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Baby on Board a Sailboat- Safety Issues

Before we decided to move onto our CSY 33 sailboat, we tried to read as much as we could about child safety on board a sailboat. Every parents worst nightmare is having a child fall overboard. Now that we are on the boat and have a few months behind us, I’ll share with you what works for us.

  1. Try to make wearing a life vest a fun experience. Really ham it up when putting on your vest and be consistent in wearing your life vests to set a positive example.
  2. I wear a inflatable SOS life vest but Hil normally wears a regular zipper up life vest when carrying Emma James in the dinghy to shore. Our fear would be if something happened and Emma went into the water, Mom might not have the time or hands free to pull the inflation tab. When we are underway, Hil wears the SOS inflatable life vest to make moving around easier.
  3. Emma either wears a life vest with a leash secured to the binnacle or a safety vest tied to the binnacle when she’s outside the salon
  4. Emma is only allowed in the cockpit at this time. We have pretty high side coamings, so she’s pretty safe supervised, but despite having netting up on the lifelines, there’s too much real estate for us to safely keep her from getting hurt or falling.
  5. No toys are allowed on deck or in the cockpit. We’re afraid if a toy goes overboard- Emma will follow. If she wants to play with toys, Hil or I will take her down below to play to her hearts content.
  6. Emma James is snapped into her car seat on the floor of the cockpit whenever we are doing something that requires both our attention. If we anchor, raise sails, I need to check on anything below, Emma goes into her car seat. For the most part she likes her car seat, but we have to endure some crying in order to assure the safety of the boat which will insure our safety.
  7. Conversely, Emma James is not tied into a seat on the dinghy. This may change, but our fear is that the seat will act like an anchor and drag her down. Mom or Dad hold on to her during the dinghy rides and sing, “Row, row, row your boat”.
  8. This is not for aboard the boat, but we bought a monkey backpack for Emma at Target that has a leash attached and it’s been wonderful. Emma James loves walking around and we can ‘gently’ guide her and keep her safe while land bound. Since we are on the same 300 sq ft most of the time, we want her to get as much exercise and explore as she can while on land. The monkey leash/backpack really solves that problem- and she loves it! Emma, red bear, and monkey often watch Madagascar together.
  9. Down below in the salon, we strategically place cushions to either soften the inevitable fall or as a temporary soft barrier. We have almost normal steps down the hatch and we’re concerned she’ll fall from the top step, so we use the seat cushion to block her from climbing too high.
  10. This is a tough one- let the children get their sea legs. We all want to protect our children from maiming themselves, but Emma James has done extraordinarily well getting used to the rock of the boat and the lay of the land in her indoor playground. She still has a few falls and she’s not allowed to wander freely, but she races around the coffee table like any land bound kid at home- despite the rocking and rolling we might experience at anchor or underway.

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