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This article first appeared in  Sportsboat & RIB Magazine.

When  I was young……

 You know that you are getting older when the driver next to you at the traffic lights looks not a day over 12 as he burns off in his souped up Vauxhall Corsa. What next? Kids racing powerboats and taking powerboat courses – never!

 Kids, water and boats go brilliantly together.  Visit any marina or river and you will find children of all ages pottering round in their dinghies either rowing or with a little (or sometimes big) outboard hanging off the transom. Kids can also go racing too, the K-Class kids powerboat racing was started as a means to get children into the sport.  Go to a sailing club and you may find children practising for the RYA Honda RIB challenge – a competition to test their handling skills. No shortage of chances for the youngsters to handle a powerboat then!

 So against this background it was ironic that whilst children could go boating, go racing and enter handling competitions they couldn’t take any courses to improve their knowledge and enjoyment of the sport. To address this the RYA has recently extended the National Powerboat Scheme courses to be open to children aged 8 and over.

 The new courses

 Children aged 8 and above may now take the Level 1 course. This is the same as the adult course with the exception that the children will only watch launching rather than participate.  This 1 day course covers safety, preparing the boat and crew, boat handling, launch & recovery, securing to a mooring buoy, leaving and coming alongside pontoons and being towed. It’s a great introduction to boating for children.

 For older children (aged 12 and over) there is the 2 day Level 2 course. This covers the areas covered in the Level 1 syllabus but adds in subjects like anchoring, man overboard, collision regulations, charts and tides and many other areas.

Tip: Is a Level 2 course best for your son or daughter? Why not let them do the 1 day Level 1 course first. Also, could they attend with a friend?

 Upon successful completion of the course the children will be issued with RYA certificates ‘endorsed’  to show that whilst they have passed the course they should only handle a boat under the supervision of a responsible adult who with younger children should be on board the vessel.

Going boating with kids 

Whether or not they are taking a course as long as they are interested, having fun, feeling safe and warm, children can have a great time boating – easier said than done sometimes! Keeping them involved is key to their (and your!) enjoyment and happiness.

.For children of all ages try to introduce children to boating in stages; a long coastal passage in rough seas may be fun for you but a short hop to the beach in sheltered waters on a warm day when the sea is calm will be more likely to ensure they enjoy it.  The key is to take it slowly introducing them to longer and rougher conditions gradually as their confidence grows. Before you know it, all they will want to do is to jump waves and race at top speed.

Appoint them skipper!

 Keep them amused and interested by teaching them knots and getting them to help mooring and cleaning the boat.  A five year old teaching the adults how to tie a bowline is a sight to behold! Another good idea is to delegate responsibility for your trip or day out to your children.  They can be in charge with you as their crew – you never know they may even let you drive! – they can plan the passage, calculate tidal heights, execute the passage and look after the anchoring when you arrive.  Make sure you explain that you have the right to take over at any stage though.  

Lifejackets and restraints

It goes without saying that children should always wear lifejackets when boating and around marinas.  Chandlers can advise what lifejackets are best for each child.

Tip:  As a guide, only consider auto-inflation lifejackets when the child is old enough to swim and is confident in the water.

 Opinions vary about safety harnesses and child seats for younger children.  Whilst a car seat for younger children is an option, restraining a toddler can be difficult – ensure the harness system you use can’t allow the child into the vicinity of the propeller if they go overboard. 

 Allowing children to take the helm in open waters (if the skipper retains full control of the throttle, kill cord and steering) is a great way to keep their interest.  With a bit of practise, they become remarkably accomplished at steering, the only downside being you never get to helm again! Other ideas include: 

bullet Induct children as soon as possible in safety procedures.
bullet Teach them the mayday procedure and how to use the VHF .
bullet Using ringos, skis and other water toys are great ways of ensuring they grow up to love boating.

Tip: Bear in mind that children get colder and hungrier more easily than you do so take plenty of snacks, drinks and warm clothes (even if it is a very hot day).

 Introduce boating to children in the right way and they will “force” you to go boating every weekend.  Make it fun for them too, make them skipper for the day, send them on a course – you never know they may force you to follow suit! 

The schools

 The schools running these courses are assessed by the RYA to ensure that their boats are suited to the age group being taught and that they are fitted with twin killcords for both the Instructor and student at the helm. 

 Not all schools run courses just for children but most will run courses for children accompanied by an adult.

Contact the RYA for the details of suitable schools at  www.rya.org.uk  or call 0845 345 0400 


Paul Glatzel is an RYA Powerboat Trainer who runs Powerboat Training UK in Poole.


Author: Paul Glatzel
Contact: www.powerboat-training-uk.co.uk

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