Boating Etiquette and Safety Tips
Most people who drive a car are likely familiar with the customs and traditions of courtesy on the road, but not all recreational boaters are aware that a similar code of conduct exists on the water. Learn how boating etiquette can make boating even more pleasurable — for you and your fellow captains.
While you’re blissfully cruising away, your vessel is kicking up disruptive waves, otherwise known as wake. Those waves might be fun if you’re a surfer or a wake boarder, but for other boaters, they can be annoying and potentially even dangerous. Besides being a rude interruption, a speeding vessel’s wake may cause damage to other boats and even injure passengers. Consider these common wake mistakes and how to avoid them, courtesy of Boating magazine:
- Too Close: If you run too close behind a boat that you want to overtake, you’ll have to cross a larger wake than you would if you were further back, which can result in a rougher, bumpier ride.
- Too Fast: Don’t take wakes too fast. You should have a certain amount of speed to maintain control, you will likely want to stay within your boat’s planning speed (typically 14 to 18 mile per hour), says Boating.
- Wrong Angle: If you head into a large wake and take it perpendicularly (bow-first), you may launch the boat off the crest and land (hard) in the trough. Consider turning to take a wake on a diagonal (approximately 3- to 45 degrees).
- Sitting in the Bow: Sitting in front of the helm (the location of the steering wheel) may be the worst place to sit when in rough water, according to Boating. Passengers should consider sitting at or just behind the steering console.
- Silence: If a skipper knows that he is about to cross a large wake, it’s a good idea to notify the passengers so that they can brace themselves. If you are overtaking a vessel, you’ll need to blast the horn — once to pass to the starboard side, twice to pass to the port side. For more information on navigation signals, consult the USCG’s Aids to Navigation.
Mind Your Manners While Launching and Docking
Speed, efficiency, and consideration are the bottom line to minding your manners while launching and docking your watercraft.
- Boat ramps often have long lines. If you’re inexperienced when it comes to backing your trailer down the ramp to the water, practice maneuvering your trailer in an empty parking lot or other vacant space.
- It’s frustrating to others when you take extra time during launch to perform tasks you could have taken care of beforehand. Load your boat and secure your belongings before beginning your launch.
- After you launch, steer your boat into an unused area and promptly return your towing vehicle to the parking lot so you’re out of the way of other boaters who are trying to launch.
Proper launching and docking techniques are essential knowledge for any watercraft owner.
Keep it Clean
Pollution ruins the water for everybody. It kills fish and wildlife, detracts from the beauty of the landscape, and contaminates waterways. Respect the water by being an environmentally friendly boater.
- Be careful when replacing your oil or refueling not to spill into the water.
- Never, ever throw your trash into the water. Collect it and dispose of it properly when you’re shoreside. If space is an issue, it might help to remove all extraneous packaging materials such as unnecessary boxes before you load your supplies aboard your boat.
- Ensure that your craft has proper onboard sanitation facilities and never dump any sewage into the water.
- Avoid anchoring in areas with native reeds and grasses, which often support delicate ecosystems.