With boating season in full swing many of us will enjoy opportunities to welcome friends and family on our own boats, and we’ll also get the pleasure of being guests on other people’s boats. Set up yourself and your guests for success with these simple tips.

boat guest
Photo by Ben Cushwa/Nautography

A Good Boat Guest

A good guest understands that each skipper does things a little differently, so even if they’ve been on boats before they will listen, observe, and ask questions. Start the trip off right by showing up on time. Arrival time isn’t exactly the same as the time your skipper wants to depart the dock, so ask for clarification.

If you haven’t been on many boats, you may wonder what to wear and what to bring. Weather-appropriate, comfortable clothes are the best choice. Non-skid, non-marking shoes are important, so that you don’t slip or leave marks on the deck. Bring a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses, and perhaps a jacket, but be aware that space is limited. A backpack-sized bag should hold all you need for a day trip. 

Ask if you can bring snacks, drinks, or a meal. Even if you’re told to only pack food or drinks for yourself, bring extra to share. Different boats have different rules on consuming alcohol underway. Take your cue from the skipper. Clean up after yourself and others. At the end of the outing offer to help tidy up and carry the trash off the boat. However, please recognize that most boat items get stowed in specific places. If you don’t know where something goes, just ask. Because fuel costs can really add up, offer to chip in for gas.

Listen carefully to the skipper’s instructions and respect the rules of the boat. Do not smoke unless invited. Be supportive of the other guests and look around for ways to help the skipper. One simple way is to keep a watch for other vessels. If you’re asked to do more, such as pull on a line or fend off, a good rule of thumb for any boat is, “One hand for the boat; one hand for yourself.” If you’re told to do something that you don’t understand, don’t waste time guessing, just say something like, “I know you asked me to bring in the fenders, but I don’t know where to find them.”

A Gracious Host

Obviously, the goal here is for everyone to have a good time. As the skipper and the person in charge, you will set the tone. If you’d like help with packing food, bringing drinks, leaving the dock, or driving the boat, let your guests know.

An introductory briefing before leaving the dock will set expectations, facilitate good communication, and help all onboard to feel comfortable. In addition to explaining the location and operation of the safety equipment, such as PFDs and the VHF radio, tell your guests what you love about your boat. Share stories about some of your favorite destinations or best days fishing. Oh, and don’t forget to explain that a marine head isn’t the same as a toilet on municipal plumbing.

Some of us have certain routines or ways of doing things and we don’t want to veer away from our well-oiled system. That’s fine. Be clear about which tasks you’d like guests to help with and which ones you’d prefer to do yourself. If you prefer that guests sit and be quiet during docking, while navigating a narrow channel, or at any other point, let them know ahead of time if you can. There are different ways to say the same thing, so stay positive and encouraging. Show them that life is #BetterOnTheBay.