Boating Etiquette 101

Summer is finally here in Michigan and as one of the top boating states in the US odds are you either own a boat or you’ll be invited on a boat at some point during these warm months.  As a person whose happy place is literally on a boat I can think of nothing better than a good boating day – and at the same time, as a boat owner, I can also think of few things worse than when a good boating day gets ruined.

I know from experience its not intentional, and most of the time the guests have no clue that its even an issue, which is why I’m here to reduce stress for all parties on the boat {and guarantee that invite back!} with a little boating etiquette 101 of what to do if you’re invited on a boat;

michigan boating

  1. Be On Time 

    If you choose to ignore every other suggestion from this list do all boaters a solid and follow this rule.  In the boating fun world there is nothing more frustrating than sitting at a dock or a boat launch waiting for the rest of your party to show up OR being out in the middle of the lake having a great day only to pull anchor or untie from a group to go back to shore to get late people. Just trust me when I say everyone on the boat will be annoyed with you and your party. Exactly why cruise ships don’t wait on passengers – if anything be early!

  2. Be Prepared but Not Too Much

    It is nice to be prepared with necessities when going out for a day on the boat but you must take into account space.  Unless your friends with someone who has a big yacht {in which case GO YOU!} odds are there will be limited space for storage on a boat so do not bring unneeded items.  My suggestion is to bring two bags; a general bag and a boat bag – limit the latter boat bag to items like sunscreen, towels {best quick dry packable ones here!}, life jackets, sunglasses, hat, coverup, etc. PRO TIP: Wear your swimsuit to the boat, especially if living that pontoon life where this just open space, and save your change of clothes for when back to shore in the second bag. ALSO if you have spray sunscreen apply before getting on the boat – everything will be coated in a film if you decide to spray onboard.  Non greasy lotion works best!

  3. PFDs

    It is a law that all vessels should have enough life jackets on board for all passengers – and that usually entails those vintage orange ones under a seat.  If you have small children and aren’t a frequent boater make sure to inquire with your host if they have a jacket in your child{s} size.  If they don’t you have two options; 1. to have them in big orange the entire boat ride or 2. get one in advance {borrow from a friend or amazon one over quickly.  We’ve rounded up our favorites here!}

  4. Don’t Bring Added Guests Unless Invited from the Host

    Back to that limited space for items there is limited space for PEOPLE and PETS.  Envision the boat ride is a wedding and only those listed on the envelope have seats at the table.  Too many guests can cause safety issues foremost and just make it generally not enjoyable when there are too many people or pets on a boat.

  5. Take Your Shoes Off 

    I will never forget for the 4th of July I invited a bunch of people out on my parents new pontoon only to have the boyfriend of a guest step square on the new vinyl seats and PUNCTURE the cushion with a rock in the bottom of their shoe… Now imagine that seat is your brand new leather couch – you would not want guests wearing their shoes on your sofa and chairs ripping the fabric and tracking rocks across your flooring.  Take your shoes off and leave them on the dock or ask the Captain where they store shoes on the boat.  Try to avoid stepping on seats and the hull – most boats have a designated on and off area that has different flooring / protective coating for this reason.

  6. Bring Your Own Food and Drink

    Boating is a social event and so is eating and drinking. So if you’re heading out for a day on the water make sure to bring your own beverages and snacks {this is a good time to ask the Captain if they’d like you to bring anything in particular OR if there is stuff to avoid ie. red drinks and chocolate}. And please know that someone will eat or drink something of yours just like your will eat or drink something of someone else’s.  The only person people don’t like sharing with on a boat is the person who didn’t bring anything to the communal pot, IYKYK. And like I mentioned, those red drinks and chocolate, do not bring items that will stain carpet or vinyl or in general make a mess ie. anything red and sticky or melty avoid AND don’t forget WATER!

  7. Help or Stay Out Of the Way

    There is a lot going on when operating a boat and the captain is responsible for everyones safety so this is a good opportunity to help if you know what you’re doing OR stay out of the way if you don’t.  The captain will usually ask for a hand when they need it or just direct to stay put if don’t. Whatever you do don’t play with buttons, don’t be a distraction {especially when docking}, don’t smoke on the boat unless given permission, don’t stand or sit where you’re not supposed to be!

  8. Mind Your Manners 

    This is one for those adult only events and the moral of the story is: don’t get sloppy. The last thing people want to do in the sun is babysit an adult, and being stuck on a watercraft with this person for hours on end, with no escape, on the water,  just amplifies the situation. I’m all for a good time but make sure you are not causing work for those around you and that the day won’t have to be cut short to get you out of there.

  9. Offer to Clean Up 

    During the day try and keep your items contained.  Empty cans / bottles usually can go back in the cooler and throw away trash in bag or stick in a section of your bag to be pitched once back.  Once back to shore offer to help unload boat, pickup, cover the boat if needed, or hose down, etc.  It will be one less job your hosts have to do that evening and guarantee will be much appreciated.

  10. Say THANK YOU 

    This one should go without saying. Your hosts showed you a great time, be gracious and say thank you to them. Many other posts I’ve read have suggested to offer to chip in for gas – I however think just as you wouldn’t invite people over for a party and ask them to pay the bill you shouldn’t ask people out on a boat and expect them to pay the gas tab SO do with that bit of info what you will {but know I, a seasoned boater, think its rude AF} – a simple thank you and helping clean up would be more than fine in my book!

boating dos and donts

Follow those 10 boating to-dos and I promise you’ll be living your best life on a boat and enjoying part of what makes living in Michigan so amazing – LAKE LIFE!

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a boat and that is kinda the same thing.”

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