“My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water.” ~ Carl Hiaasen
This past summer, I had the opportunity to experience with my wife and kids my “other” favorite transportation method (first will always be a large airplane to anywhere exotic), a speedboat! Living in a small town on a bay in Long Island, we’re surrounded by an active waterfront. From kayak clubs, to fishing derbies, to sailing regattas, we have it all. The proximity to the bay and the Long Island Sound was one of the main draws to Port Washington when my wife and I were looking for a home and a place to start a family.
Growing up, my parents always had boats. It’s been about 20 years though since they sold their last boat, but I never lost my love for the water. I missed days on the water so much, that at one point we were considering buying a boat. Then we had kids, and daycare on Long Island costs more than tuition at a SUNY college. That pretty much took care of the boat fund, so we compromised and bought a few kayaks instead. Don’t get me wrong, the kayaks are fun and all, but you are restricted to pretty much staying inside the bay, and while it’s great exercise and relaxing, it’s not your typical boating experience.
We’d been holding out hope that we would just make friends in town that had a boat instead, but that wasn’t the case. We love our friends of course! About 2 years ago, a daily boat rental company opened up in Port Washington. This was our chance! Sadly though, that first year we just never had the opportunity to find a weekend that worked for us.
Then came our children’s school annual Gala, which included a silent auction to raise money for less fortunate kids that attend the school on scholarship. One of the items up for bid, was a boat rental through this new company. This was the opportunity we were waiting for, we could get to rent a boat, and our money could simultaneously go to a good cause! We won the auction, a 3 hour rental, and all that was left to do was find a date! I had already planned to take a day off for my wife’s birthday in August, and my wife agreed this was to be the day.
Before we left the house, we went over every safety precaution with the kids. Here was our list of rules:
- Life jackets. Non-Negotiable for the kids. At all times. This started while we were still in the parking lot, before we even descended down to the dock, and continued until we were back in the parking lot. At no time do they come off, even when the boat is not moving.
- Sitting down. When the engine was on, and when the boat was in motion, everyone sits. It was 23′ boat, and losing your balance while the boat was running could mean an easy salt water bath.
- Arms, Legs, and Toys inside! Same rules as a school bus! Yes, we’re out on open water, but safe is safe. Any toys dangling over the side, will inevitably end up at the bottom of the bay.
- Bathroom BEFORE the boat ride. Yes, there’s a small portapotty on the boat, but let’s avoid that if we can!
- Sunscreen, Sunscreen, and more Sunscreen. Sunburns happen faster on water than on land.
- Duh, Have Fun!!!
We kept the kids home from camp, and down to the marina we went! The boat was waiting for us, fully gassed and clean, and after some safety checks and instructions, we were off. Normally, the company asks for you to learn the surrounding waters, and how to operate a boat, before they let you go, however, with my years of past boating experience, and knowing the waters of the Long Island Sound like the back of my hand, we had no issue. We did of course, sign every waiver and insurance form imaginable.
We slowly made our way out of the bay, and once we passed the coast guard speed markers we opened her up! Needless to say, smiles and laughs were on all of our faces. It was midweek, and so there was virtually no traffic out on the Sound, and within minutes we found ourselves approaching the Throggs Neck Bridge, which connects Long Island to the Bronx. It was here that we decided to idle for a while, and eat our lunch. Before we got to the dock, we stopped at a local deli for some sandwiches. This was also the point where we posed for a bunch of photos and selfies! After lunch, we then decided to head back in the other direction, eastward into the Sound. Before bringing the boat back up to full speed, the kids both wanted a chance to drive. They took turns on my lap, and for a 5 year old, there probably are not many cooler experiences than that!
From there we spent the next 2 hours exploring the bays and the Long Island Sound, my wife and I taking turns driving the boat, and taking in the gorgeous day. The biggest perk for a parent in a boat with their kids, is the water EXHAUSTING them. That means an early to bed night! Our 2 year old though, decided that he
just couldn’t hold out any longer, and once we were on our slow ride back in through the bay, he quickly drifted off nap.
All in all, it was a wonderful day at sea. A few things to also keep in mind with kids on a boat. While our kids never did feel sick, a lot of kids can get sea sick. Take precautions, bring a bucket, or something else to catch lunch if it re-appears. We brought along salty snacks, which can help. Pretzels and Gold fish crackers are also delicious on a boat, when mixed with the salty air. That same air does make you thirsty, so bring lots and lots of drinks along! Also, bring some toys along. Our kids were easily entertained by the scenery, as we passed under bridges near the airport, but towards the end, they were getting a little restless. We had a few toy boats with us, that they were able to play with in their seats, and mimic the motion of the boat we were in.
We’re looking forward to this summer, when we can find a day to do this all over again!