Boating Tips


Posted 7/16/2012

Kids on Board Add a New Dimension to Going for a Boat Ride

Spending time on the water with the entire family is a great way to embrace the sport of boating. However, seldom do we discuss the details of what it means to pack up the family (and/or friends) for a safe and enjoyable aquatic excursion. There are a few things you must remember before you embark on a boat outing with a group of any size.

Specifically, family boating often entails having multiple children, usually of varying ages and temperaments, on the boat. For the grown-ups, this involves extreme attention to detail, both in preparation for the voyage as well as the adventure itself.

This article is not an all-inclusive treatise addressing every possible scenario. Each situation is different, and it’s your responsibility to exercise good judgment to ensure all have a good time – hopefully.


Safety issues are going to permeate your entire day in one form or another.

Make sure you orient the children and adults about the boat, casting off and docking procedures, seating arrangements, the day’s plans, and safety topics, in addition to addressing any questions.

The Driver(s)

Your boat operator should have a good understanding of the area where they are boating, as well as the equipment being used. The driver should also have a good grasp of the “Rules of the Road” and general boating safety, and a genuine interest in introducing kids to boating.

Please, do not allow chaperones or the driver to consume alcohol when taking children out for a ride. The grown-ups need to be alert and on their toes to ensure the safety of each passenger.

Don’t forget to file a float plan, especially if some of the parents aren’t going on the boat. Give those back home a departure/return time frame, a way to contact you, and a general idea of the day’s activities.

Life Jackets

First, the boat must be outfitted with the required U.S. Coast Guard safety equipment, including life jackets for everyone on board. The kids must wear a life jacket when on the boat, so make sure that a variety of child-size life jackets are available.

The children will probably not want to wear the life jackets, so set a good example and have every adult wear a life jacket, too. Grown-ups can opt for inflatable life jackets, if they wish. Remember, the children on board are looking to the adults as examples.

Have a Seat

Everyone must be seated when the boat is underway (moving). Carefully select where the children aboard are seated. They may want to sit on the bow, lean over the stern to watch the wake, and generally move about. As the captain, you have the authority to command the passengers to find a seat and stay there until further notice. A note regarding seating arrangements: rotate who sits where, so that each child gets a view from the “best” seats. If you are towing a rider, make sure to consult safe seating instructions for the vessel you are towing.


Pack lots of snacks, sports drinks, bottled water, and ice – and don’t forget the trash bags. Sunscreen, plenty of beach towels, water shoes, and some dry clothes will come in handy, as will all the supplies for the toddlers in the group.

Don’t forget any medications, including seasickness treatments, in addition to the boat’s fully stocked first aid kit.

Confiscate cell phones/video games prior to boarding. You want the children to focus on the boat ride, and invariably the electronic devices will get wet – not a good thing. Let them save the texting for the car ride home.


Many people consider their pets (dogs/cats) as family members, and think nothing of going boating with pets on board. If you do a lot of boating, your pet is probably quite happy zipping around the lake, but for those occasionally boaters who want to try taking the dog or cat for a boat ride – just to see how the pet likes it – a bit of pre-trip preparation is in order.

  • Pet-proof your boat – make sure to secure the food, place barriers in off-limits places
  • Let your pet become acclimated to the boat prior to a family outing, to reduce a case of pet panic
  • Buy a good-fitting pet life jacket (with lifting straps) and let the pet wear it for a few hours around the yard on several occasions, so he/she gets used to it. Then, go swimming, with the pet wearing the life jacket
  • Bring extra water and some pet food 
  • Newspapers, absorbent pads, a litter box with a lid
  • A crate or leash, to keep your pet under control

Have Fun

Be safe, use some common sense and give your family a great experience on the water this summer.  If no one gets hurt and everyone has fun, they will be coming back for more.

So get out there, do your best, and have some fun with the kids – they’re the future of our boating lifestyle, you know. Y


COMDTINST M16672.2D, NAVIGATION RULES (International-Inland)

Kwik Tek Inc.



Saftey Information

  • The boat driver is responsible for the ride, since the rider can’t control the tube
  • Always have a person (other than the driver) as an observer to monitor the ride
  • Start the boat slowly to take up the slack in the tow line before accelerating
  • Rider should wear appropriate clothing for the type of equipment being pulled
  • Don’t use at speeds that exceed the skills of the rider – max 20 mph for adults, and 15 mph for children (or slower as the situation dictates)
  • Avoid excessive speed or sharp turns – the tube can abruptly flip over, injuring the rider
  • Don’t tow in shallow water, or near shore, docks, pilings, swimmers or other boats
  • The tow rope should be at least 50 feet long, but no longer than 65 feet
  • Use a tow rope of at least 1500 lbs. average strength for pulling one person, 2375 lbs. average tensile strength for two people, 3350 lbs. average tensile strength for three people, and 4100 lbs. aver
  • All riders must always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type III life jacket
  • Rider should keep feet out of the water
  • Never place wrists or feet through handles or towing harness
  • Ensure tow rope is clear of all body parts prior to use
  • Turn off engine when riders/skiers are near the transom
  • Know your own limits; stop when you’re tired, and use common sense
  • When the rider falls off the tube, reduce speed and make a wide turn, keeping the downed rider in view from the starboard (driver’s) side of the boat
  • Never drive the boat in reverse to retrieve a downed rider. Doing so endangers the rider, and the tow rope can become entangled in the boat’s propeller


Sidebar 2

Crossing Situations

The Rules specify that when two boats meet in a situation where one boat will cross in front of the other, the boat approaching from your starboard (right) side is the stand-on vessel, and you’re the give-way vessel.

The give-way boat changes its course and speed to pass behind a boat that’s crossing in front of the give-way boat. The crossing boat is the stand-on vessel, so this boat keeps the same speed and course

Overtaking Situation

Overtaking (passing) another boat works like this: the boat being passed is the stand-on vessel, and the boat doing the overtaking is the give-way vessel.


When boats meet head-on (each boat on a course that would take it into the bow of the other), neither is the stand-on vessel; both boats are give-way vessels.