Couple on the back of a boat relaxing.

Be a Great Boat Passenger: A Guide to Etiquette

Boating has an etiquette. More so than other sports or activities, showing decorum aboard a boat helps maintain safety, cleanliness, respect, and shared responsibility. 

The boat captain sets the rules.

At the top of the hierarchy is the boat captain. They are responsible for safekeeping the boat and its passengers – as such, you must heed all instructions and advice from the captain. As they navigate and maneuver, they need to be able to trust that you, as a boat passenger, are behaving as expected.

Don’t make the captain’s job harder! Wear your PFD (personal flotation device) at all times. Keep from distracting the captain, which includes staying away from boat controls.

Respect the boat and the water. 

Loose items can become lost or thrown about in a boat. Be careful where you place your personal things, and always return tools and other items to their designated spot on the boat. Know where to dispose of trash, and never litter into the water. Take care not to let plastic trash fall overboard. 

Know where to sit.

Being in the proper position on board is an important aspect of being a boat passenger. 

  • Don’t sit anywhere the captain prohibits.
  • Sit in designated seating areas.
  • Stay seated when the boat is in motion. (This is a regulation on many bodies of water.)
  • Don’t stand on seats.

Don’t swim until the captain says it’s okay. 

The boat must be completely at rest so that you’re not exposed to hazards like spinning propellers or carbon monoxide. And the captain needs to be aware of passengers both on and off the boat at all times. 

Inform the captain if you feel sick.

Seasickness remedies work best when started before you step aboard a boat. This includes motion sickness pills, fresh ginger, or other treatments. However, some people are prone to get queasy no matter what. 

If you feel seasick, sit down. Let the captain and other passengers know you don’t feel well. Stay on deck where you can get fresh air. (Don’t go below! It’ll be worse.) Look at the horizon and breathe deeply. It may help to lie down and/or take seasickness medicine.

There’s no shame in getting seasick, but keep in mind that your reaction time and awareness is dulled. Conserve your energy and breathe.

Conclusion: Have Fun

The point of boating is to have fun. Nothing ruins the mood quicker than accidents or injuries. Safety and respect should be at the top of mind of every boat passenger. 

As an additional reminder, boating etiquette begins before the boat is even in the water. If you’re part of the crew or passenger manifest that’s present at launch, boat ramp etiquette helps prevent bottlenecks and keeps launches efficient. There’s plenty of opportunity to help the captain (or stay out of the way), to prep the vessel, and properly share the launch ramp with other boaters if necessary. Etiquette gets you into the water – and into the fun – more efficiently.