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Good Manners on the Waves: How to Be a Gracious Boater

Operating a boat requires proper interactions with guests, other boaters
BY Bill Lindsey TIMEAugust 15, 2022 PRINT

There are few things as freeing and enjoyable as a day on the water at the wheel of your boat. By practicing nautical etiquette with other boat traffic and your guests, you can make it a great day for everyone.

Enjoy the Day

A day spent boating can be a relaxing, invigorating experience, so make a point to leave stress at the dock, and mute your phone. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, making it a point to wave to passing boaters. On a related note, if you notice another boat showing signs of difficulty, such as drifting with no power, put out a few fenders (boat bumpers) and carefully pull alongside to offer assistance.

Take Care of the Guests

Not everyone is comfortable out on the water, so keep an eye on your guests, watching for signs of nervousness or fear. Offer them a life preserver, making sure no one makes fun of them for wearing it. Let them take the wheel in open areas so they can become more involved and thus more relaxed. In the event any of the guests clearly aren’t enjoying the adventure, get them back on firm ground ASAP.

Be a Good Captain

You’re responsible for the safety and well-being of your passengers the entire time you’re on the water, so cater to their needs to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience. Provide them with water and snacks. Show them the location of the first-aid kit. Give them a brief demonstration of how the boat and its VHF two-way radio operates; if for any reason you were to become incapacitated, they need to know how to get back to shore or to summon help.

Mind Speed Limits

Open stretches of water will tempt you to push the throttle forward for more speed, but before doing so, make sure it’s permissible to do so, and most importantly, let your passengers know the plan. Surprising them may mean they are jostled, fall off their seat, or even splash overboard. Obey no-wake zones and low wake signs; you “own” your boat’s wake, making you responsible for any damage or injuries it may cause.

Check Before You Dock

If your destination is another marina or a waterfront restaurant, check before docking the boat or maneuvering it into an empty slip (boat parking space). Popular waterfront destinations may have employees who can assist you with docking, especially if they need to have you secure your boat to another one. At a marina, an empty slip may just mean its owner is on the water, so taking it is as bad as parking your car in a reserved space.

Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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