Make Today a Boat Day

The search for relief in the sauna of summer is on. One possible solution? Family boat day! My husband is a merchant mariner with an unlimited master oceans license and a master of towing license, which makes him a very overqualified weekend boater. Between his background and my years of packing a mom boat bag, here’s how to have the best boat day ever:

  • Get a boat. Purchasing a boat may or may not be within the budget, but looking for a social, boat-owning friend is a more affordable option. Also, pontoon boats or ski boats may be available to rent for the day. Here are some options to check out: Geaux Outdoors, Boat Setter, or Louisiana Tours and Adventures in Madisonville (whose boat comes with a captain for the day).
  • Check the weather. Louisiana weather is fickle, you may have to factor in a summer shower. In the dead heat of Louisiana summer, 7-10:30 AM are ideal morning boat ride hours, whereas 4:00 PM to sundown makes for a (slightly) cooler boat ride.
  • Check to see if the river is open. Excess rain, hurricanes, and other weather events can impact the safety of the waterways and it is important to be aware of the conditions.
  • Pack a portable cell phone charger.
  • Make sure everyone has a life jacket. Kids aged sixteen and under must wear a coast guard approved life jacket, whereas everyone else aged over sixteen years old just has to have a life jacket on board. Save yourself the wildlife and fisheries ticket.
  • Make sure you have plenty of gas. Gas gauges on boats are notoriously unreliable, so fill up with ethanol-free gas (the most boat-friendly kind of gas.)
  • Keep the sunscreen and bug spray handy. Sunglasses are a must, but wear hats at your own risk. Some float and can be salvaged should they go flying, whereas others fall to their fate in the river.                                                   
  • Pack an ice chest and bring more water than you think you need. It is HOT. Pack plenty of juices, ice the soft drinks, and sneak some beers. Put some ice in the sippy cups. Don’t forget the coozies!
  • Pack more snacks than there are people. When you are out on the water, it is likely you will get hungry enough to chow down on chips. Pick snacks that will not melt (i.e., no chocolate) and are easy to grab. Think squeezies, goldfish, crackers, chips, and pre-sliced fruit. My husband’s go-to is a Popeye’s twenty-piece special, (not my personal endorsement, but my girls agree with him on this.) Repeat, get the Goldfish!
  • Boats make friends. The more hands on deck, the more enjoyable the boat ride is, especially when lap toddlers are aboard. Having at least one person with boating experience (even better if there are two) is the dream!     
  • If your boat does not have a speaker system, a waterproof blue tooth speaker will do. Good luck selecting a family-friendly station. Our faves include Ray LaMontagne, Ray Charles, James Taylor, Mamma Mia!, and Disney Hits. #dependsontheday
  • Have a bathroom in mind, should you need one. Obviously, the ideal boat day comes with access to a camp with an attached boat dock. If that dream is not available, you can locate a riverfront restaurant. Plus, having a destination with drinks, appetizers, and AC can make an already good boat day that much better. Here are a few to keep in mind: Hill Top Restaurant on the Amite River; The Sand Bar on False River; Morel’s on False River; Middendorf’s on Lake Maurepas; The Anchor in Madisonville; The Blind Tiger in Slidell.
  • Bring some towels in case anyone wants to jump in. For adults, it can be relaxing to use the life jacket as a seat when floating in the water.
  • If you have older kids, invest in a tube, a knee board or a wakeboard. Water sports can be so much fun, but it is also a time to be extra cautious. We have all heard those horror stories about accidents, so be mindful when upping the entertainment factor while boating. Not to be a deb, but ya know. Boating safety is number one.
  • For littles, invest in a kiddie fishing pole. It may or may not be their thing, but if it is- WOW, they love it.
  • If you have invested in Disney World summer gear, break it out. Cooling towels, clip-on fans, and spray bottles- all welcome on a hot summer boat day!   
  • Take the pictures. Should a fish be caught, obligatory state record pictures follow. Line the kids up in their life vests, and document it (even if they don’t feel like it). Boat days don’t just happen, and they should be remembered.
  • Make it obnoxious and themed (think: Mommy smocked dress day or Christmas in July). Or make it lazy with no planning at all. Again, you’re in a boat. Whatever goes.

It may or may not go according to plan. With a boat day, the whole point is to take a break from real life. Be present. I hope the wind in your face as you pass ancient cypress knees will reinforce that vibe. #GVO

Melissa Fleming lives in Prairieville, Louisiana with her husband, Blake, and their three beautiful daughters: Evelyn (4), Clara (2), and Chloe (1). She graduated from LA Tech with a B.A. in journalism and then earned her M.Ed. and Ph.D. in counselor education from UNO. She is the owner of MWF Counseling, LLC. In between seeing clients, chasing toddlers, and holding babies, she enjoys watching Real Housewives and drinking as much caffeinated tea as possible.

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