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Kidding Around on Boats

Bayliner Boats

The best students in boating safety classes are kids. I know this because I taught for the State of Michigan, US Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary. In addition, for more than 25 years, I took thousands of kids of all ages fishing while operating my 30-passenger charter boat on Lake Huron. Youngsters were full of questions about the boat, and I enjoyed answering their queries because it gave me an opportunity to teach them.

Parents of younger students told me that their kids carried home what they learned. Some even insisted their parents follow boating safety rules they had been taught.

One of the fathers who came on my boat frequently with his 8-year-old son stopped at my office after a trip. He told me the boy refused to get on the family boat until his dad had a properly fitted life jacket for each family member on board. He went on to explain how they were taking a ride on the family cruiser one day when a storm warning came across the radio advising boaters to seek shelter. Hearing the broadcast, the boy went below, grabbed PFDs, put his on and insisted his dad do likewise before the storm hit.

The father explained how grateful he was for his son’s safety awareness because the storm proved to be one of the worst he had ever experienced on the water. He acknowledged that having his PFD on not only kept him warm, it instilled confidence in his ability to get safely to shore. He concluded saying how amazed he was at the keen interest his son had acquired in boating and thanked me for my efforts in educating young kids.

The father’s story recalled to me a another day that a fast approaching storm was headed for my charter boat when I had a full load of passengers. A mother and her young son were very frightened. My deck hand had his hands full trying to calm them, but I couldn’t leave the helm to assist. When I looked back a little later, the son of a man who went with me often had sat down next to the panicked woman and her little boy. He had helped the boy put on his life jacket and was patting the mother on her back. It was remarkable how knowledge of the operation of the boat, learned from previous trips, enabled him to display the confidence to calm the distressed passengers.

Many states require young boat operators to complete boating safety classes before they can legally run a boat or PWC. If your family doesn’t have a boat, your kids can still benefit from the classes, because they may go boating with friends or relatives. The interest and knowledge gained may cause the whole family to become attracted to an activity you could all enjoy together.

When my four daughters reached the age of 12, they all completed safe boating classes. Our small family Whaler was at their disposal after they presented their certificate. Each of them showed great pride in demonstrating how accomplished at running it they were. They also gained a lot of new friends who wanted rides.

Our family enjoyed weekend cruises, and the girls usually took a friend along. Each of them knew the operation of our larger craft and each vessel we subsequently owned. Not only could they run the boats, they chipped in on the upkeep, painting the bottom, keeping the brite work shining and decks sparkling. To this day, they all love boating and have passed that passion along to their children. Their families go boating at every opportunity. Because boats and kids just belong together.

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