If you’re like me, your favorite fishing and hunting buddies are your own kids. My two 12 year old boys join me on virtually every trip through the inlet, into the marsh, and onto the bay. But for many of us – especially new parents – boating with kids onboard raises a whole new set of challenges and dangers. Are you ready to take those tykes off the dock? Could you use a refresher course on boating with kids? Either way, here are five tips that are sure to help make it a great experience.
1. Get the kids comfortable life jackets that fit them properly. Those old blocky orange things we all love to hate are uncomfortable, tough to cast in, and look funny. Today, you can get form-fitting life jackets that keep the kids safe but are a breeze to wear all day long.
2. Talk through the boat rules before you leave the dock, until the kids have them committed to memory. Some good starters: always hold on while walking around; never jump or run on the boat; never lean over the rail; stay away from that rusty bait knife.
3. The sun is a kid’s worst enemy during a long day on the water. Sunburn and dehydration can be serious matters, and if a kid gets seriously burned, he or she might not want to go back out next time. Make sure you slather them down in sunscreen at the beginning of the trip, and make sure they’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
4. Falling fiberglass hatch covers are another serious danger on the boat. Toes and fingers can be pinched or even broken, if they get caught as a fishbox hatch slams shut. Warn them of the danger, and pay attention whenever they access one of these hatches.
5. Teach the kids how to operate the VHF radio. They should understand that channel 16 is used for emergencies, and know how to perform a “Mayday” call. If you get injured, fall overboard, or worse, those kids are going to have to know how to call for help – and the VHF is their lifeline.
Is there more to learn about taking kids out on boats? Of course – for more information, check out this video on tips for boating with kids. Your little ones will thank you for it!