Safe Boating for the Whole Family
1) Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) and be sure the children with you do as well. Federal law requires children below the age of 13 to wear a life vest when on the water, but it is your responsibility as a parent or boat operator to be sure they do it.
2) More than that, it is critical that children wear a PFD that is the proper size for them. Read the label on each life vest and be sure the child that is wearing it falls within the weight range for the PFD. There are soft flotation vests that are rated for babies from 0-30 pounds, so even the youngest family members can be protected and comfortable.
3) If you have youngsters that object to donning a life vest, be firm and do not let them ride in the boat. They would not be allowed to fly in an airplane without a seatbelt, and this is just as important. Most kids will agree to put on a PFD if they see the adults around them doing the same thing.
4) Donít make the mistake of assuming that you can relax your vigilance where children are concerned when you pull the boat into the dock. Whenever a child is anywhere near the water, he or she should be wearing a life vest or be within armís reach of a responsible adult. Even the smallest stream or pond can be a threat to a curious youngster, so be alert.
5) Learn the US Coast Guard capacity of your boat by reading the plate installed inside it. Then follow its guidelines. Besides keeping your load within the recommended limit, be sure it is well balanced. Donít allow all the passengers to sit on one side of the boat. Remember to distribute coolers and other heavy items evenly as well.
6) Be sure everyone on your boat uses sunscreen, including children. Water reflects the UV rays of the sun so it can do more damage while you are boating than it would if you were out for the same amount of time on land. Children who get sunburned before the age of 18 have been shown to have an increased risk of developing skin cancer as adults.
7) Recent studies suggest that it is important for children, even infants, to wear sunglasses when outside. Researchers are learning that early exposure to too many UV rays at an early age can cause cataracts and other eye diseases later in life. The glare of the water can be especially harsh, so be sure the kids that are boating with you have protective eye wear. There are many styles to fit children of all ages and they do not have to be expensive. Just be sure that the pair you get filters out a broad spectrum of UV rays. It is wise to have an extra pair or two in case of loss or damage, which is bound to happen when children are involved.
8) If you plan to bring your pet on your boating trip, supply a PFD for Princess or Buddy, too. After all, they are part of the family, and even though it is true that animals instinctively know how to swim, there is always a chance that they will get injured or tangled in something in case of an accident.
Remember to boat safely and happily.