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Boat Passenger Etiquette

Boat Passenger Etiquette
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You’ve packed and you’re ready to head out on the water, but did you think about how you can promote safety and ensure everyone on board enjoys the experience?

This quick guide on boat passenger etiquette covers how you can keep the peace and be respectful to those around you before, during, and after your trip.

Boarding and Disembarking the Boat

Ramps can quickly get crowded and become a bottleneck for boaters, especially at busy times of the year. To minimize congestion and keep the peace at the ramp, follow these tips for boarding and disembarking:

  • Prep and load your boat in advance (you can usually find space for this in the parking area or while you’re waiting in line) so you’re ready to launch before you back down the ramp.
  • Check that you have fuel, your batteries are charged, and that the plugs are in your boat.
  • If you’re launching a raft, kayak, or other small watercraft that isn’t trailered, leave room for trailers that need to use the ramp.
  • Clear the ramp as quickly as possible and prepare for travel in the parking area.
  • Do not use the ramp for fishing or recreation.
  • Be patient and kind! Getting frustrated won’t speed up the process, and everyone is there to have a good time.

How to Be Respectful on a Boat

Once you’re on the water, you’re in close quarters with other people – some of whom you may not know. From finding your place on board to cleaning up after yourself when it’s time to go in, it’s important to consider those around you.

For seating arrangements, you might be surprised to find that everyone has their preferences. Some people prefer to be in the front or back of the boat, and some may prefer a bench to a seat. It’s important to talk with each other to keep everyone comfortable throughout your trip, especially on crowded boats.

boat seating arrangements

It can be difficult to have as much personal space as you’d like on a crowded boat, and for some people this can cause some stress. Try to be courteous and respectful and keep from imposing on others by keeping your belongings in your own space.

Be mindful when you take photos. There’s a lot of beautiful scenery while you’re boating, and it may be tempting to photograph your experience. While you should take as many photos as you can to capture the memories, don’t forget to be considerate of others’ experiences as well.

There is a lot of noise on a boat. The motor. The talking. The music. And the sounds of nature. It can be a little overwhelming, and when there are a lot of people, it's hard to hear. You want to make sure the noise level doesn’t make the trip unenjoyable. Try to talk just as loudly as you need to to be heard. Moving a little closer, while still being respectful of personal space, can help keep the noise level down. If you want to listen to music, try to bring headphones. If everyone is listening to the same thing, keep the volume just high enough for your passengers to hear, but not everyone else on the water.

If you’re on a boat with a crew, be friendly and respectful. They’re working hard to help you have the best possible experience. Remember to thank them along the way and before you disembark – they’ll appreciate it!

If you’re on a boat with children or animals, keep in mind that there are added responsibilities, but also more opportunity for adventure. You may need to bring some toys or items to keep the children occupied, and you’ll want to bring a water bowl to keep the animals hydrated. You should also keep your pets in a collar and consider putting them on a leash for safety.

dog in a life jacket on board the boat

If anyone experiences sea sickness or motion-related discomfort, they may need some help. If possible, try offering them plain crackers, water, and ginger. They should also keep their head still and rest while focusing on the horizon or a distant, stationary object.

Don’t forget to clean up before you leave. You should always leave the boat the same way you found it when you stepped on board. Pick up after yourself, dispose of any trash, and, when possible, recycle used items. Eco-friendly behavior is important to protect the marine environment and wildlife. Ensuring that your belongings make it home and your trash is put away appropriately will help keep the scenery beautiful for others to experience and enjoy.

Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Unexpected things can happen when you’re on the water, so you should always be prepared. To keep yourself and other passengers safe, you should:

  • Enroll in a boater education course
  • Stay within the boat’s weight limit
  • Always wear a life jacket
  • Know local and federal guidelines
  • Have a first aid kit on board

young girl on the water in a life jacket

If you encounter any emergencies, like an unexpected storm or the boat capsizing, the first thing you need to do is stay calm, and staying calm is easier when you know how to react to a situation before you’re in it. We recommend reading our comprehensive guide on how to navigate these situations and more so you can be prepared.

Enjoy the experience!

Being kind and courteous to those around you will help ensure that you have an enjoyable boating experience. Remember, the key is to have fun, but make sure everyone else does, too!

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