Boating Tips

Capt. Jody's Guide to Boat Etiquette — Part I

boating etiquette

All right, class, everyone sitting up straight, feet flat on the floor and eyes looking straight down at the page? Good. What? Yes, Rob, you can go fetch your reading glasses, but be quick about it. We have a lot to get to in a short article.  Now, the rest of you, all set?

Stop! No one leaves! I promise you this is not going to be painful. All the sentences will be short and there will be funny drawings. After all, this is the 21st century. You could practically put this on Instagram. The important thing for you to know, though, is that this is going to make your life on the water better and easier. That’s one of Capt. Jody’s favorite mottos she just made up: A civilized world is a happy world.

Okay, Rob has finally found his glasses, so let’s begin.

Be a Great Boat Guest

We are going to start off easy with rules that pertain to other people—guests you’ve invited out on your boat. So, invitees, listen up.

Rule 1 — Don’t be late.

Being late for a cruise or day sail is wrong for a hundred reasons. Distance to be covered. The wind is going to die at noon. The current will turn against us at 2 p.m. The captain got to the boat at 5 a.m. to get everything ready and ran out of coffee at 6:30, but you didn’t arrive until 8. Uh-oh. You get the picture.

Rule 2 — Bring snacks and drinks to share.

If you do arrive at 8, bring with your hot coffee and doughnuts for everyone, plus sub sandwiches, chips and two six-packs of craft beer, you can be pretty sure the captain’s mood will brighten considerably. Arrive with all that at 6:30, and you may be made an honorary admiral.

Rule 3 — Pack light and don’t bring a wheelie bag.

If you are coming onboard for a weekend or a week, bring only the essentials. Check the weather forecast for the route. (Ha-ha, just had to throw that in.) Check with the captain on social plans. (Dress flip-flops required?) And then pack it all in a flexible, stuffable bag, like a duffel or sail bag. Then take half the stuff out and put it back in your closet. Unless you are setting off on a Nordhavn or a houseboat, you are not going to have much room. (Capt. Jody’s tip: If you are setting off on a houseboat, unpack everything and stay home.)

Extra credit

Ask permission to come aboard.

Before you set foot on your host’s boat, say, “Permission to come aboard?” It might seem silly, but it’s tradition, and it’s good manners, like ringing the doorbell. See Capt. Jody’s motto above.

Be a Boss Captain

Time to turn the tables and look at the skipper’s responsibilities toward guests (in addition to not sinking off Hoopers Island, of course).

Rule 1 — Share the trip.

Suggest clothes for the trip, including anticipated tiki bar tours or wine-tasting dinner at the Tides Inn, if applicable. Suggest food, drinks and personal snacks, as appropriate. You get the idea. Anything that will make your guests feel more comfortable. Don’t forget to bring up wheelie bags.

Rule 2 — Share important information.

Before leaving the dock, explain to your guests where to find the safety equipment, like life jackets and fire extinguishers. Slowly and carefully explain the fine art of using the head. Then slowly and carefully explain it again. Discuss the evils of long showers. If you are the only one familiar with your boat, explain to your guests how to stop the boat and call for help if you should suddenly become catatonic.

Rule 3 — Set the stage.

Also, before you leave the dock, put your guests at ease by telling them where to sit or stand while you are pulling the boat out of the slip and getting underway. If they are keen to help, put them in the stern and hand them a boat hook. We all feel more Captain Ahab-ish holding a boat hook. And, who knows, you might be the better for a nudge off that pesky starboard outboard piling. Just don’t make it anything you can’t live without. Too much pressure on everyone.

Capt. Jody's guide to boating etiquette continues in Part Two. Click here.