How to Practice Good Boating Etiquette

Anyone who’s into boating can tell you how much of a thrill it is—the water, the sun, the sheer independence of riding out on the lake on your own with no sidewalks or roads or rails to tell you where to go. It’s, well, a boatload of fun.

But, just as with all the other comparable things we might do for fun like driving a car or going to a restaurant or visiting a campsite, there are certain rules of etiquette that we should all strive to obey so that our thrills don’t negatively impact other people’s good time.

Here are some basic rules to keep in mind so that you can be a considerate boater.

Practice Good Etiquette When Underway

When you pass someone in a car, it’s generally considered rude to tail them too close and then recklessly swing around and race past them. On the water, this rule is amplified, because the wake caused by you speeding past will rock the other person’s boat, which is already unpleasant but can be especially unappreciated if they were in the middle of doing something like napping or cooking.

South Detroit river boat marina near Lake Erie

So when you’re overtaking another boater, you should give them as much space as you can and, if you need to, slow down to reduce your wake. And if you’re overtaking a sailboat under sail, you should overtake them well to leeward or pass astern in a crossing situation so that you don’t disrupt their wind.

If you’re the one being overtaken though, you may need to consider slowing down yourself, so that the boater overtaking you can still go fast enough to pass you by but not so fast that you’re both throwing uncomfortable wakes.

There are of course more detailed rules for encountering other vessels, and you should be sure to have read up on those as well so that you know what to do in a given situation.

Mooring and Anchoring Etiquette

For many of the same reasons, anchoring and mooring your boat requires quite a bit more consideration for others than simply parking a car.

The wakes should again be kept minimal by coming and keeping a good distance. Another reason to maintain distance is because, unlike parked cars, boats get moved around by changes in the current and the wind, so boats that may have seemed far enough apart will later get their lines tangled or knock against each other.

Generally, you should just strive to be as nonintrusive as possible. Sound carries well over water so don’t come in loud, don’t have loud parties on the dock, and don’t leave radios or generators running at night. Respect others’ space, don’t occupy an empty mooring without permission, and don’t dump your waste where people might like to go swimming.

Of course, there’s also more to anchoring than that, and you should be aware of the commonly accepted practices for mooring.

Boater Etiquette on the Marina

Of course, good manners don’t stop once you’ve dropped anchor. It’s as important to be considerate on the dock as it is on the water.

Again, try to be as unobtrusive as possible. Don’t leave any of your hoses, rigging, or any other gear on the dock, and don’t let your bow extend over the dock, as these are all tripping hazards and get in people’s way. Make sure to move your boat from the loading float or fuel dock once done there, and don’t overstay your time limit. Clear trash from your deck to avoid attracting pests to the harbor, and don’t step on someone’s boat without permission.

As with the others, there are also finer points of marina etiquette as well, and over time you should make an effort to learn them.

Boating etiquette exists to make boating safer and protect our harbors from misbehaving boaters. However, if you own waterfront property, you might be looking for other ways to protect your shores. One way is with a well-constructed seawall, so that the wakes from reckless boaters don’t erode your shoreline. Seawalls Unlimited in McHenry is the premier provider of seawalls for shoreline property owners in the Chain O’Lakes. Simply give us a call at (815) 331-8830 or contact us online for a quote.

You might still have to deal with the bad manners of other boaters while you’re away, but with one of our seawalls, at least you won’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions near your shore.

Seawalls Unlimited
2350 W. Rte. 120
McHenry, IL 60051
(815) 331-8830