What You Need to Know about Kids, Boats and Safety

Kids and water go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whether it's kayaking, river rafting or sailing, kids love water adventures. So for our summer vacation, my husband and I introduced our kids, ages six and nine, to our longtime passion: boating. We chartered a powerboat for a two-week tour of Desolation Sound in British Columbia.

We were sure the trip would be fun and educational for our kids. But deep water, relentless sun and slippery decks brought up serious safety concerns. My husband and I would need to devote all our attention to operating the boat; our kids would be left unsupervised. We also worried that the kids wouldn't share our enthusiasm for the water when confined to a 42-foot boat all day.

To our delight, the kids took to the vacation with gusto. Both helped dock and drive the boat. They read the compass and helped create meals with our catch. We spent hours exploring tidal pools and rocky shores, where the kids searched for jellyfish (catching them with a colander found in the galley), collected curious shells, skipped rocks and hung from the edge of a dock to touch and examine colorful anemone gardens. Later in the day they occupied themselves by reading bird and marine wildlife books and learned to identify numerous birds, fish and plants.

Best of all, we spent intense time together as a family, without movies, distracting telephone calls or play dates with school friends. The quiet starry nights were a calm background for our family domino games, which drew us closer in ways that we don't always find at home. In short, the trip was an unmitigated success.

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