Teaching youngsters boat basics fun, rewarding

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Like any other skill that combines practice and knowledge with legends and lore, time on and around boats can be made infinitely more enjoyable, not to mention safer, when youngsters are kept informed of what’s happening and why as they observe.
For youngsters beginning the transition from childhood through whatever lies between there and full responsibility, there’s a tremendous urge to take part in the operation of the boat they’re on. By capitalizing on this urge, you can keep them safer while teaching them more than they’d ever imagined there was to know at the same time. Boat operators in Mississippi who were born after June 30, 1980, must earn and carry a boater education card, the course and test for which can be completed online at mdwfp.com. There’s no minimum age for the test, though captains 12 years old and younger must have at least one passenger 21 years old or older along when they’re operating a boat. Learning what they’ll need to know to put the course in perspective can best be started through a few basic rules and samples of knowledge that will keep them safe along the way.
Good tips
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, youngsters should:
• Be shown how to stop and shut down a running boat, as well as the very basics of the boat’s operation pretty much as soon as they’re physically able to perform them, in case they should need to do so in an emergency situation.
• Help the captain by watching for other boats that might be crossing their path, and by looking for floating objects as well as submerged logs and rocks.
• Let the captain know if they hear a horn or other alert noise coming from another boat.
• Wear their personal floatation device at all times, especially while the boat is underway, and remain seated while the boat is in motion.
• Never drag their feet or hands in the water while the boat is moving.
• Know where the fire extinguisher and first aid kits are kept and learn how to use them.
• Let the captain know if they see bad weather, rain or lightning heading your way.
• Help at the boat ramp by standing clear and helping watch for others.
• Let others know when they’re getting on or off the boat, then learn to do so safely by keeping their center of gravity low and moving smoothly.
• Always get out of the boat while it’s being refueled.
Beyond learning the nomenclature of the water and memorizing a few rules about crossing another boat’s path, almost everything else has a firm basis in logic that can be pointed out or demonstrated. By learning to be aware of what’s going on and what other boat operators are doing and are likely to do, youngsters can take their first safe steps toward a lifetime of enjoyment on the water.