Ahoy There! Tips For Boating In Sydney With Kids

  • Kids

By Hayley Dean, ellaslist

Some of Lisa's most treasured memories of her childhood were spent on the water. Her parents were not into boating but rather she had aunties and uncles who were and used to love it when they asked to spend the day out on the harbour with them. When Lisa was 8, her parents enrolled her in learn to sail classes at the local sailing club, where she mastered the sabot and the laser. "I will never forget my first “capsize” drill" says a smiling Lisa. Today, some 30 years later, she loves being out on the harbour with her sons.

Here’s some things Lisa has learned over the years about boating with kids:

Life jackets

In NSW, children under the age of 12 years must wear lifejackets:

- at all times when in a vessel less than 4.8m in length;

- when in an open area of a vessel 4.m to 8m in length; and

- in certain other situations (please refer to the NSW Roads and Maritime Services website for further details: http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/maritime/safety-rules/before-boating/kids-boats.html).

I recommend that you choose a lifejacket that has a handle on it and is a bright colour (bright colours are as easier to see), especially for small children. If possible, attach a small whistle to the life jacket and practice using it with your child.

Whether you have your own lifejacket or you a borrowing one from someone else, it’s really important to make sure that the lifejacket fits your child properly. For small children, I would recommend a life jacket with a head floatation (to hold the head up out of the water) and crotch strap (to stop the child falling out of the life jacket).

If you think your kids probably won’t want to wear their life jackets, lead by example and wear one yourself.

Teach kids about lifejackets and sunscreen right from the start of their boating life.

Remember – slip, slop, slap, seek, slide

  • Slip on sunprotective clothing;
  • Slop on some sunscreen;
  • Slap on a hat;
  • Seek shade;
  • Slide on wrap around sunglasses
  • Wear a lifejacket.

Image: BoatUS website

Sunscreen, insect repellent and water

We cover ourselves in sunscreen at the jetty before we head out, and then every 2 hours. We also all have big drink of water before we head off and every hour or so I offer my kids some more water. Make sure you remember to put sunscreen everywhere – but especially on the tops of your ears and all around your neck. We all try and wear collared polos when we are out sailing – the collar does help with sun protection, but you should still apply sunscreen liberally.

Boat rules – keep them simple!

Before you leave the dock, identify the boat’s “captain” an explain that it is important that we follow the captain’s directions and rules whilst we are on the boat.

Depending on the type of boat you will be heading out on, you should spend some time teaching your kids how to properly balance the boat and the importance of keeping equal weight on both sides of the boat. It’s also important to tell kids to keep their hands and feet inside the boat at all times, and to never run around on a boat – boats can be slippery and kids can fall on deck or overboard.

Try and involve kids with running the boat – they love to be included in steering, holding the lines or even just scrubbing down the boat at the end of the day is lots of fun!

First aid kit

Whether you are boating with kids or adults, make sure you carry a first aid kit which contains surgical tweezers (handy for removing splinters) and waterproof band-aids.

Change of clothes

Kids get cold a lot faster than adults and nothing ends a good time out on the harbour quicker than wet and / or cold kids so pack a spare change of clothes and a wind jacket or tracksuit top.

Image: Manly Sailing website

Learn to sail courses for kids

If your kiddo is begging to go boating again, you might want to consider enrolling them in a learn to sail course. There are several sailing clubs in Sydney that offer learn to sail courses for kids. These classes are usually held one day a week during the school term (usually either on Saturday or on Wednesday afternoons) or via an intensive 3 to 5 days program during school holidays.

Inner west

Drummoyne Sailing Club – https://www.drummoynesailingacademy.com/learn-to-sail


Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron – www.rsys.com.au/training-top/kids-learn-to-sail


Woollahra Sailing Club – https://www.woollahrasailingclub.org.au/events-courses-and-camps/


Cronulla Sailing Club – http://www.cronullasc.com/learn-to-sail