All boat owners should keep up to date with the latest boating information. There may be changes to safety regulations, changes to navigation marks and channels, and common accidents or trends to be aware of. It’s essential not just to your safety but also to your passengers and the broader boating community.

The sentiment of this article isn’t just about knowing and following the rules. Boating etiquette is about asking ourselves if we can do more to have a more enjoyable day out for you, your passengers, and others around. Read on to learn our top tips for having impeccable boating manners…

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Watch your wash.

Each of us knows how annoying it is to be jostled about in the wash of a passing boat. In the most extreme example, being caught unawares by a large wash could easily send a passenger overboard, or cause a less-agile person to fall. Some wash is unavoidable and part of being on a boat. However, slowing down and keeping your distance is sure to be appreciated by everyone. 

Be patient at the boat ramp.

Before we address arriving at a boat ramp prepared to launch, it’s worth noting that each of us can deploy more patience and kindness while awaiting our turn. Boat owners vary in skill, age and experience. More generally, many people struggle with anxiety, depression, indecisiveness and confidence. Granted, each of us must take on a level of ownership and responsibility when launching and retrieving our boats. Still, kindness and encouragement may be most helpful to create positive experiences for everyone (including yourself).

Be prepared at the boat ramp.

Now that we have addressed patience for others, there’s plenty we can do ourselves to avoid unnecessary stress and conflict at the boat ramp. It’s common practice to prepare your boat before you queue at the boat ramp. You may not be the best at reversing down to the water’s edge, but one thing you can do is ensure your boat is ready to launch. For example, loading all your gear, ensuring your bung is in, checking your dock lines, unplugging and removing your taillights, and removing any tie-downs. Do this off to the side before reaching the boat ramp, and it’s more likely other inexperiences will be overlooked.

Have a radio, and know when to use it.

Even if you’re not going offshore where you’re required to have a VHF radio, it’s a wise idea to install one. After all, rough weather or worrying mechanical problems can surprise us at any time. 

You should have onboard and know how to use a VFH radio. You can find a helpful factsheet about using marine radios on the Maritime Safety Queensland website or check with your local marine authority. Some key points include:

  • When at sea, turn on your radio and tune it to channel 16. This channel is reserved for hailing and distress calls.
  • Once you’ve contacted another vessel, switch to another frequency to continue the conversation.
  • It’s not a toy, so keep kids off the radio.

Keep well clear around boats that are fishing.

Similar to being mindful of your wash and no-wash zones, travelling too close to fishing boats can be both dangerous and bad form. It can be dangerous because we may have hooks and other gear out, be chopping up bait, or moving about the boat. It can be bad form because, in most cases, there will be ample room to navigate around the boat with ease. Good etiquette is to stay clear and go around.

Keep noise levels low and respectful.

Being noise conscious mainly applies to moored boats and when overnighting, but it’s polite to be mindful of how much noise we’re making at other times as well. Sound travels long distances over water, so keep the noise and music to a low level and stop at a reasonable hour. And not just music, but also generator noise, your VHF radio, or loose tenders or chains that bang against the side of the boat.

Be efficient at jetties and fuel docks

It’s good manners to use jetties and fuel docks efficiently and then make way for others. It can be stressful enough to moor yourself between boats on a busy jetty, especially in windy conditions or choppy waters. Many arguments and stresses can be avoided by moving to a less active mooring if you need to be there for a prolonged time.

These are just a few recommendations, and of course, there are many others. To boil it down to a few points, we should try to be:

  • kinder to ourselves and others,
  • be respectful of others’ experience and skills (or lack thereof), and
  • be thoughtful of how our actions affect others.

Do this, and we’re in a better position to unburden ourselves of many stresses that may otherwise ruin a great day.