Docking a Boat Safely with Kids on Board

cruising buddy

Handling a boat in and out of a slip while ensuring safety of kids on your boat

docking boat with kidsEven for the most experienced captain, maneuvering your boat in and out of a slip can be a bit challenging… particularly with wind or current conditions. Docking your boat requires patience and concentration.

Add a kid or two into the mix and your patience and concentration is further tested as you juggle docking and ensuring kids are safe. It can be a potentially stressful situation if you are not properly prepared.

Every situation is different, but the important thing is that you have a plan of action for docking or leaving a slip. And with or without kids, having a plan for approach and leaving a dock is always a good idea.

Captain and First Mate Roles

As a rule on board our boat, we always have two adults on board to share docking, cruising and child supervision responsibilities.

kid supervision on boat
The captain stays at the helm while the first mate stays with the kids while docking our boat.

Typically one person should be in charge of operating the boat or handling lines while one person is in charge of ensuring the safety of the kids on board. With younger kids on board your boat, supervision of the kids is especially important.

Depending on the size of your boat (and the age of your kids) there are two scenarios that you may experience when docking:

  • Captain stays at the helm with the kids while the first mate goes onto the bow of the boat to untie lines; supervision returns to the first mate as the captain operates the boat
  • First mate stays with the kids as the captain handles untying the lines and operating the boat

If you are juggling multiple kids, another option is to have kids safe in the boat cabin while two people assist with the lines and docking or leaving a slip. Then, you can bring the kids back out into the cockpit before you get underway.

Other safety precautions to take when docking with kids on board your boat:

  • Make sure they are all wearing age appropriate life jackets
  • Ensure kids know to remain seated at all times when docking or underway
  • Keep hands inside the boat and away from the side of the boat (particularly when passing pilings or docks)
  • Ask kids to stay quiet and still during docking to avoid distracting the captain

Most importantly, make sure you have a plan when docking your boat or leaving the slip and it is clearly communicated to the entire family (captain, first mate and kids) before you get underway so everyone knows what they should or should not be doing to boat safely.

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Diane Seltzer

Diane Seltzer

Founder at
Diane is the founder of as well as the boating lifestyle site Active in the boating industry, Diane is the founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.
Diane Seltzer

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