Friday, February 23, 2018

The Joys and Challenges of Boating with the Family

Like anything else in life, boating with your children is multi-faceted. There are pros and cons to boating with the kids in tow. The shared experience can be joyous, heartwarming, and downright fun. However, it can also be stressful, chaotic, and challenging! We share many happy memories out on the water with our kids. However, we have just as many recollections that are not as blissful.

Successful family cruising requires knowledge, planning, and common “kid” sense.  When the kids come along, I am much more in tune with safety and precautionary measures (I attribute this to both my maternal instincts and my ability to learn from past mistakes). We double-check our customary safety compliance to be sure we have enough life jackets onboard. We also check that weather and water conditions are going to be agreeable.

Checking weather is where an aforementioned past mistake comes in.  When my daughter was just three months old, we took her out on the boat for a planned calm, leisurely ride. Much to my family’s dismay, we wanted to introduce Alexa to the water early.  Everything was picture perfect, but as local boaters know, the weather can take vicious turns, seemingly out of nowhere. That’s what happened to us on baby’s first cruise, as clouds suddenly appeared over us and the winds started to howl. I had never seen the bay so rough – I didn’t even know it was possible to have waves that high so close to shore!

We bounced and bucked like we were riding a bull at a rodeo, and I held on to my daughter with all my might. After several minutes, we sensed that things were only going to get worse, so we called my uncle to rescue mother and child by car at a nearby dock. I learned my lesson about watching the weather after spending that boat ride sick to my stomach with worry that my daughter might go flying overboard, or that I’d be unable to keep us both afloat if we were to capsize.

In all honesty, boating without the kids is extremely relaxing. You can lose yourself in thought, take a nap, engage in adult conversation, and listen to music of your liking. When the kids are on the boat, you have to be on your guard. My son likes to hang over the back of the boat, mesmerized by the motor, which requires me to withstand the elements (it’s windy on the back of the boat!) in a very uncomfortable position while holding onto his vest for dear life. And don’t forget about reapplying sunblock, repeated bathroom duty, frequent and sudden hunger pains, boredom, costume changes, and fighting over the captain’s chair. See why I dream about adults-only boating time as well?

Though grown-ups enjoy boating’s scenery, serenity, and sea breezes, these pleasures are completely uninspiring and uninteresting to most kids. When we are out on the water, I want our kids to appreciate the beauty all around us, but their appreciation turns to boredom in about an hour. So I’ve found some tricks to keep kids busy, such as bringing along cards, board games, and plenty of snacks.  Active games are good, too:  our kids played hide-and-seek on a 27’ cabin cruiser, and I’m all for whatever floats their boat! After promising ourselves we’d keep our cruises tech-free, we’ve allowed the kids to bring along electronic toys, but we reserve them for the ride back. This way, they can busy themselves while we finally enjoy some much-needed bliss. The small TV in the cabin also comes in handy when everyone is wiped out from sun and fun, and the non-captain parent needs a nice snooze.

Finally, think about where you’re headed when you bring the kids along. They’ve accompanied us to places we thought were cute, but didn’t find these venues so adorable. Save leisurely strolls for the adults-only destinations; instead, pick spots with beaches, recreational areas, and fun places to eat. Remember, if the kids are happy, you will be too!

Story by Maria Orlando Pietromonaco

Photos courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

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