What Is Proper Boat Etiquette?

Whether you’re pulling a tube on a busy lake or riding jet skis along the coast, chances are you are sharing the open waters with other boaters, beach-goers, and sea animals. Having proper boat etiquette is important so that everyone can safely enjoy the water. Here are some tips to be mindful of when hitting the water:

Watch the Wake

As you graciously take off in your boat, the motor on the back kicks up waves, also known as wakes. Those wakes might be perfect for a wakeboarder, but for other boaters, it can be irritating and potentially dangerous. A speeding boat can create wakes that could cause damage to other boats and even injure passengers. That is why you should always be aware of how much of a wake your boat can create, especially when other boats are nearby. 

The Oregon State Marine Board states that understanding the three speeds under which your boat operators are key in managing your wake:

  • Displacement Speed: The slowest speed for most motorboats, where the bow will be in the water and create the least amount of wake.
  • Transition Speed: As you increase power while attempting to get on a plane, the bow rises, causing the stem to plow through the water. This speed generates the largest wakes.
  • Planing Speed: This speed creates less wake than the transition speed, but more than displacement speed. Many larger boats are not designed to reach this speed.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, a no-wake zone means moving in displacement speed, so you can create a minimal amount of wakes. If you see a “No Wake Zone” or “Slow No Wake” sign or buoy, that is your cue to put it in displacement speed and cruise slowly. 

In the event you do cross paths with another boat’s wake, the Freedom Boat Club offers these helpful tips:

  1. Alert your passengers: The second you realize you will be crossing a wake, notify your passenger. Make sure they are all seated with life jackets on.
  2. Move out away from the wake: The further away you are from the boat creating the wake, the smaller the impact of the wake will be. Be sure to stay within the channel and be mindful of other boat activity nearby.
  3. Prepare to slow down: If your boat is on a plane, reduce your speed to where the boat just becomes off the plane. This will lift the bow up and help to create a “cushioned effect” on the wake. This “bow high” position also reduces the chance of diving the bow onto the second wave.
  4. Approach the wake at a 45-degree angle: Do not turn into the wake, but continue heading parallel to the other boat. This allows the boat to “roll” a bit over the wake instead of “jumping over” it. When you stay parallel to the other boat, it also keeps you positioned correctly on your side of the channel.
  5. After you cross the wake: Re-accelerate to return the boat back on a plane.

Be Mindful of Your Manners While Launching and Docking

Readiness, adaptability, and awareness are the basics when minding your manners while launching and docking your boat. Discover Boating offers good boat ramp etiquette:

  1. Always complete your prep work in the staging area, away from the ramp where other boaters are launching.
  2. Launch quickly and efficiently. Have others in your crew help you make the process easier by guiding you the whole way.
  3. As soon as the boat is off the trailer, pull the ramp up and park in the appropriate spot. 
  4. When retrieving your boat, use the courtesy dock or tie up away from the launch area until your trailer is in place.
  5. Load the boat onto the trailer, secure the winch at the bow and the safety chain. Then go to the staging area to finish unloading and securing your trailer.

Knowing how to properly launch and dock your boat is basic knowledge as a boat owner. When everyone aboard understands their role and keeps the process efficient, you’re on the right track to using proper boating etiquette!

Keep the Water Clean

By keeping the open waters and coastlines free of litter, you help maintain its natural beauty and keep sea animals safe. From having a designated place for throwing away trash to keeping fuel and other chemicals out of the water, here are a few tips for maintaining clean waterways:

  • Be cautious when refueling your boat and do not spill into the water. Have a spill kit on deck and notify the Coast Guard National Response Center if you do spill fuel into the water.
  • Take your trash with you when you leave and NEVER throw your trash into the water. If you see other trash floating in the water, do your part and pick it up.
  • Be sure that your boat has proper onboard sanitation facilities and do not dump any sewage into the water.
  • Understand the proper anchoring techniques to avoid damage to marine life ecosystems and help prevent grounding.

Being aware of proper boat etiquette can make boating enjoyable for everyone on the water. Next time you take a trip to the lake or beach, be sure to follow proper boating etiquette.

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About Katie Rosario

Katie has been in the marketing industry for over 10 years and has a strong passion for writing great content. She has been writing for TGS Insurance for three years and strives to make every piece of content she works on informative and easy to read. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and spending time with her family.