Friday, February 23, 2018

Kids On Board: Simple Principles for a Safe Voyage

Any boater who has kids knows that boating with them can make for incredible joy and/or incredible pandemonium. Boating is such an amazing family activity!  During the first days following their birth, most boaters already begin to picture junior sitting alongside them in the captain’s seat.

Besides keeping your kids calm and entertained, you must also keep them safe. Taking your kids on the boat before they are three or four, or before they can actually swim on their own, is a scary scenario. Dr. Celso Hofilena, a pediatrician at Mid Suffolk Pediatrics in Mount Sinai, believes that only water-ready kids should be allowed onboard. “Kids should at least have had some swimming lessons,” he says with conviction. “I don’t really like babies on a boat. It’s too big of a risk.”

Single parents and solo boaters may want to take their young kids for a ride, thinking it’s a great way to bond and spend the day together.  However, without another adult on board, too many unsafe predicaments can arise. It’s too much to expect one capable boater to supervise children and captain a vessel at the same time. Mario Vittone, a marine safety specialist whose website focuses on water safety issues, answered a question from a concerned mom whose husband wanted to take their young children out on their boat, alone. “Do you think it is wise to take small children who have yet to fully develop basic coordination, who may or may not follow instructions, and whose basic response to crisis is screaming, out on the most unpredictable environment … in a machine with literally hundreds of moving parts…..alone?”  []

Another point to consider:  what if something happens to the one parent alone on a boat with a small child? Though we don’t like to think about the unthinkable, imagine what could happen if that lone supervising adult suffers an unexpected health issue, or goes overboard, leaving little ones to fend for themselves. The thought is frightening!

When children grow old– and capable– enough to head out with just one supervising adult, please show them how to operate the radio or even a flare if they find themselves in distress.

Be mindful of where your kids sit on the boat (“sit” is the key word here). First, kids wandering around a moving boat are accidents waiting to happen. My kids have toppled over plenty while trying to get from A to B, especially when an oncoming wake hits as they’re in motion. Second, when I see kids riding on the bow with legs and arms hanging off and over the boat while it goes pretty darned fast, it sends my teeth a’ grinding. Just one slip… I can’t even finish my sentence! Per federal regulation, kids must have their arms, heads, and legs tucked on the interior of a moving vessel with a churning motor.

Dr. Hofilena advises that the most common boat injury he sees in his practice is sunburn. Though I knew the sun is a hazard, I didn’t realize just how serious the consequences could be. “Kids come in all the time with blisters. That’s a second-degree burn,” he explained. “People don’t realize that there’s a lot of light reflected on the water. They need extra protection out there.”

Boating is a pleasant and fun experience, and kids are a big part of that picture.  If you follow simple principles for safe boating with the younger set, you’ll have plenty of time to focus on keeping them calm and entertained!

Story by Maria Orlando Pietromonaco

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