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Playing Nice With Others on the Water February 25, 2022

This is the time of year, here in the Great Cold North, where boaters are thinking more about their March Madness brackets, whether the idiots in charge of baseball will arrive at an agreement that permits the season to start on time, and when we need to start digging into that shoebox of receipts to begin the Great Tax Preparation.

Which makes it a good time of year to think about the upcoming boating season. And to refresh our knowledge of boating etiquette. In a few short months, we’ll be back out on the water, fishing, dragging the kids around, planning picnic cruises and more. So here’s a few reminders of how we can play nice with others out on the water.

  1. Respect the ramp.  It’s often busy at the boat launch, with other boaters lined up to get their boats off the trailer and into the water. It’s just good etiquette, and best practices, to make sure your boat is ready to launch: put all the gear you’ll need for your trip into the boat before launching, get the lines untied and ready, and make sure the drain plugs are tightened down. If you do all these things before you back down the ramp, you won’t have to do them while the boat is floating and all the other captains are waiting for access to the ramp. It’s just polite to consider others.
  2. Watch the Wake.  It’s great to get out on the open water and crank the engine up. Nothing like feeling the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. But always remember you’re creating a wake behind you. Large wakes in small and crowded areas can wreak havoc on other boats. When you’re still in or near port, passing other (smaller) boats, passing boats at moorings, encountering sailboats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boarders or swimmers  … ease off on the throttle and slow ‘er down. 
  3. Pack In. Pack Out.  There’s an old saying: leave nothing behind but your footprints. Here’s another one: don’t litter.  Don’t throw stuff overboard. Keep the slip and dock around your boat neat and clean (and safe). If you go somewhere for a picnic, make sure you gather up all your trash when you leave. It’s only common sense, and considerate of others.
  4. Know the Rules.  Do you know the rules of right-of-way when two boats under power approach each other? Boats approaching from the starboard or right side have right-of-way. Boats approaching from the left or port must give way to you. But not every captain knows this, so always use caution when approaching another vessel.  Boats under sail always have right-of-way. And give plenty of room to row boats, kayaks, canoes and paddle boats. 
  5. Fuel and go.  Another area of the marina that can get crowded is the fuel dock. It’s best practice to fuel up, pay up and get out of the way for the next boat. Even if there isn’t one waiting, you should fuel and go as fast as possible. If you need or want to grab a coffee, visit the shops or talk to someone inside the marina office, dock your boat elsewhere first. 
  6. Sound Off.  We all like to listen to tunes out on the water–it’s part of the fun. But good boating etiquette means taking others into consideration. Sound carries long distances over the water, and not everyone in hailing distance might like your playlist. Or your level of volume. Be mindful of who’s around and keep the volume at a reasonable level. Especially at night when you might be in the mood for partying, but others may be trying to get the kids to sleep.
  7. Have fun.  None of these rules of boating etiquette are designed to keep you from having a great day of fun on the water. You can still do that and be considerate of other boaters at the same time. 

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