No one wants to be “That Guy” on the boat — you know who we’re talking about. Regardless of whether or not the ground rules are written out, certain norms have been established for behavior on the water. The best boat captains and passengers conduct themselves with a level of courtesy that makes the experience enjoyable for all!
Here are the boating etiquette tips you need to know to ensure everyone on your boat and the others out on the water stay safe and have fun.
As the Captain
Arrive early. No one wants to stand around and wait as you check the boat. Make sure you allow yourself enough time before your guests arrive to get the boat ready and make sure everything is working properly.
Assume your guests have no boating experience. Unless you know otherwise, it is always best to assume they know nothing about onboard safety and make sure you explain to them the boating basics, what to expect, and what’s expected of them. Explain the importance of staying seated while the boat is moving and let them know where they can stow any items they have brought aboard.
Offer each guest a lifejacket. Explain to them how to put it on. If they decline to wear one, ensure they know where the lifejackets are kept in the event of an incident or emergency.
Give your guests a rundown of the day. Explain where you all are headed to and how long they should expect it to take to arrive. Let them know what activities you are planning to do (fishing, tubing, swimming, etc.), and ensure everyone is comfortable with the schedule and the time you’ll be coming back.
Share your rules. To save everyone an awkward hassle, you should offer up your rules (about things such as drinking or smoking) beforehand. Every captain has their own rules for their boat and there’s no way for your guests to know what you do and don’t want them doing on yours.
Watch your wake. You don’t want to be the one making things dangerous for other boaters, so make sure you’re not making the wrong kinds of waves. Throwing a big wake at another boat while they’re cooking onboard, for example, especially a smaller boat that is anchored, can pose a threat to their safety. You also need to be mindful when passing and being passed; leave a wide gap and take it slow.
Don’t hog the fuel station. When it’s time to fuel up, you may think it is a good place to take inventory and stock up on supplies, but a fueling station should not be used as a parking spot. Relocate to a courtesy/temporary dock if you need more than just fuel and keep the fuel station open for other boaters to get in and out.
Offer to help. Keep the tradition of friendliness alive and help your fellow boaters. Not all boaters have the same experience and it is always a good idea to extend knowledge to keep everyone safe.
As a Passenger
Pack light, but smart. There is limited space on a boat but you’ll still want to be prepared, so pack the necessities: water, swimsuit, sunglasses, towel, medication for if you get seasick, a waterproof jacket, a sweater, change of clothes, etc.
Don’t invite others without permission. Obviously, space on a boat is limited, so if you’ve been invited out on the water, you should only bring who was invited. If there are any doubts, get clarification before the day-of to make sure there will be enough space for everyone.
Apply sunscreen before boarding. Excessive lotion and spray can stain boat decks and upholstery as well as make surfaces slick and potentially dangerous. If you need to reapply sunscreen while on the boat, be careful with where the SPF is ending up.
Ask the captain if they are ready for passengers to board. Smaller vessels can capsize if you board at the wrong time, so this simple starting question can save you from ending up in the water.
Wear proper footwear. Opt for rubber-soled shoes that offer secure footing and do not leave scuff marks. If you aren’t sure about your footwear, ask the captain before boarding. Some captains often place a basket on the dock or ramp to store shoes and prevent dirt from being tracked on it.
Avoid stepping on the seats. If stepping on a seat is unavoidable to enter, exit, or move around the boat, remove your shoes or place a towel down to protect the surface you will be stepping on.
Don’t try to “help.” Unless you are asked to or designated a duty, you should try to stay out of the way when the captain is doing something. You may think that you’re being helpful by jumping in, but that is not the case if you don’t know what you’re doing. The best way to avoid a potential incident is by not messing with anything you are unsure of. Buttons, dials, and gauges might look cool and tempting to press… but absolutely do not touch something if you don’t know what it does.
Offer to chip in for gas. Gas on the water typically costs more than on land, and it can be expensive. Being chauffeured around all day is a treat, so it’s only fair that you chip in for the fun day you’re enjoying.
Do not assume. Make sure before you crack open a cold one or light up a smoke, you clear it with the captain. Just like homes, everyone has different rules about what is allowed to do while aboard their boat.
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