Sunday, February 18, 2018

Boaters Behaving Badly

March 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Plenty of people seem to shed their inhibitions at the dock. Maybe it’s the relaxing, social nature of a day spent boating, or perhaps it’s the charge of the water’s atoms. Then again, it could be that spending time in the snug-ish quarters of the average boat magnifies rude behavior because we can’t escape it!

Readers were asked to share anecdotes about rude boating experiences, and the stories flowed in (I’ve identified them as they wished). Then Jay Remer, a personal, business, and wedding etiquette consultant and writer (, chimed in with advice on how to handle matters, should any of these oafs show up on your boat!

C. butted up against boorish behavior. My friend lit up a cigarette, and I looked at him like he had two heads. “What?” he said. “Put it out!” I said. “No one here wants to smell your smoke.” He threw the lit cigarette over and said, “Geez, it’s outdoors. Lighten up.”

Noting what should have been obvious to the would-be smoker, Remer says, “Lighting a cigarette requires an open flame – not a good idea if there is any chance of gasoline being present.” Besides, a guest should know that “lighting a cigarette when a guest on someone’s boat does require permission from the host.” Though boat owners rightfully consider boats as their private homes, says Remer, it may be best to post a “No Smoking” sign for those who think smoking is allowed wherever it isn’t banned.

B. and her partner invited two couples to cruise to Fire Island and spend the night. We told them we needed to get an early start to get a berth, so they had to be at the boat by 8 a.m. (I even sent a follow-up e-mail saying, “Don’t forget to set your alarm! We’re leaving the dock at 8!). One couple showed up at 8:45 am, saying the Dunkin’ Donuts line was really long, and the other couple returned our three calls well after 9, saying, “We just couldn’t get started today.” I flipped out on the doughnut eaters and the friend on the phone, accusing them of not caring that they ruined the weekend.

Remer suggests taking a philosophical approach here. “Although flipping out is understandable (I fully support letting others know how you feel), one never knows the full backstory. Perhaps there is more at play than meets the eye. Of course, we are disappointed when our plans are ignored and disrespected, but we do want to avoid placing our ability to be happy solely on the shoulders of others. Swallow your anger, let it go and enjoy some time alone with your spouse or partner.” However, for the sake of both your sanity and your ability to snag a coveted slip at Fire Island, Remer recommends that you edit friends such as these off your list. Alternatively, perhaps they can take the ferry and meet you there!

Al wanted to turn back as the skies turned darker. My sister-in-law kept saying, “We’re having so much fun! Don’t be such a wuss.” I’m a safe boater, so I made the call to head home, but my wife told me that l should have waited a while and not embarrassed her.

Remer knows that “the captain of the boat has the final word, period!”  He adds that Mrs. Al need not be embarrassed by a seasoned boater being respectful of Mother Nature’s power, emphasizing that “the number one rule in boating is safety. This outranks good manners by a country mile!”

R & T were hosting eight friends on the boat. One couple also owned a boat, and R shared, Every time T gave an instruction or made a comment about boating, the other boat guy would say, “That’s not how most boaters do it.” My husband turned really red, and I worried about his blood pressure.

“The other boat guy” should know the captain of the boat gives the orders, says Remer. “Unless there was a clear danger, he should keep his comments to himself.”  After the day was done, the know-it-all might draw “T” aside and present his approach to boating in a factual, non-threatening way.

Ginny shared how friends’ two kids kept throwing stuff over the side. The parents would just laugh when it was our towels or the deck of cards we kept onboard. But when one of the boys threw one of his sneakers over, they screamed at us to stop and go back for it.

Don’t try to teach respect for hosts and the environment in the midst of a display of bad parenting, counsels Remer. “My advice is for Ginny to be sure to go over the onboard rules carefully and clearly with any guests who are not seasoned boaters, especially those with small, free-range children.”

K. reveals, I am an alcoholic and my friends know that. So why did one buffoon on the boat keep saying to him, “Hey, one beer in the open air won’t kill ya?”

That buffoon may have been in a transient spot at the same marina as Will. At 11:00 pm, I asked the owner of the boat in the next slip if he could turn down the music so my family could get some sleep. The reply was, “You’re not the only one who’s on vacation, buddy.” (Will swears the music got a little louder after he complained).

Don’t engage that lout again, cautions Remer. “Taking the law into one’s own hands is never a wise move.” The marina probably has noise by-laws, and the town or village certainly does, so summon the dockmaster or the local police. Don’t interact the next morning, either, our etiquette consultant adds.  Just “request a different slip.”

When it comes to feeling fed up with bad behavior, someone else may be in the same boat as you. Let them handle matters and stay out of it, as Amy did: After dusk on a Friday evening, a couple was having a vicious fight along Dock B. My family was eating dinner on our boat and I was just about to yell out, “We can all hear you!” when another boater made me crack up. This deep voice shouted, “Which one of you wants to hire me? I’m a great divorce lawyer!”

Story By Lita Smith-Mines



You can read Remer’s blog at

Comments are closed.