Boating is a fun and exciting adventure to be enjoyed by all the family. When it comes to taking infants and kids on boats, with the right approach, precautions and measures, you can still have a great time together! Check out the tips provided by Maritime MT Training Centre together with Transport Malta to enjoy this experience to the maximum!
When boating, it is important to be observant of the law so that everyone can have fun at sea. In recent years, the number of boats in our seas has increased tenfold, which requires more than ever that everyone complies with the law and respects other boaters whilst navigating.
Safety and rescue equipment on board boats and small vessels, both private and commercial, is required by law. Commercial vessels must comply with the conditions imposed by the license issued to them. It is important that anyone who operates a boat or a small vessel, keep themselves informed by reading the legal notices that the Authority issues and updates periodically – for example, we would like to refer to Port Notice 06/2018.
When it comes to infants, children and anyone who is not able to swim alone, they should always wear a lifejacket which helps one to keep afloat in the event of an accident and/or emergency.
Which is the right lifejacket?
There are several types of personal flotation devices/ lifejackets to keep you afloat. In the circumstances we are referring to in this article, the proper lifejackets that the boat must be equipped with, one for each person allowed on board, should be classified as 100N, TYPE 2, EPP III, and carrying a CE marking.
For this type of lifejacket to be effective, it is important to note the manufacturer’s instructions. These lifejackets are specially designed so that if a baby or a person falls into the sea, the lifejacket will automatically turn the user facing upwards with their breathing ways clear from the water. In the case of infants and young children, a suitable lifejacket must have:
- cushioning around the head to protect from falls
- straps that go between the legs and fasten to the waist to prevent the jacket from sliding off the child
The lifejackets for infants and children are specially designed for them and their needs and the same applies for lifejackets designed for adults. The wrong lifejacket or wrong use of a lifejacket could result in a fatality.
When choosing the appropriate life jacket, the most important factor is the weight of the user rather than their age. The life jackets approved for sale across European markets should indicate the minimum and maximum weight that a user must have when donning the device. Therefore if a newborn weighs about 3 kg, it is useless and more dangerous to put them in a lifejacket indicated for someone with a minimum weight of 9kg. Also, it is very important to periodically check that the life jackets are still performing to their expected delivery and can therefore withstand the weight of the child, especially if the device was bought when they were still newborns.
How to keep babies and children on board
It is very important that babies are never taken on board a boat strapped to a car seat or baby bouncer. In case of an accident, these types of seats will hamper the operation of rescue equipment and even lead to the child’s drowning since such equipment is not expected to float. You can use a baby bouncer to keep your child in a comfortable position as long as they are not strapped to it and wearing the lifejacket. It is also important that babies and children are always kept in the shade, with plenty of fresh air circulation.
To board a baby on a boat there are two methods of approach. Always harness the baby and or child into the lifejacket while still ashore. Then either pass the child to someone who is already safely on the boat, or else hold onto the baby yourself and board the boat with the help of someone who can help you maintain balance. It is important that in both scenarios, a third person is checking that the boat remains stable during this process. Speed with children on boardAnother very important consideration when taking children boating is speed. Ideally with children on board, the speed at which you travel should not exceed 5 knots (9km/hr). It is also important that you sail under steady weather, calm sea and keeping close to shore. A little common sense should come in handy when evaluating whether your decisions and actions are safe for your passengers. In other words, if it is evident that a child is afraid, keep a low speed. Remember that in ports the maximum speed allowed by law is 10 knots (18km/hr). This also applies to when travelling up to 300m from a sandy beach and 200m from the coast.
Always give importance to the safety of everyone on board the boat. Observe the law and comply with the regulations. If in doubt always choose the option that offers most safety and security. Before sailing, it is advisable to follow the check list that is made available by Transport Malta.