By Amy Suski
I come from boat people -- my grandparents were yachtsmen, my father raced sailboats and owned a sailboat company, one uncle is a deep sea fisherman, and another uncle built his own ship a sailed his family around the world. As a kid growing up along the New England coast we were often on the water -- cruising in the Atlantic, paddling in a lake or sailing in the Long Island Sound. The biggest lesson I learned from all this is that boating may be exciting and fun but it can also be very dangerous. When you spend enough time on the water (or watch enough episodes of Deadliest Catch), you learn that accidents, storms and engine failures are bound to happen. At various times over the years members of my family have been near drowned (white water rafting), shipwrecked (while deep sea fishing), and seriously injured (when the mast of a sailboat fell on my sister's head). Our most infamous accident involved my brother and sister in law being shipwrecked at sea and swimming 14 miles to shore. Based on my family's harrowing experiences, I approach boating trips with my own kids with a great deal of caution and share a few tips to increase the safety of your family's trip.
1. Safe Vessels: Pay attention to the condition of the boat. If you own your own recreational boat, you can request a free Vessel Safety Check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron. But even if you don't own the boat yourself, you should do a quick safety check before bringing your kids aboard.
2. Safe Operators: Many different organizations offer boating operators courses. If you plan to operate a boat you should take a course appropriate to the type of boat you will operate. Some instruction and certification can even be obtained online. For a list of USCG recommended courses click here. In addition to appropriate training, operators should:
3. Safe Passengers
These suggestions are a starting point for your boating safety considerations and do not represent an exhaustive list of all the regulations and safety measures you should take when boating. Please consult the USCG Boating Safety website and local authorities for more complete information and have a fun and safe trip!
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