How to Be a Good Boat Passenger | Boating Etiquette | Things to Know

Accepting an invitation for a day out on someone’s boat is easy, but it’s important to be aware of all the hard work the boat owner does just to get things ready. Beyond buying, transporting, storing, and maintaining the boat (not to mention paying for gas), the owner has to do the mental gymnastics of things like planning out the route/destinations, stocking the boat with safety gear, and generally accepting the fact that they’ll be responsible for other people’s fun and safety.

That’s A LOT to put on one person. So the next time you get invited out for a day on the water, don’t be a passive passenger. Learn how you can help take some of the pressure and responsibility off the captain and understand when/where you can help out.

Ask what you can bring

Even if you know that the boat captain/owners are fully-loaded with everything they need, you should always be a team player. But unlike a land-based party, space is often at a premium on boats, so showing up with a 10-foot sub sandwich isn’t going to go over as well as you think it might. So ask the captain ahead of time if you can bring to help them out by bringing any.

  • Snacks and drinks
  • Supplies like sunscreen and bug spray
  • Extra towels (like TUKO)
  • Additional life jackets, especially if you’re bringing children or pets because they require specialized devices that the boat owner might not have.

Best Towels For the Boater in Your Life

Ask how you can help

Depending on the boating environment, the captain might need a little extra help to get the boat loaded for the day, launched from the boat trailer, or safely brought into the dock/marina. And, depending on the captain’s experience/ego, they may or may not ask for, need, or want any help.

It’s always polite to ask, but don’t feel bad if they say “I got this.” Even if it becomes clear that they most definitely do not “have it.” Getting up and moving around on the boat unexpectedly while the captain is trying to dock can be distracting, so just hang out unless the captain asks you to do something.

Be respectful

Being a boat passenger is a lot like being a roommate. Except this floating apartment is has the same square footage as a sectional sofa and you’ve got 4-6 roommates. You’re going to be in close quarters for most of the trip, so be mindful of everyone’s personal space.

If you’re unsure of what to do or what qualifies as proper boating etiquette, just ask. It’s better to be the person who’s inexperienced yet inquisitive than it is to be the person who’s clueless and careless.

Clean up after the voyage

Even if you didn’t make the mess, the captain will appreciate anyone who takes the time to leave the boat looking nicer than it did at the start of the day. Volunteer to round up and unload all the trash, or police up all the gear and supplies that can’t stay in the boat.

Whatever you do, don’t be the person who just shows up, climbs aboard, makes a mess, and then bee-lines it to their car the second you step off the boat. That’s a surefire way to make your next voyage your last voyage.

See you on the water!