. If you have an out-dated extinguisher, or one that needs service, do a demonstration for the kids letting the older ones participate. This would be very educational and leave a lasting impression in their minds they will recall if they ever need to help fight a fire.

While checking and replenishing your first-aid kit, let the youngsters pick out the disinfectant spray, so they’re certain it’s one that won’t sting. They will also enjoy selecting a special package of cartoon character Band-Aids. Carefully explain the use of everything in the kit and, of special importance, where it is stored. The kids may even come up with a suggestion for a good place, one that is easy for them to reach.

Older sailors should be aware of how to use all pyrotechnics but be sure to impress the younger children with how dangerous they can be. A demonstration with expired, hand-held flares should include how to light them and why they must be held over the side, away from the boat. All the youngsters should be acquainted with the fact that aerial-type flares are the same as a handgun.

Be sure to explain all the electronics to your crew, given five minutes with them, they may be better at operating them than you. Demonstrate how to place a mayday call on the VHF radio, carefully explaining the seriousness of not “playing” with the radio. Outline for them, and have available by the radio, what situations are an emergency and exactly how to call for help.

After completing all your safety equipment checks with the entire family involved, you will not only know your equipment is in tip-top shape but your family stands ready to assist as a well-educated team if needed.

It is also an excellent idea to take every family member old enough to run the boat through an exercise on how to operate it safety. Teach them to run the blower before starting the engine, how to operate the lights and what the proper horn signals are (most kids love sounding an air horn). Handling lines and proper knots also may be taught to those able to help with the important task of getting to and away from the dock. A full awareness on the part of your crew about how to run the boat could be a great advantage should the captain become disabled.

A family that boats together can have great experiences. Why not also make it a learning experience, to ensure everyone has memories that last a lifetime.




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