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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Safety At Sea and Kids

When we started our knowledge acquisition about safety at sea with kids and the living aboard lifestyle, we invested large amounts of time learning and thinking. We wondered about which boat was right, how young is too young, should we make our girls wear PFDs (personal flotation devices) 24x7, do sea harnesses exist for kids under 2, do we buy a Raymarine LifeTag system, and so much more.

Our study resulted in finding just about as many ways to address the issue as there were families sailing and living aboard. This implied no obvious best way. To share our current thinking on the matter with others who have inquired, we've summarized our views here.

Our strategy has boiled down to setting a good example. Both our girls emulate our behavior to the nth degree. If we demonstrate safe boating behaviors, they will too. Every single instance Val or I elect to take an unnecessary risk, we've just shown our daughters that is the way. So we must be diligent in this matter at all times.

We are working hard to teach our daughters to respect the awesome power of water, but not to fear it.

We will focus foremost on not falling overboard:
  1. We teach climbing up and down the boat using our hands and feet, like a monkey
  2. We teach climbing over the center of the boat, not on its edges
  3. We teach clipping into the sea harness whenever we are underway, and outside of the cabin
  4. We teach clipping into the sea harness whenever there is weather about, and outside of the cabin
We openly discuss the pros and cons of a given safety situation. We will ensure both girls hear the dialog and are encouraged to join in.

We are ensuring they know how to swim (one has been through drown proofing, and other will be going through the course soon), but also know that staying on the boat is more critical.

We practice Man Over Board drills. Each person becomes the MOB, spotter, and note taker.

For those who are new to this lifestyle and concerned about children, we offer the following:

Is the sea dangerous? Absolutely yes. Is it more dangerous than the rest of life's contexts? No.

In a land life, you wear your seat belt, but you focus on not crashing. You avoid traveling when it is icy out. You steer clear of bad parts of town. You lock your doors to avoid the happenstance thief. You move your family to a protected area when a tornado springs up. You don't smoke while pumping gas. You build your house to withstand earthquakes, but you still talk about what to do when one happens. You learn who your neighbors are, but you still pay attention to their activities. All of these are normal life things to be dealt with rationally. Same goes with life on a boat.

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