When people find out we live on a sailing boat, one of the most commonly asked questions is “does Orbit know how to swim?”
Our answer starts with the explanation that Orbit has been going to swimming lessons since he was about 6 months old. But, if he fell into the water, would we have the confidence that he would be able to swim himself to safety? The answer at this stage is no, we don’t believe he would.
The Skipper and I see Orbit’s ability/skill to swim as only part of the picture of Orbit being water safe. There are also the physical barriers to prevent him from falling in, a life jacket to keep him afloat if he fell in and most importantly, our supervision.
So swimming lessons, tick. Physical barriers to prevent Orbit from falling in, I still have to finish the netting, and jackstays are on (for when Orbit, the Skipper or I have our harnesses on). Our supervision, well that never stops, but it is a lot less when Orbit is safely tucked up in his bed with the lee cloth up (even in the marina). The life jacket to keep Orbit afloat? please keep reading …
Orbit has always loved wearing his life jacket – it has been a sign that he is going in the tinny – that he is going on an adventure. But getting him used to wearing it in the water has been a long journey. We haven’t used his life jacket as a swimming aid, far from it, but we would like him to get used to wearing his jacket in the water, in case he falls in. So, if he falls in, he knows to trust the jacket. That the jacket it will keep him afloat, keep him the right way up and that he can swim in it, until we can get to him.
Since Orbit’s first trip to the beach in the tinny, the Skipper or I would gently coax Orbit into the water for a swim with his jacket on, only to be faced with fierce opposition. Orbit was happy to go swimming, just not with his life jacket on. So we decided to be patient, to give into Orbit’s opposition with the hope that it would work next time. We didn’t want to force Orbit to do it, potentially creating angst with swimming or wearing a the life jacket.
On our most recent adventure, Orbit was happy to go for a swim with his life jacket on! It was such a relief to see him swimming between the Skipper and I and his grandparents. As I watched Orbit enjoying the freedom of going where ever he wanted to swim, I had Dory (from Finding Nemo) in my head singing “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”.
So what changed? It could have been anything. Orbit was older, he had moved up a lesson in swimming lessons (where the Skipper or I weren’t in the pool with him), he had a new life jacket, he had his grandparents encouraging him, the water temperature was lovely … I can’t say exactly what the change was, but I am sure they all had a contribution.
So will Orbit ever be prepared for falling in the water? I doubt it, just as I doubt if the Skipper or I will ever will be ready for falling in the water. But what we can do, is be water safe, be as prepared as possible, manage the risks and enjoy our adventure along the way!