Your marine hose manufacturers talk about how regardless of your income, buying a new boat probably represents a big financial commitment. But the return on investment can prove priceless. Allow me to provide some examples from my own life afloat.
Last Fourth of July, we took the boat out to view a large commercial fireworks display. Since we never even got on plane, even though we were out for hours with family and friends, it cost next to nothing.
My youngest daughter (finally) got up on skis this year. It took her a while to get it, but when she did, we all exalted in her accomplishment, her victory over gravity, and her mastery of balance. Her smile was brighter than the sun, and the memory of that smile burns brilliantly too. At various times during the year, we were in close company with sea turtles, whales, porpoises, seals, and more varieties of bird life than space allows listing here.
Planning a boating jaunt with children? Here are 10 ideas to make it kid-friendly and fun for everyone, whether you are looking forward to a day trip or a vacation afloat.
1. Get the kids involved! Assign responsibility onboard, and watch them step up to the task with pride of purpose. Children can look out for crab pot buoys, help plot a course, or watch for traffic. Our son assisted with communication relays between the bow and the helm during anchoring: he liked being needed, and we liked being able to anchor without yelling.
2. Explore life underwater. You don’t have to take a swim in chilly water to see incredible marine life. Make a bathyscope with a bucket or use a simple dipping net for an afternoon of entertainment while lying belly down on a dock. Check local tide tables to find daytime lows for tidal flat entertainment.
3. Swing in the rigging! A child-sized climbing harness secured to fit and attached to a halyard can mean hours of fun (using common sense precautions). Little feet only need to be a few inches off the deck to prompt giggling; older kids may be ready to do more adventurous swinging out over water. Or ditch the harness and aim for getting wet!
4. Go beachcombing together. A trip ashore is the fix for cabin fever with children. Create a simple list for a scavenger hunt: for the pre-literate, draw pictures. Make beach art from found objects or build a driftwood fort onshore.
5. Build boat skills on a smaller scale. The dinghy is a great tool to help kids learn with you and become better boaters while having fun. You can demonstrate rules of the road, judging effects of current and wind, rowing skills, even points of sail (if you have a sailing dinghy).
Before you can leave the dock for your adventures afloat, make sure your family and visitors are prepared with a safety briefing and appropriate gear. Children age 12 and under are required to wear USCG-approved life jackets on an open deck or cockpit, and on all boats under 19 feet whenever underway. Avoid any late disappointments by making sure they can either bring their own, or you can supply them.
So don’t forget these great reasons why boating boosts family fun. 1) The kids are able to get involved; 2) the kids can explore animal life out on the water; 3) you are able to beachcomb together; and 4) you’ll be able to build your boating skills together.
Fun Winter Boating Activities To Try
It turns out that winter opens the door to some real adventures in floating fiberglass fun-if you know where to look. From plying slow southern waters to skidding across frozen northern lakes, here’s what boating lovers do in the “off” season.
SLOW IT DOWN
Cruise the Intracoastal
The 3,000-mile waterway, which runs along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, is not just a means to an end-it’s a destination. Explore historic towns like Wilmington,
Savannah and St. Augustine; sample local cuisine, from Low Country to Cajun and Creole; and savor the changing scenery.
Try Charter Fishing
During their winter migration down the East Coast toward South Florida, sailfish favor the Gulf Stream’s warm waters and may be found less than 10 miles offshore.
Learn to Sail
Yes, you can become an accomplished sailor while enjoying a much-needed vacation. Several sailing schools offer opportunities for individuals, couples and families to fine-tune their skills and earn certifications that will allow them to charter a boat and go cruising.
SPEED IT UP
Go Winter Water-skiing
Don a dry suit for this fast-paced take on the Polar Bear Club. Some northern rivers and lakes remain ice-free, and their safe navigation sets the stage for never-say-quit skiers to enjoy thrilling (if chilly) rides.
Sail an Iceboat
Frozen water is no excuse to stay indoors. Midwestern inland lakes with smooth, stable, snow-free ice and wind are prime ground for iceboats-sailing craft that can reach speeds up to around 100 miles per hour on their three skates, or runners.
Try a Snow Kayak
Why put your kayak away when rivers turn icy? Obsessed paddlers can careen down snow-covered mountainsides, navigating trees and deep powder just like skiers.
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