opportunity to instill Recreational Boating Safety values that will last a lifetime
By Wayne Spivak / National Press
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
It is often said that a young mind is an impressionable one. There is great truth to this saying, as countless
academic studies have proven that a young mind is like a sponge; it will just keep soaking
up knowledge. While its important for these young
minds to soak up knowledge about the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), for those who enjoy
the water, or whose parents enjoy the water, there is no better time than to
instill recreational boating safety values into those little adorable sponges.
Some of my earliest memories about boating consist of my father and uncles on
small row boats. Wed go out fishing on
small lakes throughout upstate New York; a couple of oars, fishing rods, bait, tackle box,
but I really dont remember any life jackets. I
do remember mostly having a single worn out cushion.
Whether it floated, or was a floatation device, I couldnt say.
Today, even if there wasnt a
Federal Law in place, we as adults should be inculcating our children on the need to wear
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). For
those of us who do a lot of boating, think about spending a few extra bucks and getting a
PFD which is as comfortable, and bulk less as possible.
Dont forget snazzy! Children are style conscious. If you ever walk around docks where there are
kids, youre bound to hear complaining about wearing their PFDs. The old style horseshoe Type II jackets just
dont cut it with todays aspiring child stars. However, a sporty Type II or
Type III jacket with psychedelic colors or hearts on them will get the kids excited!
Terminology: Here again, is an easy way to increase your childs educational
quotient, while at the same time instilling information that can serve to increase the
safety of all, while aboard yours or someone elses boat. Starboard, Port, forward, aft - these simple terms
are extremely important when describing an action in relation to a given boat. Using
proper terminology can be life saving for both the child and adult, because it eliminates
Procedures: As a kid, we never had a radio in
our boats. They were just too expensive. We also didnt have Ebay! But today, Ebay aside, VHF radios of all kinds,
sizes, and dollar ranges abound. That being
said, ever listen to the marine radio on a fine summer weekend? No, Im not talking about the rude adults, or
those who need some radio manners and education, Im talking about the unsupervised
children who get on the radio, because its a cool toy!
Educating our children on the
who, what, where and whys of radio procedures can benefit recreational
boating safety in several ways. First, it
gets the kids off the radio. Second, should
your child ever need to really use the radio, they will know how, and both the Coast Guard
and others who listen to Channel 16 will hear a difference in tone - and quality of
information. Proper use of nautical
terminology helps in this area. Using proper
terminology and radio procedure can be crucial in trusting the information the
child is giving.
Lastly, teaching your child how to use
the radio will help them in school. Public
speaking, whether in front of a small class or on the radio, is a learned trait. This unfortunately isnt taught until
college, so youre actually preparing the child early.
Navigation: Nothing could be worse than
providing all the aforementioned training, and leaving out basic navigation. All children (obviously age dependent) can be
taught to read a chart, and by using landmarks, give an approximation of their current
location. By making it a game, you can instill more safety values, as well as again,
assist your child advance in terrestrial life (school) by giving them real-life experience
in skills that they may not learn for several years, or only learn in book
Equipment: Lastly, and certainly not least, we should teach our children about the safety
equipment we carry on our boats. The fire
extinguisher, flares, whistles, mirrors, the radio are all items that should not be
foreign to them. Remember, even though they
are a child, they are a member of the crew, and while again, this is age dependent, they
can be crucial to observing, and avoiding dangerous situations.
Teach your child and a fire
extinguisher works. Teach them the ABCs
of fire fighting. Have them practice with an
extinguisher. You may never know when this
experience can come in handy, whether on the boat or in the kitchen.
Teach them about flares, the dangers
and the benefits of using them properly. Teach
them how to use them, when to use them, and most of all, that they are NOT A TOY. Side stepping this issue is dangerous. Ask any police officer about how theyve
taught their children about (not) handling their firearms, and that they are anything but
Teach our children about whistles and
mirrors, which should be attached to their PFDs.
Tell them, show them, and practice with them, not only using these pieces of
safety equipment, but man overboard drills.
Our children are never too young to
learn. It is just how we go about teaching
them recreational boating safety that is the difference.
Make a game of each lesson. Make
it enjoyable. As they get older, add more
and more information, so by the time our children become teenagers, they are not only able
to take the boat out (local law permitting), but are fully knowledgeable about the
operation of both vessel and recreational boating safety.
The United States Coast Guard
Auxiliary can assist in this process. We have
several programs available for children, such as Boating Fun (4 9 year olds), and
Waypoints (10 12 year olds). Many of
the older children (9 years old and up) take Boating Safely with their parents.
For more information, please contact
your local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla. You
can find them by contacting your local Coast Guard unit or on the web at www.