I like hellosailor's idea of a large water rescue dog...but I'm also partial to newfies...
I don't think that requiring them to wear PFDs 24/7 or keeping them on a leash is really the appropriate way to keep them from drowning. I grew up playing around docks and the water, and having to wear a PFD 24/7 would have driven me crazy.
With toddlers, like your 2 & 3 year old, having them wear PFDs, and keeping them limited in where they can go is probably an excellent idea, but once they are a bit older, it isn't going to work as well. The fact that you have a catamaran makes this a fair bit easier, as the large bridge deck/saloon/cockpit gives them a fairly decent area to roam about in, yet can be closed off fairly well, to prevent them from going forward or falling off the boat.
In generally, once children are older than six or seven, they can usually handle themselves around the water and follow basic guidelines pretty well, better than many adults I know. If you have some basic rules, like you must wear your PFD if you're on the docks/boats at night or in bad weather, and the like, but aren't too rigid and require that they wear them 24/7, it is far more likely that they will listen to the rules.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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