Most everyone has heard the mantra, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” I strongly suspect that whoever came up with that saying must have been, or at least known, a boater.

Most boaters I know seem to collect a treasure-trove of toys to keep them occupied once they’ve reached their destination.

For recreational boaters, the boat itself is part toy, part means of transportation. Since most boats remain totally devoid of such modern conveniences as television, the Internet and video games, it begs the question: How do boaters while away the hours after getting to where they want to go? The answer: Play with their boat toys, of course.

Boat toys take on an infinite range of shapes, sizes, levels of sophistication, and of course, cost. Among the people in my own boating circles, the toy selection indeed runs the gamut.

For people with bigger boats that have overnight accommodations, some boat toys are nothing more than a smaller version of the mother ship.

A dinghy is not only essential for visiting other boats or getting to shore for ice or supplies; it also helps ward off boredom that could set in if relaxation turns out to be too relaxing. Whether it’s touring a quiet harbor in a sailing dinghy, or charging across open water at full throttle in an inflatable with an outboard, little boats can be tons of fun.

One of my own favorite boat toys is my kayak. It’s a great way to tour the anchorage, get closer to nature and, of course, check out other people’s boat toys.

While another boat might seem to be an expensive toy, there’s plenty at the other end of the spectrum. Super soakers, water balloons and other weapons for the water-fight arsenal are both affordable and fun, especially on a hot day. They can also be favorites among the regatta crowd before the starting gun.

Foam swim noodles can always add a little fun to a dip in the water, as can any number of inflatable water toys from your local variety store.

Some sailors I know always want to know what the wind is doing, and one way to get a handle on that, especially when it’s calm or nearly calm, is to break out the bubbles.

Putting a few bubbles in the air can sometimes give you a hint of air movement before you can feel it yourself or see it on the water. Or, if the bubbles drop straight down, they can confirm there’s no wind at all and signal a need to consider other options for forward movement.

If the wind is still blowing after you’ve arrived at your destination and set your anchor, grab your pocket parafoil kite and fly it off the transom. For the ultimate challenge, see if you can launch, fly and retrieve the kite without getting it wet!

Water skis, tubes and wake boards are favorite toys for power boaters on lakes and in more protected coastal areas. There’s nothing like moving along at higher speeds and putting out some spray to get the adrenaline pumping and add some thrill to a day on the water.

People who cruise with kids might need a few toys to keep the little ones occupied. How sophisticated and varied those toys must be depends on kids’ and families’ preferences. Some kids won’t leave home without their Game Boy or a DVD player; others are perfectly happy playing with materials at hand.

On a sailboat, there are lots of possibilities. For example, a bosun’s chair can double as a swing, provided it’s properly rigged and the child is closely supervised. A simple piece of rope and a book on knot-tying can keep a budding sailor occupied for hours.

And let’s not forget the value of a few good books, especially if the family’s stuck below on a rainy day.

Board games with nautical themes can also be fun on a rainy day or in the evening. The Sparkman & Stephens Sailor’s Game, while a bit out of date and hard to find, gives sailors a fun way to learn about seamanship and nautical history.

There are newer nautical trivia games available at local boating supply retailers or over the internet.

Boating fun can extend long after the boat is tied up for the day or night — just be sure to have a few boat toys on board!

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. Contact her at:

[email protected]


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