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Rules of “boat etiquette”

The Unwritten Rules of a Day on the Water

When we think about the “rules” for passengers on a boat, we often think safety regulations, perhaps taking your shoes off, and bringing along a bottle of wine if gas contribution money will not be accepted by your generous captain.

When you start to make friends with private boats or if you’re a regular on day trips by chartered catamarans, there are many unwritten “rules” of boating which, if you’re unfamiliar with, can keep you off the regular invite list. If you’re new to the luxurious lifestyle where weekends are spent out on the water, or wondering why you haven’t been invited back on a friend or acquaintance’s boat, then read the following as it’s sure to help you out.

  1. Don’t extend the invite without asking

    Sometimes people beg for guests to fill up their chartered vessel of choice or need extra help with sailing their yacht, but it’s best to check. Nothing is more awkward than showing up to your new friend’s power boat with your entire posse and realising there’s only space for six [already accounted for] guests. 11218971_10153598307402296_1435167036098464029_n

  2. Be on time

    Although “island time” becomes a common thing down in the Caribbean, when your captain or a friend is kind enough to invite you out boating, they may not be too impressed when you show up half an hour to an hour late…especially without beer or bubbles.

  3. Keep track of your friends and stick to the schedule – if you’re day chartering with a group

    11406124_10152921811243015_5425200429575674812_o We’re adults and we should be responsible for ourselves, right? WRONG. After a day spent out in the hot sun drinking too many Margaritas, there will guaranteed be one person in your crowd who is left passed out in a hammock or hula-hooping on the beach.


    12096446_10153140559718015_6742152280602524649_n As a friend of that individual, you are responsible for making sure they make it back to the catamaran before it leaves. Your party will not be pleased IF the captain decides to turn around and charges you an additional fee.

  4. Bring ice and cups

    The most common thing to forget to bring out on a boat which happens to be the most essential is ice and cups. If partaking in an organised booze cruise, the hosts may have a small supply, but be courteous and bring your own, or else sip warm tequila straight from the bottle.


  5. Keep your personal sh*t to a minimum

    You want your towel, snorkel fins, rum, purse, selfie stick, spare outfits, blow-up flamingos etc? If you plan on bringing a suitcase for six hours on the water, you may want to check with your captain or booze cruise organiser to make sure there is room for your personal belongings plus those belonging to everyone else.


  6. For the love of gumdrops, DO NOT CLOG THE HEAD

    Any boat that has it’s own head (bathroom) on board should be treated as delicately as a soufflé in the oven. Every captain instructs their passengers how to use the lavatory correctly, what you can/can’t flush, and how to flush it. PAY ATTENTION. Because a clogged toilet means a miserable boat ride for everyone else (especially us ladies) who have no choice but to cross our legs until shore.

    A beginner plumber having trouble with a toulet plunger isolated on white background

  7. If seasickness occurs, lean over board

    You may not believe it, but several times I’ve witnessed people who have had a few too many painkillers and suffer a loss of judgement, forget that they are on a boat surrounded by water, and decide their sickness would be best made in the only toilet, the garbage can, or someone else’s beach bag rather than the the ocean.


  8. Leave the spray sunscreens and oils at home

    Some believe that if you’re paying to charter a boat, you can do whatever you like. But don’t be that obnoxious guest that gets the furniture and floors all greasy because you’re too lazy to rub lotion on your body.


  9. Clean up your own spills

    If you’re on a friend’s boat, this should be expected. Ask in advance where your captain keeps paper towels so that you don’t bother him/her while trying to navigate your journey. If you’re on a paid day sail, don’t sit there like the Queen of Lala Land when you spill your rum punch. Get up and wipe it yourself.


  10. Treat your crew and captain like family 🙂

    You’ve been invited out by a friend or friend-of-a-friend, so you should already do this. Even if you’ve paid for a day charter, like all members of the hospitality industry, no one deserves to be treated like or spoken to like a servant, so help clean your mess, listen to their directions, [wear a lifejacket if you can’t swim] and sit down when they tell you to! lifejacket


Lauren Charley

Lauren Charley

Writer at aLookingGlass
Lauren graduated with an Honours B.A. in Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She has worked as a feature magazine writer, where many of her stories pertained to events, people, activities, and places in popular tourist destinations.

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