Keeping the boy on the Boat

At all costs, I want to keep L on the dry side of the water. I think that my greatest fear as a parent of a baby living on a boat is that he somehow gets into the water. During the winter, there was little concern as we were shrink-wrapped and there was no access to the water from inside the wrap unless the door was open. We installed a latch high up on the door where it could not be reached and a bolt style lock that could be locked while L. was playing in the cockpit on the warm winter days. However, since removing the wrap we have now had to develop a much more conscientious plan to keeping him safe. We have devised a three part plan to keeping L. safe.

The first part of the plan is to install netting all around the life lines of the boat. Our life lines are about two feet high and come up to L.’s forehead when he stands up against them. So filling in the space between the lines and the deck is a great first step in keeping him safe.

Second, I will install jacklines on both sides of the deck running from the cockpit to the bow. Jacklines are a length of line that is pulled tight between two attachments usually tight to the deck. Then what we will do is use a harness on L. that we will be connected to a tether that is attached to the jackline. (I know – its called a leash. But this is for sailors so we have to use fancy terms.) This will give him the run of the deck on the side he is clipped in on but still keep him attached to the boat. The tether will be about 2 ½ feet long which will allow him to reach the life line but not beyond if somehow he did figure out a way to get through the netting on the lifelines.

And finally – anytime he goes outside, he has to wear a lifejacket. If somehow he gets off the tether/harness and somehow he gets over or through the lifelines and ends up in the water – he will have the lifejacket on to keep him afloat. Eventually, I might add a water warning system to his lifejacket that sets off an alarm if it gets wet. (I saw them on TV once.) Plus we have enrolled him in swimming lessons that again adds to the safety of having a baby on board.

A. and I have really set the rules for ourselves. We want L. to have freedom while living on a boat but we want him to be safe as well. I suppose that a kid living on dirt in the city has a fence around the yard for much the same reason – to keep him safe. This is the same thing – just different. Does that make sense?


  • Norm

    I don’t know for a fact, but my guess would be that a lot more kids get hurt running out into traffic or falling off a high-rise balcony than they do falling overboard. And while you can teach your son to swim, last I heard kids still don’t have wings.

  • Strathy

    Hi Norm,

    I think you are right. It’s probably more dangerous to drive down the highway here in Toronto than to live on a boat.


  • anna

    My family (husband and a one year old baby) are thinking to live on the boat. I have read here the basic safety tips for keeping a toddler safe on the boat and I feel it is not a too big of a deal. However, I have never sailed or really been on a boat and don’t know what other safety and conveniece concerns I might have. Would you have some advise or your experiences living on a boat with a baby? Is there enough room for him to enjoy and develop? Is is hard to keep all the million baby things in order, such as bottles, toys, colothes, blankets? Any personal experiences or info you can give me would be great!
    Thank you!

  • Jeni

    Hi. Myself, my husband, 14month old son, and 2 cats are in the process this week of moving aboard a 34ft Hunter Sailboat. I am terrified over the thought of him falling in the water. We have the life jacket and plan to do the jackline and netting as you explained. However, I was wondering about the turtle watch as it says on the website that it does not work in sea water? I had been dead set on getting one until I read that? Did you decide to get one for ‘L’ anyway?

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