Do's and don'ts of boating etiquette

12th April 2021 Jack O'Rourke

Every boat will have its own set of hard and soft rules – things like who brings lunch, a ban on glass and expectations of cost sharing – but here are a few universal dos and don’ts that boaties should be familiar with.


Catch the lines of an incoming boat 

Offer to catch the lines of a boat coming into dock nearby. Once you’ve caught the line, immediately wrap it around a cleat once or twice. Trying to secure a boat by holding on to the line is only going to be effective for the smallest boats.

Then, once the boat’s crew have stepped off, leave it to them to adjust and add extra lines. There’s nothing worse than a know-it-all who might not be familiar with the quirks of your boat.


Watch your wash

Particularly when you’re at the helm of a big semi-planing motorboat passing a fleet of kids in tiny dinghies, be sure to watch your wash. You would think this wouldn’t need to be said, but sadly it happen many times. When entering anchorages or marinas, make sure you’re not kicking up an unwelcome wash – boaties won’t be thrilled to see you if you knock over their drinks upon arrival.


Be considerate of other boats when anchoring

Don’t be that boat that anchors within the swinging room of another anchored boat. Skippers need to be aware that certain boats will move differently – a light multihull will skid around in gusty wind while a deep-keeled yacht should sit nicely.  

Make friends

Introduce yourself to other boaties at anchorages, boat ramps and marinas. There’s nothing like boating and sailing to make new and lifelong friends. Boatie are generous in sharing local knowledge, tips and advice.


Help pack up

Guest crew members who are smart enough to sail friends’ boats rather than their own shouldn’t jump off and leave as soon as docking is complete. Hanging around to help pack up will be appreciated.


Secure your boat for any conditions

While boaties don’t mind adding or adjusting lines for you when unexpected weather threatens, you shouldn’t rely on this assistance. Neighbouring boaties will also be less supportive if your sails have unfurled and your covers flogged, or if your boat has tried to escape on more than one occasion.   


Let your boat’s anchor hang over the dock

Walking down the dock and hitting your head on someone’s protruding anchor is annoying and dangerous. If your anchor absolutely must hang over the dock, then cover it with bright ribbons and padding. 


Leave your halyards clanging on the rigging

While that clanging of rigging is a noise commonly associated with yacht clubs and marinas, some people also find it detrimental to a good night’s sleep. Halyards should be stepped out or secured away from the mast to minimise noise.


Run about the deck in your black-soled, dirty work boots

Different skippers will have varying preferences for footwear, but as a rule you should wear shoes with lightly-coloured soles so that they don’t mark the deck. The norm on racing yachts is for sailing shoes to be worn only on the yacht. Wearing your sailing shoes down to the yacht club risks walking stones and grit onto the boat and wearing out the shoes.


Encourage or initiate dreaded ramp rage

Make sure your boat is fully prepared for launch before you approach the ramp, or patiently take your place in the queue. It might not be a bad idea to practice backing your trailer somewhere quiet and private as well.