I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more rewarding than teaching your kids a new skill, such as sailing. There is also nothing more frustrating than getting out on the water and realizing that you are not prepared and the kids are miserable…

And so, what are some tips that I can provide to make sure you have a fun and safe time on the water this summer? Here are some things that I have learned over the years…

Safety first!

Not only should you have all of the required and recommended Transport Canada safety gear on your boat, but everyone on board should know how to use it! If you are incapacitated somehow it is important for others on the boat to know what to do and where to locate things. Make a list and diagram of the safety gear on your boat and put it up for all to see. Better yet, have your kids do a scavenger hunt and create the diagram for you! Crafting at its best. That way while you are preparing the boat (doing your pre-departure checklist of course) they can hunt around the boat for safety items and fill in the diagram. Then, assign a couple of items to each person so they can help out in the unlikely event of an emergency. My kids know where the flares are located, how to use the fire extinguishers, how to put on (and fit test) a personal flotation device (PFD), where to find flashlights, paddles, anchor, … you get the idea. Just because you may have “non-boaters” out with you does not mean they cannot be involved. And that definitely applies to kids! Kids love being part of the adventure, so think of ways to include them and this will also take some of the pressure off of you.

Rules, rules, rules

Make sure you go over any boat rules with the kids. When do they have to wear their PFD (aka lifejacket)? Where do they sit while you are underway? How do they walk around the boat while you are underway (if they are allowed)? How can they help when you are anchoring? What is their role is someone falls off the boat? What do they do if THEY fall off the boat? There are many different things to discuss, but remember to try and keep it light and fun! Discussing, brainstorming and practicing different scenarios helps to prepare everyone for a great day out on the water. Before I sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii I played a “Name a disaster!” game with my daughters. Sounds daunting, but in the end we all learned a few things and exchanged ideas. More importantly, it helped them to feel connected and confident in what I was doing.

Non-device entertainment

Have you ever heard of Knot so Fast? Uno? Jenga? (Jenga on a moving boat is extra fun!). There are many ways to entertain the kids when the boating fun wears off. Pack up a few travel games or have an intense game of eye spy. Don’t be offended when the kids are not in awe of that eagle you saw, or the cool driftwood that floated by… like many other times their interest may start to wain. So be sure to have some activities on hand to keep them entertained. Having blow up floats, snorkel gear and wet suits on board also help the kids have fun! I often like to hand them the binoculars and ask them to find navigational aids for me.

Bring lots of water and snacks

Just like they eat you out of house and home, they will eat every last crumb on your boat, and then ask for more, so pack extra snacks! Now you may think those animal crackers are a great idea, however let me tell you that when the pesky little crumbs get down into the bilge of your boat and get wet, they expand and become giant bilge blocking sponges. So, when it comes to snacks you want to try and pack things that are easy to eat, satisfying, do not stain, and stay fresh for the duration of your trip. I would recommend dried fruit, apples, pepperoni sticks, Enercheez, and any other dried, non-crumbling, snack.

Pack extra clothing

We all know that if we leave the packing up to the kids they will have 5 unmatched socks, no underwear, a Pokemon card and 3 stuffies — all of which are pretty much useless if you are caught in a storm! The main thing to keep in mind here is that our weather patterns can be sporadic on Kootenay Lake. You need to be prepared for all types of weather no matter what the weather person in Vancouver tells you. It is a good idea to keep spare clothes on the boat for anyone who may have underestimated Mother Nature. Adult and kid sizes are recommended.

Sunscreen & hats

The sun is getting stronger and stronger and we need to make sure we are all protected. When you are on the water the sun hits you from every angle, so cover up your head and get that sunscreen on the tops of your ears, feet and nose! I actually find that my kids are better at remembering the sunscreen than I am, but it is always good to have a few extra bottles on the boat. Make sure it is the right SPF for you and apply it often, especially after a swim.


Boating is such a fun family activity. A great way to get outside and build some family memories. Spending that time with each other is what your kids will remember, especially during this challenging COVID-19 isolation time.

If you are boating during this time please remember all of your safety gear, file a float plan, do a pre-departure checklist, and have emergency contacts handy. And if you don’t know where to find this information, reach out and I will help guide you.

Cheers to a fun-filled family summer of boating 🙂

Captain Penny

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