Boating with the Brood

By Carson Hooks – June 4, 2012

Ahh, a day on the lake in Austin—such a big part of this city’s allure. The chance to get out on the water is coveted by us kids of all ages.

But, man, can it take a whole lot of time, energy, and money just to get your brood out there to enjoy a boat outing! If you’re a parent, then you’re used to spending plenty of time and expending plenty of energy to prepare the kids for just about any worthwhile outdoor activity. If you’re okay with delayed gratification, one way to cancel out most of the cost portion of boating is to wait for the generosity of friends. In that case, if/when the invitation comes, thank your friends profusely, bring along beverages and food, and contribute to their fuel fund.

Our family’s boat outings have been with our generous boat-blessed friends. They even supply life jackets for our toddlers. We just have to supply our own toddlers. For said toddlers, we bring plenty of snacks, water, sunscreen, and towels. Then we layer them up with sunscreen, swimsuits, and life jackets, not necessarily in that order.

The sunscreen, swimsuit, and life jacket dance is quite often the most energy-intensive part of our boating preparation. Attempting to somehow convince the little ones of their need for sunscreen and a life jacket is half the battle.

Once we’ve gotten everyone safely onto the boat and accounted for, the main focus of our time spent when the boat’s underway is keeping everyone seated and secure. It’s really not that tough when we first head out from the dock. But it can become a little dicey once the kids are taking turns tubing and snacking and have become fairly confident in moving around the boat. When they’ve always been strapped in for rides in the car, the freedom of a boat ride can prove to be a little too much to handle. And a life jacket only helps so much if [the kids] begin to ping-pong around the deck.

The plethora of possible boating activities are somewhat limited by having kiddos in tow. There may be a round or two of parent skiing, but those are few and far between. Less waiting turns and more time in the water are priorities, especially on a hot Austin day. That means tubing and jumping off the boat into the water are the go-to activities.

One of the joys of tubing is that, with a large enough tube, you can simultaneously tow a couple of life-jacketed kids and a couple of parents. Tubing is easy and fun even for toddlers because all they have to do is hold on tight. That’s made all the easier with a parent wrapped around them, holding on with them. This way, I get an up-close look at the expressions of exhilaration on my kids’ faces as we skid across the water.

When we need to take a tubing break, we can anchor the boat in a quiet cove. There, the little life-jacketed ones can jump in with abandon, swim/paddle around to the ladder, and climb back onto the boat in order to do it all over again. As long as they’re periodically fed and watered, they can keep up this routine for quite some time.

One of the best things about boating with kids—they’re okay with being on the only boat in the cove. They aren’t at all interested in visiting the infamous “party coves.” Not yet, anyway.


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