Kids On Board

Living Aboard

Published in the November 2018 Issue May 2020 Feature By Janet Groene

When you live on your houseboat with family, life gets richer for Mom, Dad and the kids. You have unique opportunities to “start ‘em young” on such skills as electronics, mechanics, fishing, swimming, skin diving, marine science,  underwater archaeology, navigation, meteorology and piloting. No matter where you are, life must go on. That means chores and, of course, education. These days it’s easier than ever to take the school room with you. 

Home Schooling

Shirley M.R. Minster, M.S. Ed., is the founder of the fully accredited Royal Academy Education. She is an active home school teacher with online students all over the world, ashore and afloat. If you are new to home schooling in tight quarters, she says your schoolroom can be as simple as a table or even a lapboard with a beanbag base. You just need to have a quiet area, a good reading lamp and Internet capability.

“Records are important,” she counsels. “Keep a portfolio for each year that each child was home schooled. It should include the child’s picture, a list of courses completed, names of textbooks and materials used, a list of literature read, field trips with photos and proof of projects completed such as science experiments. If you grade your child, make note of your grading scale (i.e., A = 90-100, B = 80-89). If you don’t, write a simple explanation of how you knew when your child was ready to move up to higher levels.” Minster also says it’s wise to keep a record of the many enriching opportunities provided by boating and cruising.

What’s New in Child Safety

  • One of the most valuable websites for parents who are on the go is, which publishes news of recalls of child-related products including toys, clothing and food.
  • While child safety seats are essential in vehicles, these seats sink. Boating safety experts say the safest place for infants and toddlers is in a properly fitted USCG approved life jacket, in the arms of a parent.
  • Cruising houseboaters encounter many swim conditions, from marina pools to lakes, rivers and the ocean. Families “need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather,” reports
  • Dermatologists tell us that, “your body never forgets a sunburn,” so sun protection for children begins at birth. On a boat it’s doubly important because sunshine is delivered in a double dose, from the sky and reflected back from the water. New sunblocks for the skin are more user-friendly and the exciting news for houseboaters is the choice of new sunshades from folding Bimini tops in all sizes to The company’s manual and electric telescoping and retractable shades are available for almost any boat. Its mega-shades can be ordered for boats 60 feet and over.
  • Don’t break the law. When your cruising takes you across state lines, PFD requirements for children vary widely. Wearing life jackets underway may be required at ages 6 and under to 13 and under depending on the state. These laws may apply to all boats or just to boats over a certain length. In states where no children's life jacket law is in place, a U.S. Coast Guard interim rule requires children under 13 on moving boats to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket that fits. That’s an important distinction.
  • Tom Gatch at says it may be tempting to buy a child a PFD that’s roomy enough to allow room to grow, but remember, he warns, that the most important function of a PFD is to keep the child’s head  above water. It’s not like allowing growing room in jeans or sneakers. If the PFD is too loose, it’s likely to float away while the child sinks.
  • Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma, Wash., found that nearly half of the boating fatalities in that state occurred in paddle sports. It’s a good reminder that family boating safety rules apply to kayaks, dinghies and other water toys you carry on board.

“Cap’n Fatty” Goodlander is an author and world cruiser who was raised on boats and raised his own family on boats. Now 62, he says of himself and his wife, “We’re just ordinary folks.” But oh, what a story he has to tell his grandchildren.


About The Author

Janet Groene is a professional journalist and a member of Boating Writers International. She and her late husband, Gordon Groene, lived full-time on the go for ten years. “Living Aboard” is a recurring column that focuses on living on your houseboat. Janet’s newest book, The Survival Food Handbook (International Marine Books), is a guide to provisioning and cooking with common supermarket ingredients to carry in your pantry. Janet posts new galley recipes weekly at

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