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Tether system for kids

Old 10-25-2020, 12:21 AM
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Default Tether system for kids

I have been searching for a tether system for my 6 year old. Our new boat is scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks and we want something to keep him from going overboard. He is nonverbal and autistic, so a physical way to keep him on board is needed. I saw someone use to make a life vest with a built in harness but it seems they stopped making it. I have seen suggestions to "make your own", but I would really not want to make my own life preserving equipment! Going custom is not out of the question! Ideally a life jacket with a harness built in would be available, but if not, I am open to other suggestions. He LOVES the water, loves riding on a boat and it is difficult to drag him away from the dock!
Old 10-25-2020, 03:03 AM
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How high are the gunnels? I would get him a good life vest and have someone 100 % watch him. Maybe experiment with one of those retractable dog leashes? Anything else is liable to get wrapped and tangled.
Old 10-25-2020, 03:22 AM
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You could probably get a sailing harness. I certainly understand your challenge, but Iím not sure tethering him to the boat is really a safe option.
Old 10-25-2020, 03:38 AM
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Maybe something like this would work, but a bit longer - you could have something sewn on to a life jacket to attach it.
Old 10-25-2020, 04:23 AM
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Sometimes bad things happen with boats. I'm not sure having your kid permanently attached to one is a great idea. Being able to get out of a capsized or sinking boat is part of the safety plan.

I also doubt anyone would be willing to make custom safety equipment. Too much liability. Good luck finding a solution.

Last edited by THT Mod 11; 10-25-2020 at 05:29 PM. Reason: removed comment about a deleted reply
Old 10-25-2020, 05:45 AM
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Here's 2 options
Inflatible vest

Harness under jacket
Old 10-25-2020, 07:13 AM
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Good job dad for working to find solutions to get your kid out in the water. Unfortunately, it looks like the comments here are shaping up to be a complete cluster by the THT crowd who donít understand autism or other developmental issues. As you clearly know, there are instances where no amount of parenting or discipline can change the situation. Iím convinced some people here would recommend letting a kid get hit by a car to teach them how to cross the street safely.

Anyway, I really donít think a tether system is a good idea, especially on a smaller boat. I have a fair bit of experience sailing, and while sailing harnesses are a thing, they function differently than what you are looking for. They are designed to keep you attached to the boat in case you fall off, donít necessarily keep you inside the boat. Itís also important to note that there is a big difference in speed for a sailboat vs powerboat, and that sailboats are generally self righting. I would be very concerned that any tether you design that was adequately short to keep your son inside the boat would also be an enormous danger during an emergency - capsize, fire... etc.

One thing that works great for my kids (who admittedly are younger than yours) is some oversized bean bags. The kids kind of get stuck in them and it keeps them in place at least long enough for me to react if needed.

Another (more drastic) idea would be to either change your seating configuration or even style of boat. Imaging an express or dual console setup with a double passenger seat next to the helm where an adult could sit next to the kid, so the kid is contained between the side of the boat/windshield and the adult. You could possibly even do some sort of removable gait across the isle between the captain and passenger seats. Even with a center console, you might be able to fabricate an arm on the leaning post to somewhat contain the kid next to you, but at the same time not have the kid completely harnessed to the boat in case of an emergency.

If you do chose to use a harness, maybe consider harnessing the kid to another adult, as opposed to the boat. Still donít know how safe that would be, but might be a safer option, especially if both are wearing PFDs.
Old 10-25-2020, 07:44 AM
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Old 10-25-2020, 07:49 AM
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I have a standard sailing boat harness which I use on myself when drift fishing alone (engine off only) or the younger grand kids when at anchor.
Definitely donít tether him when the boat is moving - could drag him into the prop or once moving more than about 15 knots the jolt could be fatal. I know itís difficult but if the boat is moving, the safest thing is to have him thrown clear of the boat.
You could perhaps attach an auto inflate jon buoy to his PFD to make it easier to spot him, or even personal AIS - the problem with the personal AIS is that they are activated by an auto inflate PFD which heís obviously too small to wear.
Old 10-25-2020, 08:30 AM
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Do like offshore sailboats, run a line on the deck from bow to stern, then have him wear a harness that clips on to the fore and aft line, he will have movement on the boat but won't end up in the sea
Old 10-25-2020, 08:45 AM
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The only way I would do this is to get 2 life vests . One for him and one for you with a tether between them . If he goes over ,you can also and never get disconnected.
Old 10-25-2020, 08:52 AM
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Good an ya dad.

Last edited by THT Mod 11; 10-25-2020 at 05:31 PM. Reason: removed comment about a deleted reply
Old 10-25-2020, 08:53 AM
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A nonverbal autistic child does not communicate like the children y'all think I am putting in a bubble. I have no way to teach him about falling off a boat. In 6 years his communication has improved to pointing to what he wants or grabbing someone's hand and bringing to the object he wants. THAT IS IT. You teach someone like that not to jump off a boat.

He might learn through doing, like falling off the boat and not liking the experience, but he might very well think it is fun to fall into the water and try to do it at speed. Hell, he thinks it is funny to pull the oven rack out of the oven while it is hot to get food, with his bare hands! (Yes we have an oven lock and use it, guess that is putting him in a bubble?) This is for a 23ft bay boat, so large decks with no sides. Someone WOULD be watching him, this is a just in case for when he does take off in the 1/2 second it takes him to get away and get overboard.

I do not plan on taking him fishing, it would be torture for him. He does love riding! We would take him cruising in good weather or use the boat as transportation to go beach hopping, he should be able to enjoy an isolated beach, he LOVES playing on the beach.

I don't want to tether him full time, I just want a way to clip him in underway so he can't get to the edge of the boat, almost like using a seat belt. I honestly don't care if he decides to jump in the water when the boat is stationary, he probably won't, but what is he going to hurt if he does? What I can see him doing is trying to look over the edge while underway and then falling over, that is what I want to prevent. A life vest with a D ring in it would be great, I see them for adults, I assume for sail boats. I think legally we are suppose to have USCG approved non inflatable kids vests on all the time, finding one of those with a D ring would be awesome, to clip him in UNDERWAY while being watched by an adult. I honestly don't care if it is "legal", if they make an inflatable his size I would go with that.

Last edited by THT Mod 11; 10-25-2020 at 05:31 PM. Reason: That boat is really over 600k new? Not sure how the boat maker can justify that?
Old 10-25-2020, 09:02 AM
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All the best OP, sounds like your child is fortunate to have a caring father to make his life as fulfilled as possible.

Last edited by THT Mod 11; 10-25-2020 at 05:32 PM. Reason: removed comment about a deleted reply
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Old 10-25-2020, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by fireisland1 View Post
The only way I would do this is to get 2 life vests . One for him and one for you with a tether between them . If he goes over ,you can also and never get disconnected.
Any marine canvas shop would be able to make a tether for you with the life vests of your choosing.
Old 10-25-2020, 09:20 AM
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I'm not sure tethering is a good idea, I just think that could be disaster in a capsize or fire situation. I know Fell Marine makes a bracelet kill switch you can wear. Would that possibly be a better option. Perhaps not, just thinking of other potential solutions
Old 10-25-2020, 09:29 AM
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Another possible scenario is that boat occupants get ejected out of the boat, either the child and or adults. I don't like the sound of a tether, to the boat or another person in that case.
Old 10-25-2020, 09:40 AM
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TriumphRick makes some long reel leashes.
if you go a tether route, I hope you have a knife belt on all the time youíre on the boat. I also doubt youíd be running very fast for something catastrophic to occur. But, youíd need to remember, if something goes or seems to have gone bad, first step is to unleash your kid.
Old 10-25-2020, 09:43 AM
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I saw a Trem Sailboat safety harness for kids on eBay. I’m sure there are others. I’d look on more sailing oriented sites.

Last edited by THT Mod 11; 10-25-2020 at 05:33 PM. Reason: removed comment about a deleted reply
Old 10-25-2020, 09:58 AM
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I bought my boat with the thought I will make solo crossings of Lake Michigan, which will take about 3-hours in good weather. My plan was to wear a commercial life preserver and a tether, but the more I think about it the worse the idea becomes. My brother does a lot of solo sailing, and we've talked about getting dragged behind his trimaran at speed. Best thing would be a quick-release like we had on our parachutes in our military flying days. A hook-blade knife would be good backup, but could be tough to use when dragging through chop at 15-knots+. I need to read more about how solo sailors get back to their boats when being dragged at speed.

Based on that thinking, I'm not sure a tether would be good when underway. It will likely make the face-up buoyancy of a life-preserver ineffective even at fairly low speeds. I've dragged behind boats for fun when out tubing or skiing, it takes some strength and thinking to keep your head out of the water on smooth water.

A tether that is held in your hands will allow you to relax and not keep constant vigilance, and you will immediately know if he goes overboard without risking dragging him. You can hold on or jump in and be quickly together. Not perfect, but maybe better than attaching it to the boat.

There have been a few discussions on THT about taking handicapped and/or elderly out on boats. That is my plan as well, but just got this new boat running, next summer will be time to try things out. My folks in their late 80s are poor testers, they are both too fit and spry, but that won't last forever.

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