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Author Topic:   what age to pilot a 15 whaler
Bertramp posted 02-26-2002 04:52 PM ET (US)   Profile for Bertramp   Send Email to Bertramp  
My son will be 13 in September. I have a 15 sport with a 50 merc. He's been in and around boats for a long time and is taking a power squadron course next month ......At what age would you let him go out by himself ?
At what age in N.Y. can you legally let him ?go
russellbailey posted 02-26-2002 05:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for russellbailey  Send Email to russellbailey     
Where would he be going? Where we boated when I was little (I'm 32) was Smith Lake in Alabama - not much traffic. Dad let me take our 15' with 70 out without him - older friends and I would go up alone to ski from the time I was 14.

Lake Lanier (GA) where I live now is much busier - lots of hot rod boats, erratic drivers. I can't imagine letting a 14 year old loose there on a summer Saturday, but probably on a weekday.

I'd be most worried about somebody else hitting him. A 15' with a 50 is not slow, but its not a speed demon or at all uncontrollable either.

If he's a responsible kid (which I assume he is) and its legal in New York I'd let him go this summer as long as it is a quiet body of water.

JBCornwell posted 02-26-2002 07:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Howdy, Bertramp.

My son started taking our Sakonnet fishing alone on Lake Minnetonka when he was 15 and had passed the MN safe boating course. He was always a fisherman and boats were a way to go fishing, not playing.

His son is now 15 and agitating to take his Montauk joyriding. Not a chance.

Big difference.

Red sky at night. . .
JB :)

Whalerfool posted 02-26-2002 09:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whalerfool  Send Email to Whalerfool     
Wow! That's a tough one. So much depends on the maturity of the kid as well as the traffic level of your area. This past summer my son let his 13 year old out alone (within shouting range) on his Waverider and I witnessed some immaturity peeking through, especially when he was told to bring her back in. In the fall I had him out with me in my 14 foot Rage and it was like a different kid. All kinds of maturity. When he completes the boating course this comming summer, and with some additional training from me, I believe I can trust him. On the other hand my 14 year old grandson (daughters child) is about as stable as an adult (is that a compliment?) and I can't forsee any problems with him. It's a crapshoot at best. But they learn by observing what we do and how we behave and react. I think they intrinsically want to do the right thing but they don't have a very much of an experience base to draw on. Good luck!
hauptjm posted 02-27-2002 10:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
I think I basically agree with everyone so far. Each kid has his own degree of maturity, and it doesn't automatically come with age. My oldest is only 2 1/2 and he already acts like he's 4. I know that sounds silly, but if it's an indication of how he'll progress, then maybe he'll start earlier than others. I started racing wooden prams when I was 6. Even though we were very young, everything was presented in the proper tone of boat handling and safety.

I'm convinced (now) it allowed me to have access to boating without adult supervision at a very young age. My son has been coming on the 18OR since he was 1 month, and will ONLY see Dad and Mom handle the boat responsibly. I was raised this way, as were all of my siblings and cousins, and we're all very much into sailing, fishing and things marine.

When my sons (now have a 3 week old) are old enough they too will be encouraged to participate in racing dinghys. I strongly use the word encourage. No one will FORCED to do anything, but act responsibly. And that goes for any endeavor, on or off the water.

My Dad told me a simple rule when we were first starting out: "when you're about to make a decision, no matter how seemingly insignificant, think of me sitting on your shoulder, and decide if I would approve of your decision. If I would, do it. If not, don't. If you're not sure, use your brain."

Chris J posted 02-27-2002 10:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chris J  Send Email to Chris J     
Depends on the kid, but if there isn't too much boat traffic I think the average 13 year old will be safe in a small Whaler in decent weather. I'd be a bit concerned about the HP though... I imagine a 15 will move pretty well with 1 50 HP motor.

My daughter was 12 or 13 when I first let her take our old 13 footer out by herself, but it only had a 5 HP motor on it at the time. We also have a 25 for the same boat but she didn't get to run that until she was strong enough to start it herself (pull start). I think she was 15.

Buckda posted 02-27-2002 11:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Hi guys -
I started out when I was 12 - but I had a restricted area where I was allowed to go - about 1/2 mile in either direction from our summer place...AND...I was in an 18 ft. rowboat with a 6 hp motor. I graduated to a 15 hp motor when I was 15....and had complete access to the other boats (on up to 250 hp stern drive) when I was 17. You might consider stepping your kid with a similar program - put a smaller engine on the boat for the summer (if available) and see how he does.

I think Michigan allows kids to take a DNR boating safety course at 14 and carry a boating safety certificate. Check with the state police or local water authority in your area for information on your laws.

My dad let me operate below the legal age...but it was in the upper peninsula in a channel with nearly no boat traffic, in water that almost never saw chop over 1 foot high.

Bottom line - I think my dad did it responsibly -I had to pass his tests - which I can tell you beyond a doubt, were tougher than the DNR Boating Safety Course - I had to pass a swim test, he disabled the engine while we were out in the channel and he made me row back, taught me how to drop anchor while I figured out how to fix loose spark plugs, clogged fuel lines, etc.

There's no doubt you love your son - letting him grow up with the use of a great boat is evidence of that! - make sure he is equipped to handle the boat in most likely scenarios before you turn him loose.

OutrageMan posted 02-27-2002 11:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for OutrageMan  Send Email to OutrageMan     
For me, when I was 12 I was allowed to take out the Sunfish, or a small dingy with a trolling motor. I was restricted to an area directly in front of the house. At 15 dad let me take out the Montauk on a small lake, but only after I had proven to him my competence as an operator and I had taken the power squadron course.

Now my son will be 13 in June. Last summer he took sailing lessons, and I spent a lot of time with him on the 22 and the Bertram. It got to the point where I would let him handle the Whaler while I was sitting on the aft bench (sort of gave him the feeling of being alone with the ability to get help if he needed it).

Right now he is taking the power squadron course. This summer, more sailing lessons. I expect to start taking him out in more, less than ideal conditions, and letting him dock the boat when the conditions are right.

Last summer I built a John Boat with a 5 hp Honda on the back. I intend to let him operate this alone, but under supervision, and when I have reasonable access to a chase boat.

I would also venture to guess that Grandpa Harpoon Harry will show him a thing or two in the Montauk (after all he is good at teaching 13 yr olds to operate a Montauk).

In my thinking, bad things are going to happen. With my son, letting him out on his own will depend on what I think his ability to deal with those bad things is.


Bigshot posted 02-27-2002 01:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
Start out small!
Bigshot posted 02-27-2002 01:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
I'll try this again.

I got my 1st boat at 8...9'squall.
At 9 I got a 4hp Merc for it.
12th birthday got an old 13 with a 25.
13th B-Day got new 13 w/35(old one fell apart).
15 I was allowed to solo my Dad's 19 Revenge(At 13 I was stealing it).
16 Sold the 13' and took over the 19.
21 I bought my own Scarab 1 that went 63mph.

Age is irrelevant. Common sense and respect for the water and machinery is key.

Unless you want to have to take him and all his friends skiing.....let him take it.

SuburbanBoy posted 02-27-2002 03:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
With all the attention to detail we frequently exhibit on our forum, I am suprised no one has commented on the legal issues.

Last year as some of you might remember, my whole family took the Power Squadron class (wife, two daughters and myself). All of us that took the test passed it. My oldest daughter was (is) 14. As I recall, she cannot operate the boat alone (with a certificate) until she is at least 15. This was true for both Michigan and Indiana. Do I agree with this law? No, but if she is out on the boat alone and is involved in a mishap, I think I would be in deep mud. I can't comment on NY state, but it may have a similar age limit.


where2 posted 02-27-2002 05:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Depends on maturity of the person involved. I've seen plenty of idiots that were 25 and plenty of 12 year old kids who can act more mature than alot of ppl in their early 20's.

At 12, my friend and I were blessed with the opportunity to borrow the Mayflower (A big Snark sailboat) and the 1.5hp Evinrude. At 14, we were running a 12' fiberglass skiff with a 5.5hp Johnson. At 15, we were using the 15' Jupiter w/ 70Hp Johnson and going skiing with our friends. I can still remember asking one friend along and having her dad call and talk to my dad to make sure my dad knew what we were doing. My dad explained my experience as "He's been boating since he was 6 days old, His friend that is going with them has been boating with us since he was 6. Both of them have been running the boat under my supervision since they were 12." This is South Florida, but it was on a weekday in the summer as I recall.

Ironically, about 6 years later, Florida instituted an age based certification program in response to parents letting their 12 year old kids loose on a PWC capable of 60+mph. Some day, when I have kids, it will be my responsibility to judge when they are mature enough to responsibly operate a boat. It's not a magic age, it's a matter of character and maturity. The test Florida instituted is about as laughable as the written test they give you to get a driver's license to operate a car. I've had plenty of people who passed their drivers test cut me off on the highway, and run red lights in front of me...

SuburbanBoy posted 02-27-2002 07:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
Based on general opinion, I should give my 14 year old daughter the keys for the family truckster, keys to the Striper and finally, keys to our Bell Jet Ranger. She has a good attitude, responsible, acts maturely and is very coordinated. I'll let you know when she lites off the turbine on preflight...


Jurisproodenz posted 02-27-2002 08:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jurisproodenz  Send Email to Jurisproodenz     
I was about 11 when first allowed to solo with small outboards (nothing bigger than 9.9 Johnson). I was 15 or 16 when allowed to take our 14 foot Whaler knock-off with 40 hp out skiing w/o supervision. And I had to buy the gas (you learn that WOT means $$$). But by then, I had crewed for a summer on a 30 ton ketch (general gopher and deckhand), raced B class cats, and spent hundreds of hours at the helm of the family 52' cruiser (which we also lived on), so it was really no big deal. I had also seen someone's back with a lovely set of prop slashes on it, seen boats t-bone others, a skier hit a sailboat, a sailboat try to take a right of way over a commercial barge and a host of similar incidents.

It IS a matter of maturity and experience. And experience breeds maturity. IMHO a gent with a new 31 foot Fountain, 500 hp and 30 hours total experience, no formal nautical education, is (most likely) a hazard to all on the water, he simply does not have enough hours to make informed judgments using what is unquestionably a dangerous intrument -- regardless of due care. A similarly positioned 15 year old with a suitably powered 15 foot whaler can be dangerous to himself, not to mention others. (I'd ban PWC's from all under 18 years unless they can pass an unbelievably strict and rigorous test -- and then "no strikes." I nearly had one of those morons in my cockpit.)

More to the point, if your youngster has been on boats all his/her life, has passed the power squadron tests, has handled boats under your prudent supervision, has made the right choices in difficult circumstances in your presence, then perhaps they are ready, notwithstanding the relevant laws governing age. Not too long ago, people as young as 20 or 21 could be found as captains of large commercial sailing ships.

I would not be too worried that a seemingly prudent youngster would run off and promptly do something stupid -- if they have had enough hours on a boat, then they KNOW what can happen. Provided that they know that it will be on their heads, my guess is that you'll find that they will keep their friends in check. Nothing could be worse than losing use of the Whaler at the beginning of a long, hot summer.

newportguy posted 02-27-2002 09:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for newportguy  Send Email to newportguy     
In Canada when a child is under 12 he can take one out to 10 horsepower. From 12 - 16 he can take out a boat with up to 40 hp if has a power squardron course. And at 16 he can take out anything by himself over 30 hp if has the course. So my son can take our whler out when he is 16 by himself. As we have a 70 on it.

Buckda posted 02-28-2002 07:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Sub - Great point about legal issues - Especially in a crowded waterway. I think I saw an official authority (DNR, POLICE or CG) a total of 5 times growing up on the water in the UP...but at the same time - I can say that there werent' that many other boaters out either - so the "idiot" factor was somewhat limited by water temperature (a wee bit chilly) and remote location...but that would have all been irrelevant if there was an accident - even if it was the other guy's fault - in this day and age, if something happens - get ready for a lawsuit.

Having said that - I am still an advocate of training people about water safety, responsibility and seamanship early and giving them responsibility as they earn it - even if it means bending the rules. Your son will thank you for it (or hate you for it) when he has the boating bug his entire life.

One other thing to consider. With no speed limits on the open water, and sensible speed limits enforced in close quarters, it's not very likely that your kid would be pulled over and checked - especially if they're exhibiting good seamanship. IMHO, the Coasties and Harbor Patrol have bigger fish to fry with the 45 ft Sea Ray that is filled with the booze patrol -- odeling women on the beach from the boat and blasting the Backstreet Boys from the stereo, all the while driving inside the swim markers and too fast for traffic conditions. All of the sudden a responsible 12 year old driving a great boat in a responsible manner just doesn't have the same "pull-em-over" appeal.

SuburbanBoy posted 02-28-2002 09:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
Buckda, you message reminded me of an experience on Crystal Lake in Wisconsin. The DNR was very active in that area, and I remember observing them hiding in the bushes to catch some unwary boater. Later they grabbed one of our houseguests, seems he was showing his 5 year old daughter how to cast a fishing line, and he did not have a license. We were able to talk our way out of that one. There was no hook, just a practice weight. But, it was not easy. It was also the last time we rented in Wisconsin.


Bigshot posted 03-01-2002 10:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
Did I mention my father was in the Coast Guard? That is why I never touched that issue plus it varies from state to state. I assumed he already researched that.

My father also trained all my friends. He was not a pain in the ass but occasionally we would run into him out in our boats or he would be at the dock, mine was next to his, etc. He would teach them how to splice rope, coil it, etc. Would buy them a fire extinguisher if they did not have one, etc. I was out with my long time friend last week and he said thanks to my dad, he is the knowledgable boater that he is today. You won't get that from a power squadron class.

SuburbanBoy posted 03-01-2002 11:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
Gees BS, all you needed was a porpoise for a companion to complete this picture. You are my hero.

The Power Squadron did have one session which covered lines, knots etc. It was of value but it can't replace the personal touch your father provided. You have set some pretty high standards here. I am happy when I remember the ubiquitous "square knot".


Bigshot posted 03-01-2002 01:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
We had a pet Bluefish instead.

Sadly I was his worst pupil. I know about 3 lines and he still ribs me about it. My answer is: I have never lost a boat yet.

djahncke posted 03-01-2002 06:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for djahncke  Send Email to djahncke     

I have 15 Sport with a 70hp Evinrude. My daughter Jessi started driving it when she was 6 years with dear old Dad seated right next to her telling/showing her what to do. She took to it like a duck to water and by age 9 handled it very well including docking.

The summer that she was 9 she and I went to pull the boat out. The plan was to dock the boat while I went to get the car and trailer from the parking lot. When we got to the ramp it was a zoo. The only way to get your trailer on the ramp was to get in a long line with your car. To top off the fun there was absolutely no docking space to be had.

Well I had my daughter drop me off and then cruise around solo with the other boats while I waited in line with the car. Just before I got my turn on the ramp the Sheriff pulled up in his boat. I thought oh no, I'm going to have some explaining to do!

Well, my turn came, I backed the trailer into the water. The Sheriff stood there and watched my 9 year old daughter bring that boat in and put it on the trailer like a pro. At that point the Sheriff turned and started checking everyone else's' paperwork. He left us alone.

At age 11 Jessi got her Boating Safety Certificate. Since age 12 she has enjoyed full privileges to take either of my Whalers solo.

Bigshot posted 03-04-2002 09:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
I love a good ending!
Bertramp posted 03-04-2002 01:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bertramp  Send Email to Bertramp     
Thanks for all of the input !!
Sounds like he's got another year or two of the inflatable with the 5hp. He can pilot the 15 with me there with him .... prudence won't hurt anyone .... lack of prudence could !

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