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Following the Unwritten Rules of the Water

Following the Unwritten Rules of the Water

boating rules

Most boaters quickly pick up on the rules of the water – how to pass, navigate, dock and reduce wakes. However, not everyone learns how to be polite and considerate of other boaters.

“Safety is mandatory,” says Scott Croft, Vice President of Public Affairs for the US Boat Owners Association. “Etiquette, unfortunately, is not.”

Understanding the unwritten rules of water is not just about politeness. Helps keep water safer and less stressful for everyone. Here are six unwritten rules to keep in mind when boating:

Be prepared.

It is assumed that if you are driving a boat, you know the safety rules – how to navigate, pass, dock and dock safely. If you haven't taken a boating safety class, check online for your state's requirements and the courses it accepts. More than 30 states accept online boat safety courses, including free courses offered by the BoatUS Foundation.

Get in and out efficiently.

The vast majority of all boats on the water are brought there on trailers, according to Croft, which means launch ramps can become patience-try jams if other boaters aren't considerate. In the parking lot, you need to be in a position to do this quickly, efficiently, and in the least amount of time possible,” Croft says. Make sure the boat is loaded with everything you need before you put it in the water, so you can get off quickly and clean the ramp for the next person.

Same goes for marinas and restaurants. Don't limit yourself in ways that prevent others from docking. If you're refueling, don't hold back or stop others waiting for their turn. Being aware of others is just as important when returning to the slope after a day on the water.You will want to get out of the water as quickly and efficiently as possible to prevent others from waiting.

Educate guests.

Make sure passengers are familiar with the boat including That's where things are, where they stand, how to move safely and what to do if problems arise. If guests aren't wearing life jackets, make sure they know where they are. Explain the situations in which they will need to sit down – when you're accelerating or you happen to wake up another boat, for example – And make sure all passengers are clearly alerted in time for them to do so.

Educate your guests even before you enter the water. Your friends not to park in the places designated for boats and vehicles towing them and to take into account the work of other boats to get their boats out of the water.

Anchors (far) away.

Whether you're landing at anchor for vacation or in the evening, keep your distance from other boaters. Changes in tides, winds, and currents can swing boats when docked in unexpected ways. Depending on the length of the anchor line, boats can move as far from where you dropped the anchor.

give a hand. Salts, so if you see someone struggling to moor or ride their boat on the trailer, offer to help. “More often than not, people who need help will say yes,” Croft says.


No matter the size of the boat, greet neighboring ships with a wave. Besides offering a friendly greeting to other boat passengers, doing so sends a signal that you are aware of their presence. “When someone waves at me, I know they know where I am and what the course is,” Croft says. “We all share water, and that keeps pressure to a minimum. It also makes everyone feel happy.” Check out these four tips you should know about boating safety.

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