Safety – Boats and Young Children

Children and boats are a great combination, out in the fresh air, learning about the world around them and having fun.

As the Skipper, you are responsible for all those on your boat, but children
need extra care aboard the boat and around water.

Here are some important points to consider, before you cast off

  • children should wear life jackets at all times
  • a life jacket must fit properly; a child will slip out of an adult’s size life jacket in the water. Life jackets fitted with crotch straps are essential for young children
  • use a child safety harness for young children when appropriate
  • teach children about the dangers and risks when boating
  • work through an emergency plan for all those on board, thinking about situations like person overboard, capsize, running aground, fire and collision
  • don’t go out alone with young children. You need to have another adult aboard who can cope if something happens to you
  • make sure everyone is sitting safely and holding on when traveling
  • alcohol affects judgment balance and survival time in the water. With children on your boat, your alcohol consumption will effect their survival chances as well as your own
  • anyone supervising young children on the water must know how to swim and be familiar with survival techniques

Remember that children look to adults for examples of appropriate behaviour. Wear your life jacket and they will wear theirs. Teach children the pleasures and the risks of boating and they will have taken the first step on the way to becoming Responsible Skippers themselves.

If you plan to take children boating, it is your responsibility to ensure they have the appropriate survival skills.
Make sure they learn to swim and teach them boating skills and survival techniques in the water.

  How to choose a PFD for your child

  • Just as you should yourself, have your child try on a PFD before buying it. To work right, it must fit snugly. Check the fit by picking the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. If the fit is correct, the child’s chin and ears will not slip through. Children are apt to panic when they fall in the water suddenly. They move their arms and legs violently and make it hard to float safely, even in a PFD. Because their body weight is distributed differently, children float differently from adults. A PFD will keep a child afloat, but may not keep a struggling child face-up. That’s why it is important to have the child try on his or her own PFD and to explain the reasons for wearing a PFD. Take your child to a pool or shallow water and let them become comfortable and used to wearing a PFD in the water.
  • Children should always wear a PFD when onboard and underway.
  • CAUTION: PFDs are NOT babysitters!
  • A parent should always be alert when the child is on or near the water. Parents, remember too, inflatable toys, surf rafts and other non-approved devices are not dependable and should NEVER be used in place of PFDs.