It’s safe to say we all know the basic rules of etiquette: elbows off the dinner table, saying please and thank you, etc. But what about when you’re sailing? What are the etiquette rules for boaters? Sailing dos and don’ts can be divided into two categories. The first is behaviour on board on the open water and the second is what to do in port. There are plenty of unwritten rules for both – mostly based on common sense. Our guide will help you navigate the niceties of the boating world.
The rules of the water
Common sense dictates the rules of the water. When you’re out on your boat, you’ll want to ensure smooth sailing for both you and your fellow boaters. This is easily achieved with two key rules: the right of way (make sure big boats have plenty of space!) and being aware of your wake. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to enjoy lunch on deck when suddenly your table is upset by wake. Think of others, don’t rock their boat!
Another unwritten rule is to help others! Be the knight in shining armour of the water. If you see someone struggling, assess the safety of your own crew then proceed to lend a helping hand as best you can.
Last but certainly not least, leave the water as it’s meant to be, pristine and sparkling. Clean waterways are one of the things that make boating so pleasurable. Collect your rubbish in bags rather than toss it overboard. Doing so will set a good example for other sailors.
The rules of the deck
If there is any one rule to follow on board, it’s this: listen to the captain. The captain is the boss and whatever they say, goes. Listening to the captain will ensure safe and happy sailing for all aboard.
Boats also tend to have small living spaces – be mindful of the space of others, pack your things in a duffle rather than an inflexible case and keep your area neat and tidy.
A final point is to engage in a discussion with everyone you’re travelling with regarding duties and water usage. There’s always lots to be done on a boat so divvy up the chores equally and according to ability. With a finite amount of water aboard, it’s important to make water usage rules clear. Long, hot showers are always lovely but wait till you’re back home to indulge.
The rules of the port
From entering the port to your behaviour while moored, there will be lots of eyes on you so knowledge of sailing etiquette is of the utmost importance. Here are some quick tips to make a grand entrance. Considering others is key. As with on the open water, make space for other boaters and be mindful of your wake. Your boat should always be in tip-top shape while in port. This means a tidy deck, properly packed sails and furled lines. General respect for others while moored is always appreciated by other boaters – don’t be loud late into the night, and respect the rules of the marina and local customs.
When in doubt, trust your common sense, be mindful of others and protect the environment around you. Whether you like to jet around in a powerboat, honour maritime history in a classic boat, fish to your heart’s content or head out to sea in a sailboat, these tips will set you up for sailing success.
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