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Safe Sailing Tips for the Whole Family

All hands on deck! Last month, a courageous crew from the Adaptive Sports Academy at the HSS Lerner Children’s Pavilion took on the high seas of Oyster Bay, Long Island hosted by the WaterFront Center.  With lifejackets secured tightly and jitters in tow, patients and trusting family members climbed onto 24 foot Sonar sailboats. After a debriefing about sailing and sailing safety provided by the knowledgeable instructors, we let the wind sweep under our bows and headed out to sea.

Imagine the sense of freedom sailing can bring! Your mind and body take control of a boat swiftly moving through open water, based solely on the influences of the wind! It also is a great physical challenge! Whether sitting or standing, you need to keep your body balanced and coordinated while your boat constantly moves over waves. The constant motion of the waves helps to activate different postural muscles, challenges your balance, and can improve coordination as you simultaneously manipulate the sails, “tiller” (steering lever), and “sheets” (ropes). It also requires a great deal of communication with the rest of your crew, to follow directions or cues, and respond accordingly. Most importantly, it’s fun and offers a boost of self-confidence when YOU are in charge of the boat’s path!

Here are a few tips for children and their families to get the most out of a day of sailing:

  1. Sunscreen!  Enjoy the beautiful day and sunshine but stay protected! Be sure to apply sunscreen before sun exposure, and reapply during your sail. Better yet, wear a lightweight, activewear long-sleeved shirt, as well as a hat and sunglasses for added protection.
  2. Life Jacket! Make sure your crew is fitted appropriately with life jackets. The life jacket shouldn’t be able to wiggle around too much, but also it shouldn’t be too high up around your chin. Always ask an instructor or expert nearby to check the fitting and security of your life jacket if you are unsure.
  3. Caution: WET FLOOR! It can be a slippery trip out there, from the dock to the deck, and especially getting on and off your sailboat. Be sure to have non-slip shoes that secure tightly around your foot to avoid any slips and falls during the trip.
  4. Eyes and Ears Open! It is important to be focused on instructions coming from other crew members, be aware of surrounding boats and their paths, while also monitoring the direction of the wind and adjusting accordingly. This is no time for a nap in the galley!
  5. Splash Zone! Who wouldn’t want to take pictures to remember such a beautiful day out on the water? But remember your surroundings – water! Depending on conditions, you may definitely be in a splash zone. Consider waterproof cases and bags to avoid waterlogging your belongings, or ask staff if there is a secure space for storage while you sail.
  6. Say Hello! The open water is a very friendly place. It is nautical etiquette to wave to your fellow sailors! Give a big wave and share your enthusiasm with the rest of the boaters on the open sea!
  7. Have Fun! Every sailor brings a different level of knowledge and ability to the sailing excursion.  Savor the teamwork and thrill of sailing! Take in the sunshine and the ocean breeze and enjoy!

Special thanks to the WaterFront Center at Oyster Bay for our wonderful sailing experience!

Sabrina Cerciello, pediatric physical therapist

Sabrina Cerciello is a doctor of physical therapy at the CA Technologies Pediatric Rehabilitation Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.



The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.