Recently I saw the awful awful news of the two children who had drowned whilst out in a canoe in Scotland and again my heart just lurched, it appears there are so many accidents happening at the moment involving children drowning and each one just breaks me a little bit more.
We as a family spend a LOT of time in and around the sea in Wales, both out on the boat and around the marina, and so its a subject really close to my heart, with three children, one of them a complete non swimmer who also has NO fear of water, we spend most of time there panicking about Little Miss and fearing what might happen if we diverted our attention even for a moment.
Its fair to say through our own ignorance and stupidity we have had some near misses, but from that learnt some very valuable lessons and now I couldn’t imagine ever having been so foolish before.
Its also accurate to say that this pretty constant fear has actually removed a LOT of the fun and relaxation from our time around the boat, anxiety levels always being hiked up to the limit when Little Miss is around or even in preparation for her coming down to the boat, it almost put my husband off boating completely.
We have set rules for children on the boat, firstly lifejackets, proper ones, not the crappy ones they give you for casual boat trips, those polystyrene filled next to useless things – seriously dont ever put your child in one of those if they are less than a pretty competent swimmer.
The life jackets you need are based on weight and height and age/swimming ability, for example, for a young baby/toddler you need a life jacket that goes up and under the baby, with a crutch strap so it clips underneath, like a body vest, in order to stop the baby slipping down and through the bottom of the life jacket, it needs to be buoyancy weighted so that if the child ends up in the sea, it will force them onto their back, keeping their face out of the water and will not allow them to slump forward, they generally have a large collar so that the head is all but lifted out of the water completely, this is a minimum. More able swimmers can have auto inflating lifejackets, that inflate on impact with the water.
The seams should be checked as well as the weight restrictions to make sure its still appropriate for the child, and secondly life jackets only work IF PEOPLE ARE WEARING THEM. That sounds obvious doesnt it but you would be STUNNED how many families I see out on boats with children wearing absolutely NO form of buoyancy aids and it makes my heart race when I see it.
Lifejackets can be properly fitted by good marine shops and they are an investment that anyone who spends a reasonable amount of time round the water just CANNOT do without. They start really reasonably priced too, from £25 and you can see the selection available on this website
Our rule is that no-one steps on the boat without a life jacket, ever. The jackets go on in the car park and stay on the whole time, getting around the marina is just if not more treacherous than being out at see with its slippery jetties, ropes and cleats, so having a life jacket on just to walk round the marina is also non negotiable.
It makes me want to cry when I see children on the marina without their life jackets on, just last week my husband was horrified to see a toddling baby, waddling down the jetty with no life jacket and her mother steps away from her, you might think well her mother was there, nope, one slip and she would have been straight in, straight down & under, and its a good 2 foot drop just into the water. It makes me feel sick just to think about it.
That same weekend I saw a man load a less that 6 month old baby, plus a 3ish year old with his wife in an inflatable canoe, in a 17 mph wind, at sea, it was brutal, huge waves, strong winds and completely unsuitable conditions in my opinion. Fair enough to put yourself at risk some might say? but with a tiny family like that? The one small light on that horizon was that they were all wearing adequate life jackets, but really would you want YOUR family upturned in a sea like that? I don’t think so. I actually couldnt watch as they set off.
I wrote about this last year in another post here after another near miss on a popular beach and so here I am again spouting on about water safety and life jackets, please please please think and think again, have a plan and work out worst case scenarios so you can be prepared, most people think they would just call for help on their phone, but no phone will work if submerged and so what happens then?
My heart just breaks for another poor family broken apart by the danger of the water, its so so sad. My sincerest condolences go out to them, looking back there are times when I think that could so easily have been us and the consequences are just unthinkable