Boat manners 101

You will want to know boating ethics before jumping on a friend's boat


A dog sitting on the bow of the boat in the forground, while a man in the background is driving.

Not everyone that has a boat is Fido friendly. It is good boating manners to check with the captain before bringing your pet along. — Jason Cesa photo

With summer fast approaching many are preparing their boats for the upcoming season.  The relationship boat owners have with their watercraft is a dedicated one so there is a certain code of ethics to follow should you be invited to spend time boating with friends this summer.  Your captain will thank you for it!

  • Shoes:  Most boat owners would ask that you take your shoes off before boarding, to prevent dirt, mud and outside filth from contaminating their vessel.  It is at the discretion of the captain of the boat, so ask if shoes should be removed before you take that first step onto the boat.
  • Food and drinks:  This is a particular concern especially since most boat upholstery and flooring is white or light coloured.  Avoid red, orange, blue or other deep-coloured food or drinks.  Cheetos, nacho chips, red wine, Gatorade, grape juice and Kool-Aid  all have the potential to do damage should they spill. Cheetos, for example, can get lodged between seats and stain so deeply it is impossible to remove.  Also avoid glass bottles or containers; instead, pack snacks in plastic containers or zip-lock baggies.
  • Sharing is not caring, unless you, the guest, are the one doing the sharing. Pack enough food and drinks for yourself plus a little more. It is not your captain's job to feed and hydrate you. Pack enough to share, but first and foremost pack for yourself. Chips are not enough—you’ll want nourishing food such as sandwiches or veggies and dip, with hydrating beverages to prevent sunstroke. Pack light, but pack smart.
  • Pets: Just because you have been invited do not assume your pet is welcome on someone else’s boat.  A dog's nails can puncture and scratch upholstery while incessant shedding can ruin everyone’s day and cause your captain unnecessary work as he tries to rid the boat of your dog’s hair when the day is over.  Unless your invitation says “please bring Fido,” leave him at home.
  • Do not ever bring unexpected guests. With limited seating your invitation is for you, and you only, unless otherwise specified.  This includes children. While they may be the light of your lives, unless discussed prior to boarding, make childcare arrangements for your little ones. 
  • The captain is NOT your mommy, and should not have to clean up after you. Keep the boat tidy, and at the end of the day stay and help clean up. Absolutely do NOT litter or toss anything in the lake—this includes cigarettes.  
  • The boat doesn’t run on thank yous. Offer to pitch in gas money for your water adventure.  Most captains won’t accept, but the gesture will be appreciated. The cost of fuel tends to skyrocket during summer months so a day on the lake can end up being a big dip in the piggy bank. 
  • Hands off! Unless your captain asks for your help absolutely do not touch anything on the boat. Do NOT ask to drive, and while it is polite to offer help loading and unloading, unless asked do not interfere with your captain’s fine-tuned process. Speaking of tunes, the captain is the DJ of the boat—not you—so do not try to adjust the music to your liking.
  • Sit down: Some boats, such as jet boats, can be extremely sensitive to motion.  Your captain is responsible for your safety and well-being. The last thing anyone wants is to dump you into the water. Stay seated when the boat is in operation.
  • Personal flotation devices: Some boat captains are serious about safety and whether or not you wear a PFD is up to them, not you. You don’t want to wear a life jacket? Get your own boat. 
  • Smoking is at the discretion of your captain. Some do not mind provided it is done respectfully, while others will not tolerate smoking on their boat.  Respect the captain and the rest of the people on the boat by butting out if it is requested.

Captain's pet peeves

“Dirty feet and throwing their sandals in the boat are pet peeves of mine. Sunflower seeds are a big no on my boat. They get everywhere! And no coloured chips. When they fall between the seats and get wet, it stains the seat. The detailers couldn’t even get the stain out.  I could go on lol. I run a tight ship!” Jody Sherstibitoff, Fruitvale, B.C.

 “We have a jet boat and mostly ride rivers. To newcomers my pet peeve is when they wander around the boat when moving and don't hold on. Never know when you are going to hit something.” Penny Cartwrite, Prince George, B.C.

“If there are kids on board—set an example by wearing your PFDs. Kids that think they're too cool to wear life jackets is a no-go with us.” Alden Prier, Leduc, Alberta

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