Bad Boating Etiquette: What Not to Do as a Guest on a Boat

If you own a boat, you probably already know what to do and not do on it. However, if you’re a guest on someone’s boat, there are things you may not know that are considered bad boating etiquette. 

What not to do on a boat

Because nobody wants to be “that guy” who doesn’t get invited back, it’s important to know some basic boating etiquette. Some of the things you shouldn’t do on a boat are common sense, while others you may not know. Either way, here are things you don’t want to do when you’re a guest on a boat.

Don’t Wear Shoes with Dark Soles

You don’t want to leave scuff marks all over somebody’s boat deck, so avoid wearing shoes with dark soles. If you’re not sure if a pair of shoes could scuff a boat’s deck, don’t wear it, or dirty shoes onboard either.

What not to do on a boat shoes

Any shoes that will leave scuff marks or footprints on a boat are a big no-no. You can’t go wrong with flip-flops, but no matter what footwear you choose, make sure you check with the captain before you get onboard. Bring an extra pair of clean shoes or sandals just in case.

Don’t Make a Sunscreen Mess

Bring sunscreen, but avoid the spray kind, as it can leave a slippery mess on a boat’s deck and seats. Stick to lotion when boating, and make sure you close the bottle properly after use so that it doesn’t spill or leak. 

Things not to do on a boat sunscreen mess

Don’t Bring Messy Snacks

If you get invited to go boating, by all means bring food and drinks. Don’t be a mooch. You’re going to get hungry, and you shouldn’t expect your host/hostess to feed you. Just avoid bringing messy foods onboard like chocolate, which melts quickly in the heat and leaves a sticky mess, or cheese dips like queso, which gets all over your fingers and spills easily. 

Boating etiquette messy snacks

Stick to snacks that make little-to-no mess like small fruits, pretzel sticks and sandwiches. Leaving a chocolatey or cheesy mess all over the boat’s upholstery is a good way to NOT get invited back, so leave sloppy snacks behind. Also, bring plenty of water to stay hydrated, and other drinks to share.

Don’t Bring Unwanted Alcohol or Drugs

Speaking of drinks, don’t bring alcohol on a boat without permission. Never assume that because you’re going to be partying that you can automatically bring alcohol. That goes double for drugs. Remember the waters get patrolled, so don’t bring any substances that will draw unwanted attention from the authorities. Also, if you’re going to drink on a boat, don’t be the drunk [expletive] on the trip that ruins everything. Ask your host if it’s OK to bring alcoholic beverages, and what kind should you bring, if any. 

Boating etiquette drinking

Don’t Bring Glass Containers

This goes for alcohol, water or any beverages of any kind, but don’t bring glass containers onto a boat. Keep in mind that glass breaks and can cut the feet of people likely to be walking around barefoot or in flip-flops. Bring aluminum cans, plastic bottles or even a tumbler with a lid instead. 

Buy boat cleaning supplies

Boat cooler mounting kit

Don’t Litter

Whether it’s drinks, food or any other disposable item, for goodness sake don’t litter the boat or the water around it! Pick up after yourself. Also, don’t be that ignorant [expletive] who thinks it’s ok to feed fish and other wildlife with your scraps. It’s not cool to feed birds from the boat, especially since they poop all over the place. Use and close the trash receptacles on the boat to dispose of your garbage.

Boating etiquette don't litter

Don’t Bring Plastic Bags

This goes for trash disposal as well as for carrying items, but don’t bring plastic bags onboard. Bring a small cooler bag for your snacks and drinks, and a backpack or dry bag for your personal items. While plastic grocery bags may seem like a good idea for holding items and disposing of trash, they can fly off the boat easily with a gust of wind once emptied. If you don’t know or care how harmful plastic bags are to marine wildlife, then you shouldn’t be allowed to go boating in the first place.

Aqua Oasis inflatable cooler

Buy dry bags and dry paks

Don’t Smoke on the Boat

Unless the captain says it’s ok to smoke on board, don’t light up. Not only is it disrespectful to the passengers and crew to smoke on deck without asking, but lighting up can be a fire hazard as well. Cigarettes can ruin boat seats by burning holes and leaving tobacco stains and smells on them. If you must smoke, first get in the water with an inflatable tube or an inflatable cooler that has cup holders, then fill an empty can or plastic bottle with water and use that as an ashtray. Don’t flick your butts or leave your makeshift ashtray in the water. Bring the bottle or can onboard when you’re done smoking and dispose of it in the trash bin.  

Boating etiquette don't smoke on the boat

Don’t Bring Unexpected Guests

Never bring surprise guests to a boating trip without asking. That includes friends, lovers, children and pets. Boats have passenger capacities, and head counts are important. Ask your host if you’re planning to bring a last-minute +1, and make sure you have permission to do so. It’s a huge no-no to bring unexpected guests, especially if a boating trip is not kid- or dog-friendly. 

Boating etiquette unexpected guests

Also, you never know if your uninvited guest has any kind of beef with someone who was invited, so don’t risk it. You could get left out altogether for bringing an uninvited guest if you’re not willing to leave them behind. 

Don’t Disobey or Disrespect the Boat Captain

The captain is in charge, period. If he or she asks you to do something, do it. That includes moving over, sitting down and shutting up. Never argue with the captain. He or she is responsible and liable for the passengers on the boat, so don’t disobey the skipper. 

Boating etiquette respect the captain

Also, don’t try to help the captain unless you’re asked for assistance. Otherwise you’re just getting in the way. Don’t try to play DJ either, unless the captain puts you in charge of the music. And perhaps most important of all, don’t distract the captain while he or she is trying to do their job. The captain is the boss. Respect that if you ever want to get invited back on another boating excursion. Finally, when the trip is over, remember to thank the captain personally for having you as a guest on their boat.

Boat etiquette obey the captain

 

 

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