Prepare for the summer with kids onboard

Jul 14, 2015 by Alene Keenan

Summer is here and that means the summer charter season is at hand. Kids and summer are synonymous, and the yachting world sees lot of kids from June to August. Whether it is the owner’s children or grandchildren or charter guests, school is out and kids are on the go.

Child safety is a concern everywhere, but especially on a boat. I spoke to a few yachties about their take on how to deal with kids onboard so everyone is safe and secure and happy, and each group had insight to share. I interviewed stews, deckhands, engineers and captains.

Every stew I spoke with listed first aid, food safety, and allergies as items of concern. While preference sheets and notes on family members will list food preferences and allergies, it is up to the stews to make sure that safe conditions are in place for the littlest guests, too.

Stews are on the front line to monitor what kids eat and take care of any bumps and bruises they collect. Accidents can happen in a split second and stews need to be aware of areas of concern. One boat that I worked on had a sliding door between the stew pantry and the dining room that was operated by a foot control. An 18-month-old child on board managed to slip away from the nanny, open the door and get his little hand lodged between the door and the frame as it was opening. Luckily a stew noticed what was happening and was able to stop the door in time to prevent a severe injury. The poor nanny was upset, but the many dangers on board that were different from conditions in the owner’s home had simply not occurred to her.

Other stews mentioned having a proper first aid kit, including children’s versions of Tylenol, Benadryl, Advil, Pepto Bismol, Dramamine, Benadryl spray and an epi pen. Here are some common items for a child-friendly first aid kit to be prepared for every minor emergency:

  • Thermometer
  • Ear drops to prevent ear infections
  • Child-friendly eye drops
  • Bandages. Make sure to have some cute, colorful bandages on hand. You’ll be surprised how quickly the tears fade when the characters from “Frozen” show up
  • Flexible gauze that sticks without tape is great for cuts and scrapes requiring more than a single bandage
  • Children’s formula sunscreen and aloe vera gel to soothe sunburn
  • Sanitizing wipes to clean your hands before you treat an injury
  • Antiseptic wipes to clean the injured area
  • Instant cold packs are great for soothing bumps and bruises in minutes
  • Tea tree oil and Motherlove Green are great all-natural remedies for bug bites and bee stings
  • An antibiotic spray, which is cooling and soothes as it prevents scrapes and cuts from getting infected
  • Hydrocortisone cream for rashes
  • Baby products as needed
  • Tweezers and sterile needle for splinters

It’s crucial to restrict access to dangerous spaces onboard and to limit access to water. There are so many places a child could become attracted to the water, reach over and lose their balance, and fall overboard. This could easily lead to tragedy. On many yachts, a swim platform watch and gangway watch are core systems in place to make sure kids are not left unattended near the water’s edge for a single moment.

For water sports and toys, properly fitting personal flotation devices for children are a must. Kids love to be in the water and many yachts have an array of water toys for them to play with. From wave runners to wake boards, from trampolines to slides, kids want to be in the water. They will be with the deck crew much of the time, so be sure the deck crew have adequate training in first aid and water safety as well.

Play pens, portable cribs, high chairs, and booster seats are another consideration for having kids on a boat. Make sure you know the ages and weights of all children who will need baby gear so that you buy the right model to ensure safe use.

Many children will have phones and electronic games, but it is useful to have some good old-fashioned board games onboard as well. An assortment of current games, toys and books will come in handy when kids get bored. When smaller kids are onboard, they love to help with service. Let them help decorate the table using shells and found objects from their day at the beach.

Having kids aboard can be loads of fun, but a stew’s first priority must be is safety. These little guests don’t know about the dangers prevalent on a yacht and rely on us to protect them, as do their parents. But they are still guests, so treat them just as special as the grown-ups and watch the grown-ups enjoy their holiday even more.

Alene Keenan has been a yacht stew for more than 20 years. She teaches at MPT and offers customized onboard interior training and consulting through her company, Yacht Stew Solutions ( Order her self-published book “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht” from or directly from Create Space at  Comments are welcome at



About Alene Keenan

Alene Keenan is a veteran chief stew, interior training instructor/consultant, and author of The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht.

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