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Playdates on Boats

Playdates on Boats

Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored!” may be the single two phrases you never want to hear again these school holidays. So before we mention ‘play date’ and ‘boats’ in the same sentence, do not cover your ears. Believe it or not, it is possible for your kids to enjoy a journey onboard. Switch out “I’m bored” with “I’m on board” by following some basic – but very important – safety rules, and some handy tips.


Inviting friends’ children onboard for a play date can be a great activity – especially around the school holiday and Summer season.

Nic Welch, a local boating enthusiast, does not have kids of his own, but has experience with having his friends’ children on board his boats to enjoy a trip and a playdate. He believes that the master of the vessel is always 100% responsible for all on board – whether the parents of the children are also on board or not. He mentions that before take-off, some safety precautions must be taken to ensure the playdate is free of risks. This is important to allow for the skipper to relax and know that the kids are able to have fun safely. The rules for the day should be outlined in a serious, but not scary way to the kids.

A primary and vital rule for children on board a boat is to don a life jacket. “Kids under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket in an open boat under 4.8m in length when underway. This is even while drifting, or even if the motor isn’t running,” Nic advises. He mentions that if the child does not want to wear one, a good way to coax a child into rocking a jacket is to show them the whistle, which they can play around with.

Another important main rule is to tell the children to avoid the commonly seen act of “bow riding”. “Kids like the idea of dangling their feet over the edge of the bow when underway. This is possibly the most dangerous thing you can do while boating, even on a 40ft Riviera with full bow rails. There is no action the skipper can take to prevent running over a person if they slip off the bow.”

Alongside this, Nic recommends to invite the child’s parents on board to accompany them on the trip. Unless a parent is certain about the skipper’s ability to drive a vessel safely and the ability to maintain discipline with another child, parents are encouraged to join their children in the boat.

Nic further emphasises the importance of putting on sunscreen, taking hats and lots of water on board for the kids ready to go. A few fishing rods and bait can be fun if they are interested in fishing. “Sometimes a book is handy too, if they get bored easily on the journey to the destination.”


If you decide not to invite your child’s friends on board, however, it does not mean “no play”. Shane Subichin, another avid Gold Coast boatie believes that most boat trips turn into a “playdate” just the same, even without inviting friends for a daytrip.

Shane has a young five-year old child. “I’ve only got a boy, but I never have any troubles getting him to come out with me. He is always so excited to get on the boat and loves every minute of it. You can add a bit of extra excitement and keep them occupied by bringing toys – like mini monster trucks or other toys to play with in the sand. My son likes to play with the crabs, too.”

He believes that getting your kids out on the water is one of the most important things while living near the coast. “It honestly doesn’t matter what boat it is – small or big. Just get them out there into the elements – fresh air, the sun and the water.”

For Shane, even if you only have one child with you on the boat, there will always be other kids at your destination. “Children love to play on the beach and swim around. Even if the kids don’t initially know each other, they learn to socialise with the other kids at the same destination and play with them.”

Wondering where the best spots on the Gold Coast are to pull up and let the kids hop off and play? Shane puts his money down on the Jumpinpin area, where there is a beautiful beach and sand dunes to boogie board down on. “Another spot called, the Basin – on the west side of Wave Break Island – is a great spot to take the kids. It’s nice and protected, but doesn’t have sand dunes to play in.”

Nic adds that South Stradbroke Island also does the trick. He further recommends, “If you want to change things up, you could even take the kids out on a fishing trip and meander around.”

Whether you are inviting your kids’ friends over on the boat for a playdate or you just want to keep it within your family, remember to just keep safe, outline the rules, and of course have fun.


By Sophia Sorensen