Sailing Etiquette

This chapter of The Ultimate Guide on How to Organize Your Sailing Trip explores the topic of sailing etiquette. The etiquette of sailing involves the proper and traditional ways of conducting yourself on a boat and the rules for sailing and interacting with other boats.

You will learn about how to behave while on board a sailing boat, including what are appropriate versus inappropriate behaviors. Sailing etiquette is necessary for those who are a part of the crew as well as the guests who are enjoying the ride and not responsible for the sailing of the boat.

Because sailboats have a limited amount of space, you will also have less personal space and more interaction with the others aboard the vessel. This close contact is one of the primary reasons why understanding and practicing good sailing etiquette is so important. This chapter has ten sections, presenting the ten basic rules of sailing etiquette.

Ask Permission to Board

Before you even try to climb onto a boat, find the skipper or crew and ask for permission. The correct way to ask for permission is to say, "Permission to come aboard?" This is one of the most essential rules of etiquette for sailing and is used when you want to become a guest on another boat.

You may use this question in the marina or if you are already on your boat and would like to visit another boat. Asking permission to come aboard gives you a good reputation among others in the sailing community.

Don't Pack Too Much, Pack Smart

While packing for your sailing trip, keep in mind that you will have limited personal space and storage areas for the items that you bring. The more items that you bring, the less room there will be to move around and enjoy your surroundings. It is important to only pack the essentials plus one or two creature comforts that will make your trip more pleasant. For clothing, keep the general weather in mind and only bring the bare minimum. Conserve space for other essentials such as your sunglasses, sunscreen, non-slip shoes, a waterproof and wind-proof jacket and a sweater to chase off the chills.

Choose from one or two activities such as an electronic reader, a few paperback books, a notebook or drawing pad or a tote bag of yarn with some knitting needles to keep your hands busy. Use a soft yet waterproof bag for packing your belongings and be sure to label everything you bring aboard the sailboat.

Be Safe and Keep Others Safe

Safety is critical while on a sailboat, as there is no local emergency service department to come to your aid within a moment's notice. Because sailboats are limited in space, there is only so much protective and safety gear that can be brought aboard.

Cruising responsibly is an important part of safety. Avoid drinking while operating a sailboat and heed warnings and directions from buoys. Always operate the sailboat within the speed limits while close to land. You are responsible for the wake created by your sailboat, so take care to control your speed near other boats, especially those that are smaller than yours.

Bring Something for Everyone

Whether you're the host or a guest, it's common courtesy to bring gifts for others on board. When you are the host of a sailing trip, it is a common pleasantry to bring something to share with everyone, such as breakfast. As a guest, it is also a common courtesy to bring a gift for the host and for the other guests. You could bring a catered lunch for the first day on the water. Some common leisure activities like diving equipment, board games or a deck of cards can also be great items to share with the other guests.

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Avoid gifts that are too personal, such as clothing or hygiene items as well as gifts that could be potentially hazardous, such as candles. Avoid gifting alcohol, tobacco or other related items, as these do not enhance the safety of the crew or guests aboard the sailboat.

If You're a Guest, Offer to Buy Fuel

When you are a guest on another sailboat and were invited to go on the trip, it is appropriate to offer to buy fuel. Ask the host while you are still at the marina if you could pay for the fuel that the boat needs before leaving the dock. You could also offer to pay for the fuel at the next fueling station. Offering to pay for the boat's fuel is a simple way to show your appreciation to the host who invited you to come along.

Ask to Use the Head

Ask to use the "head" before using it. The "head", also known as the boat's toilet, requires proper operating instructions so that you do not accidentally cause a clog or overflow. Be sure to not discard excessive amounts of toilet paper, as this may cause a clog. Diapers, baby wipes, feminine products and other items should not be put into the boat's toilet.

In most cases, there is only one toilet aboard the vessel, so it needs to remain in proper operating condition for the duration of the trip. Be sure to flush and tidy the bathroom when you are done. Avoid taking too long, as the presence of just one toilet means that you should be as efficient as possible while using the facilities.

Don't Be Messy

With the limited amount of space on the sailboat, keeping everything in its proper place is essential to everyone's safety and comfort. Avoid making a mess. If a mess does happen, take the time to clean it up properly. If a liquid has spilled, keep everyone out of the area until you clean it. This helps to prevent anyone from slipping and falling. Keep everything clean, such as washing dishes after you use them. Store things away neatly after you have used them.

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Avoid leaving food out on the dock, deck or in the sleeping quarters, as this can attract pests. Remember to properly put away and store stow lines, cords and other gear. Avoid putting any of your gear on the dock, as it gets in the way of others who need to get on and off of their boats. It is also important to not let the bow of your boat overhang the dock, as this makes it hard for people to walk on the dock.

Help the Skipper

From time to time, the skipper of your sailing bat may need some assistance. It is okay to ask the skipper if you can be of help, but only volunteer yourself if you are familiar with the task that needs to be done. If you do not know how to perform a task, trying to do so could cause more problems for the skipper. Even if you do not have any particular skills or the physical ability to be of assistance, you can always be on the lookout for junk in the water.

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Ask the skipper how he or she wants a task to be done. Even if you are experienced, your way of doing things may be different from how the skipper prefers them to be done. When the boat is docked, ask the skipper if there are any tasks that need to be tended to before you disembark. For an on-shore excursion, be back when the skipper says to.

Keep the Noise Down

Sound travels, even on the open sea. Avoid being too loud, and remember that your idea of loud may not match that of the others aboard the sailboat. Consider the sleeping patterns of others and be quiet between sunset and sunrise. This applies to the people on your boat and nearby boats as well.

Don't Be in the Way

While on a sailboat, stay out of the way of the skipper and the crew so that they can do their jobs as safely and efficiently as possible. While mooring, wait for larger vessels to get out of their slips before you try to get into yours. If there is already another boat in the process of mooring, allow them to finish.

Do not anchor too close to another boat, as a shift in winds or uptick in current could cause your boats to collide. Give larger boats the right of way and let faster boats overtake you.

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If another boat is trying to overtake you, slow down and move out of their way. Practice caution when mooring and anchoring your boat in order to avoid damaging the vessel. You will always need to check for obstructions and hazards such as rocks or strong currents when attempting to anchor.

If your boat is having a party or making plenty of other noise, be sure to give other boats and the dock plenty of space so your noise does not annoy the neighbors. While in the marina, it is also important to keep the noise down. Not everyone appreciates the same music. Screaming and cursing should also be avoided in the marina.

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