What not to bring on a boat

Adventure 2 min read

You need plenty of things when heading off on a boating day trip, but you’d be better off leaving certain items behind. Some can create safety issues on a boat, while others cause a mess. Whether it’s your boat or you’re a guest on someone else’s boat, consider leaving these items behind when heading out for a day on the water.

Things you shouldn’t bring on a boat

Shoes with marking soles

Shoes with the wrong soles can make a mess. Dark soles are likelier to leave marks, but you can test any pair of shoes to ensure they won’t leave scuff marks on the boat. Just draw a line with the heel of your shoe on plain white paper. If you don’t see a mark, you have non-marking boat shoes. If you do see a mark, leave that pair on shore.

Spray sunscreen

Boat-safe sunscreen includes sunscreen in a bottle or a jar of clear zinc oxide you can apply to protect your skin from the sun. Leave the spray sunscreen behind. When used on a boat, spray sunscreen can leave a slippery film on the deck, making falls much more likely.

Messy food or snacks

While certain snacks, like pretzel rods or grapes, are ideal foods to take on a boat, others aren’t. Be mindful of bringing snacks that won’t leave a mess behind. Two snacks you should leave behind are chocolate and cheese curls. Chocolate will melt in the heat, and cheese curls always seem to give you bright orange fingers that are bound to leave prints on boat upholstery.

A common boating superstition is bringing bananas on a boat. “In the 18th century, ships bringing bananas from the West Indies had to sail fast so the bananas wouldn’t spoil, [and the] crew was unable to slow down and catch fish.” Bananas became a bad omen for sailors and fishermen wanting more time to land their catch.


If you don’t own the boat and didn’t give the owner a heads up about bringing a friend, child, or dog, it’s best to leave any surprise guests behind. Since boats have certain capacity restrictions, you should always ask permission before bringing a guest on someone else’s boat. Learn more about boat guest etiquette.


Leave perfumes or scented body sprays behind and remember that it’s best not to apply them before going on a boat trip. Perfume not only attracts bees and other pesky insects, but others who are along for the ride may not appreciate the scent in such close quarters.

Plastic grocery bags

These may seem like a good idea for transporting food and snacks, but once empty, they’re likely to fly off the boat as soon as a breeze kicks up. Help keep waterways clean by leaving the plastic grocery bags at home and using zippered lunch bags or cooler bags to carry food onboard instead.

Are glass bottles allowed on a boat?

Don’t bring soda bottles or glass containers that could shatter and leave small pieces on the boat deck. Broken glass can create a safety hazard, so opt for aluminum cans or recyclable plastic containers instead. Make sure you dispose of trash in proper receptacles at the dock.

Now that you have a list of things you should leave behind, check out our boat safety equipment checklist that includes the U.S. Coast Guard-mandated list and additional suggestions to keep you safe on the water.

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