Navigation Basics for Kids
by Ron Presley
Make safety a part of young anglers’ boating experience.
Different kids learn differently at different ages, but simple, proper navigation skills can begin fairly young. Most kids enjoy driving the boat with adult assistance at first and by themselves later. There is no better time to teach some basic navigation skills.
When boaters earn a Captain’s License they have to learn “Rules of the Road.” Three simple rules shown in the diagram can be taught easily to youth anglers as a start to their boating education. The visual is a good reminder to all anglers and a great prop for teaching the kids.
Start by teaching the young angler the difference between the port and starboard side of the boat. When they grasp those concepts, add the stern to their vocabulary before going on to the navigation rules.
Be patient when teaching because it may not go exactly like you plan. I recall teaching my grandson port and starboard. While motioning to the left side of the boat I would tell him that was the port side of the boat. Then I would ask what side of the boat is this? His response would be the port side.
Likewise, I would go through a similar learning process on the right side until he recognized and understood that it was the starboard side.
Then I decided to test my teaching abilities. I picked up the anchor and mimicked throwing it out the left side of the boat.
“If I throw the anchor out this side,” I said. “Where will it be?”
“In the water,” he replied.
I was surprised but quickly learned that I would need to reinforce my teaching. Kids can learn quickly but be patient with them. The time you take will pay off many times over as they mature in their boating and angling pursuits.
Once port, starboard, and stern are in their vocabulary you can move on to the more important issues of proper navigation. Depending on their age, this might simply be verbal explanations as you are driving the boat and another boat is approaching. As they get older it can be them driving the boat and you instructing them as another boat approaches.
Continue to reinforce their vocabulary by using the terms port, starboard, and stern as you instruct on the appropriate behavior under different circumstances. When you are in these learning situations with youth never go too fast. Just take it easy, give plenty of verbal instructions, and always be on the lookout for those boaters that don’t follow the rules.
Finally, be a good role model. Practice respectful boating and give other boaters the space and the respect they need and deserve. Early lessons in safety and navigation can pay big dividends in fun on the water and memories made.