Yacht Etiquette – Life-Skills for sailors

Yacht Etiquetteor what your mother would have taught you – if you had grown up on a boat…

There is no great mystery to yacht etiquette – like all sailing matters it is essentially common sense – plus respect for boat and skipper. Many people come to sailing via corporate events or sailing school courses which set a poor example in terms of the care and respect shown to the vessel. A privately owned vessel is someone’s pride and joy – things will go better if you treat it accordingly. An excellent mind-set is to think of the yacht you are joining as being someone’s home – you wouldn’t enter without knocking and you wouldn’t slam doors – exactly the same on a yacht.

Be on time, no more than a few minutes early and if late text or call so you aren’t left behind…
Knock and wait before climbing aboard – it’s only polite.
Use the shrouds to pull yourself aboard, not the guard wires or stanchions.

Ideally have dedicated sailing shoes in your kit bag. Don’t wear sea boots to the boat – only on the boat, they should live in your kit bag until needed. Non-marking soles are a given.

Moving around
Move around carefully and quietly, tread softly. The classic sign of an inexperienced, anxious or passive-aggressive sailor is someone who crashes around noisily.

Cockpit lockers – don’t drop them, it makes an awful noise and causes damage. The same goes for the lockers down below – close softly.

Stowing for sea
Make sure all cabin doors and lockers are latched securely. Make sure your kit is stowed securely where it can’t fall onto the cabin sole and become a trip hazard.

If you are using the boats wet weather gear don’t put it back in a locker after use if it is even slightly damp, put on a hanger and hang them up in a cabin – typically from the overhead hatch handles. Damp oilies grow mildew when shut away in a locker and won’t dry out even if the dehumidifier is on. Leave locker doors open for ventilation when leaving the vessel.

Being on a boat – attitude is everything.
A little story: let’s say two people sit down for coffee and a chat on a boat. When they have finished one of two things will happen:
1) One guy gets up and wanders off, leaving his dirty mug behind for someone else to deal with.
2) One guy gets up, picks up both mugs, rinses, dries and stows them.
Very little difference between example 1) and example 2) in terms of time and energy expended but a world of difference in attitude. The second guy has it right and will always be welcome aboard a yacht, the first one – not so much.

Basic skills
Try to acquaint yourself with nautical terms and as a minimum learn to tie a clove hitch and a bowline.

Don’t bluff – Be open to instruction
Don’t over-sell your skills – the sailing world is full of people who talk a great sail – only to fail miserably when given a routine task. If you don’t understand an instruction from the skipper ask for clarification. A decent skipper will happily explain what they want. In return you should be unequivocally open to instruction.

Be reliable
Don’t make arrangements you can’t keep. If you pull out of sailing you may jeopardise the whole trip if you are necessary to crew the boat. Equally don’t, as you are slipping the lines announce “Oh by the way I need to back early to do XXX” – not the way to make friends or get invited back.

The above may seem a little prescriptive but these are time-proven practices that make for a happy boat and are what it takes for a group of people to co-exist happily in a small space. There is much more to ‘yacht etiquette’ than above but this is a solid start.

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