Honorary First Mates

MarineMax Offers Boating Classes for the Whole Family


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One of the very best things about boating—actually, perhaps it is the best—is that it truly is an activity for the whole family. Here at MarineMax, we say that we are “United by Water,” and much of that extends to the families who spend their weekends and summers out on the water. There’s nothing better than everyone piling onto the boat and spending the entire day out in the sun together. After all, the water is an escape away from the everyday demands of work, school and technology. By week’s end, everyone in the family will be craving a getaway, and it’s best to do it together.

Many couples who loved boating as a twosome are excited when their kids are old enough to get involved in the sport, but of course, the most important part about being on the water is making sure everyone’s expertise is a priority. And it definitely is at MarineMax. That’s why we offer our Kids in Boating classes, which can help introduce children and adolescents to the ways of the water, prepare them to be your first mates, and teach them ways they, too, can get involved in boating. These specially designed courses are exclusively for children and take a fun and educational approach to learning the rules of the water.

Captain Brad Schultz, who works at the MarineMax Yacht Service Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, says that getting kids boating at a young age helps them to acquire skills they will use for years to come. “The benefits of boating at an early age are many,” he says. “It instills confidence and promotes an active, healthy lifestyle. A lot of good habits and skills learned early on help make a good, strong foundation.”

MarineMax Kids in Boating classes usually take place on Saturday mornings and are a mix of both classroom and hands-on lessons. Classes cover topics like docking, boat handling, the “rules of the road,” basic knot tying, and boating terminology. And of course, much of the class’ focus is on teaching kids to stay safe as they have fun on the water, whether it’s while they’re helping with boating tasks or taking part in water sports. “In the MarineMax Kids in Boating class, the kids learn safety first. We go over life vests, where they should and should not be when the boat is in operation, how to make a call on the VHF radio, things like that. We cover the basics and show them how they can be of help to their parents,” Shultz explains. “We learn how to tie a cleat properly and a few important knots, which is usually their favorite part of the indoor class. We next put on our PFD’s (vests) and go on a boat ride. Each student gets to put the boat in gear and drive. At the end of our drive, I’ll dock the boat and ask for volunteers to try docking.” Additionally, kids also learn about lines: “We teach them which one to tie first, which to untie first, and the names of the lines, i.e. port, bow, starboard, stern, forward spring, aft spring, etc.,” Schultz says. With only 10–15 participants per class, each child gets individual attention and is able to try his or her hand at the skills demonstrated.

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While there is no substitute for parents’—or any boater’s—vigilance when out on the water, knowing that kids know what to do when some situations arise can offer a big sigh of relief. And when kids know how to do tasks around the boat, even simple ones, it truly makes them feel like they’re contributing to the overall experience. It’s the foundation for many family experiences to come. Schultz says that he sees this evidence every day when he’s out on the water. “I’m on the water every day, and I always see younger kids with their parents enjoying good family time spent together,” he says. “I also see the older kids running the boat with their friends waterskiing, tubing, wakeboarding, and fishing.”

“Having kids out on the water early is the best way to instill in them a sense of confidence and appreciation of the water, which enhances the whole family’s boating experiences,” says Estephanie Herrera, MarineMax employee. “The best reward while attending our Kids in Boating Classes and helping the captain teach the courses is observing the kids enjoying the class and being excited about learning new things. This is because we offer the kids hands-on training and other lessons in a fun and exciting environment,” she says. “Introducing kids to the enjoyment and responsibility of boat safety and operation at an early age makes the best memories when they’re thinking back to their childhoods on the water. It also builds confidence at an early age in their role as honorary first mates.”

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