people riding in a boat on the water

What is boating etiquette for guests?

Adventure 3 min read

The only thing better than sunshine, good music, and hanging out with your friends is sunshine, good music, and hanging out with your friends on a boat. There’s just nothing like a carefree boating day trip. If you’re lucky enough to get invited aboard a friend’s boat, you’re in for a great day.

Is boat etiquette for guests even a thing? Generally, you can treat a boat gathering like any other party on land — with just a few exceptions. Here’s a few tips on how to be a good boat guest.

Boating etiquette tips for guests

Bring provisions

Ask your host if they’d like you to make an appetizer or pick up some ice on your way to the dock. Things that are easy to serve up, like sandwiches, cheese, crackers, or pre-cut veggies and hummus, are all great additions to any day on the water. Just be sure to avoid bringing things on the boat, like items that could stain the boat’s deck or messy foods. Learn more about what not to bring on a boat.

Arrive on time

Boat outings generally have tides and weather to contend with, so your friend might have a narrow departure window. Arriving late could throw the whole day off (or result in you being left behind).

Offer to help

Boating is a team effort. Your host might be pleased to go it alone, but you should at least offer to help especially as you’re getting underway (leaving the harbor) and returning to dock. Throwing off lines, pulling fenders aboard, or tying off at the dock are easy tasks for boating novices.

If you have zero boating experience, start by teaching yourself a simple cleat hitch knot. You can probably master the concept in about 10 minutes. Learn more tips on how to properly dock a boat so you can help as your boating trip ends.

You should, of course, always thank your host. Examples of boating etiquette for guests include offering to chip in for fuel or giving your friend a gift card to a local boating supply store. Or you might stick around to help clean up after your day on the water. Any gestures — big or small — will be greatly appreciated.

Take safety seriously

Your host will surely do everything she can to keep you safe while you’re on board. Knowing that you’re taking your safety seriously will give her peace of mind. It’ll also up your chances of getting invited back. So, listen carefully when your friend gives instructions. Be willing to follow life jacket rules if the water gets rough (or if you aren’t a strong swimmer), and know what safety equipment is on board.

Remember to hold on to the railings as you move about the vessel, and if you’re sailing, always pay attention to the boom. It doesn’t feel good to get smacked in the head by that thing. Learn more about how to be safe on a boat.

Have fun

This is probably the easiest and most important thing a great boat guest can do. Most people don’t buy a boat to keep it all to themselves. They want to share the experience with their friends and family. So, enjoy yourself! Take in the beautiful scenery, ask questions about the boat, or go for a swim. As a boat owner, there’s nothing better than knowing that your friends are having a blast.

Spending a day on a boat should be fun, casual, and carefree. Really, who can be in a bad mood when cruising around the water on a sunny afternoon? Keep these easy-to-follow guidelines in mind the next time you get invited to hang out on a friend’s boat.

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