Boating Etiquette 101

August 29, 2011
boating etiquette

Proper manners—the art of practicing good social graces—transcend beyond dry land with something salty dogs call “boating etiquette.” Whether you’re going out on the water for an afternoon of sailing, or for a weekend of sea-faring adventures, the first rule of thumb when you’re a guest on someone’s boat is that the captain (or the skipper) is boss. His boat. His rules. Here are some more tips to ensure you’ll get invited back the next time the boat leaves the dock:

  1. Ask permission before boarding. When boarding a boat, always ask permission from the person onboard first. “Permission to come aboard” is a standard, and appreciated, boater’s courtesy.
  2. Buy the fuel. If you’re an invited guest, you should offer to pay for the cost of the fuel. It’s the least you can do and will show your gratitude for being invited along for the ride.
  3. Don’t show up empty-handed. You can bet your host was at the dock before sunrise readying the boat for the journey. Offer to bring along lunch for everyone. Your skipper will appreciate having one less thing to prepare.
  4. Pack light, but smart. Bring the minimum amount of clothing for the climate—to conserve space on the boat—but be prepared. Sunscreen, sunglasses, sea sickness medication, a waterproof jacket, non-slip footer, and a warm sweater should be on your list.
  5. Play it safe. Be sure you know the “rules” of the boat. If you’re captain doesn’t tell you where the safety vests are, ask. And don’t mess with the dials, buttons, gauges, radios, or anything that even resembles an electronic instrument used to keep the boat afloat.
  6. Help the skipper. Help the skipper only if given specific instructions. This is not the time to improvise.
  7. Stay out of the way. Use common sense here. The captain has a lot to think about—traffic, weather, waves, the best place to find fish—A boat is a small space, so stay out of the way when you need to.
  8. Ask before you “go.” Before you use the “head,” get proper operating instructions. No two marine heads operate alike and a clog caused by excessive amounts of toilet tissue can be expensive (and messy!) In some boats, “if it did not go in your mouth it does not go in the head,” so it’s better to ask first!
  9. Quiet down. If you’re a nighthawk, and you’re spending the night at sea with friends, be sure to keep the noise to a minimum after the “early-to-bed” guests have turned in for the night.
  10. Keep it clean. Another no-brainer here, but “If you make a mess, clean it up,” or you’re likely to be removed from the captain’s guest list the next time he sets sail. Be sure to dispose of the trash AFTER you dock.
  11. Don’t rock the boat. Wait until the boat has docked to gather your personal items and make your way off the boat. The sudden shift can distract the captain as he is trying to dock.

Within 24 hours of returning to shore, be sure to send a personalized thank-you note to your captain. It’s not only good etiquette, it will keep you in the captain’s good graces the next time he’s looking for a shipmate!

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Posted by Margaret in Everyday Etiquette and tagged .


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