Don’t be that guy. You know, that guy who ties up the busy launch ramp by packing gear into his boat. Or that guy at the marina who cranks up the Led Zeppelin so loud you can’t hear yourself think. And definitely not that guy who leaves picnic trash behind on that previously picturesque island.
On the boat ramp, at the marina and on the water are unwritten rules of boating courtesy. Most likely, you are already diligent about using sensible boating etiquette. Escaping to the great outdoors is why boating is so appealing. So are the happy moods and being around others sharing the same vibe. But sometimes there is that guy who dampens the fun for everyone.
You won’t find this list of courtesies in a book about proper boating etiquette. All it takes to succeed is practicing common sense, and following these unwritten rules.
On the ramp
Avoid tying up active launch ramp lanes to prep and pack gear into the boat. Do that in the parking lot or in areas designated for such activities.
Never use the ramp lanes after loading the boat to secure gear. Secure the bow eye to the winch and stand and clear the ramp as soon as possible. Everyone else in line will appreciate it and who knows, they might just pick up on your good habits. Make final preparations for heading home in the parking lot or the designated make-ready area.
Don’t tie up the courtesy dock any longer than necessary. Break out the snacks and pop the top on a beverage elsewhere. Like the name implies, the courtesy dock is for temporary use for passengers to board and exit the boat. It is not for transferring all your gear, including fishing tackle, water toys, coolers and clothes.
If new to boating, and especially at backing a trailer down a busy ramp, get your badge of honor elsewhere. Practice, practice, practice at an empty shopping center parking lot. Even better, do it at the boat ramp during the off season, or after work during the week. Then you won’t be the laughing stock of the ramp on a Saturday morning.
Inspect the boat and trailer for the presence of exotic plant and animal species. If the ramp has a designated wash down station, use it. All it takes is a sprig from an invasive plant to spread to another water body. Above all else, do your part to prevent the spread of species that are detrimental to aquatic environments and boating. Click here to read more about what you can do.
At the marina
Don’t come in hot! Back down the throttle as you approach the no-wake buoys, and keep it slow to the dock. Making waves is not cool, and it announces to everyone else that you are that guy. Be a good neighbor and make friends before you even arrive at the dock.
Just like at the launch ramp, don’t tie up the fuel dock. Avoid loading and unloading gear, socializing or doing anything else that you can do elsewhere. Like the name implies, the fuel dock is for gassing up, nothing else.
Keep the space around your boat slip clear of lines, cords and hoses. Those are tripping hazards, especially in the dark. The same goes for dock carts, coolers and other items that can obstruct passageways on the dock.
Everyone loves a party, and listening to great tunes on the stereo is part of the fun. Out of respect for everyone else, keep the volume turned down while in the marina. Play that favorite tune out on the lake, and crank it up.
Keep Fido on the leash. Your dog might be an old salt when it comes to good behavior aboard the boat. But he might be tempted to bolt for the shoreline, or go where he should not on the dock. Contain his excitement by keeping him on the leash. Want to know more about boating with pets? Here's an article all about it.
On the water
Carry in, carry out. You found the perfect deserted island or remote beach to have a picnic. Don’t be a litterbug! For foods, reduce trash by storing those items in resealable plastic storage containers. You can consolidate foods by portions, and use personal reusable water bottles that are filled from a large container. Go green with your boating activities by reading more about it in this article.
If you’re a guest, bringing dips, chips and other party snacks might be a no-brainer. Eating on a boat is different than tailgating at a football game, though. Win over the boat’s owner with mess-free foods that won’t easily melt or stain. Save for shore any dark colored beverages (including red wine) and the chips and dips that can land on the seat or carpet in choppy water. Pre-cut veggies, fruits and other chilled foods that can be stored in plastic containers are the better options.
This one is more about following written rules than practicing good boating etiquette. Follow the U.S. Coast Guard Rules of the Road. Indirectly, your actions will be on full display while being a safe boater. Click here to read all about those rules.
Educate yourself about any laws in effect where you plan to go boating. That includes fishing regulations and rules for camping and burning fires. Those laws are in place to protect the environment, and you should do your part by knowing them.
Keep towlines and emergency equipment working properly and ready for use. Not just for you, but for another boater in need of assistance. You will make a new friend while setting a glowing example of what good boating etiquette is all about.