How to be a Considerate Onboard Guest

How to be a Considerate Onboard Guest

So your friends have invited you on a boating trip and you have never been sailing before. Sharing such a small space and being in close contact with your fellow crew makes understanding and practicing good sailing etiquette essential. Here are some tips for first time sailors and guests while on board

Ask permission to board

Just like we would knock on the door of someone’s house and wait to be invited in, it is considered good boating etiquette to ask permission to board. A simple "Permission to come aboard?” will do. Once aboard you are a welcomed guest and do not need to ask every time.


Remove your shoes when on board or bring clean deck shoes or trainers with light coloured soles to be worn only on the boat. Shoes can mark the deck and you can track in dirt if you have been out.


As a common courtesy to your fellow sailors, use appropriate luggage for a boat. This means soft bags that can easily be stowed. Wheel-on bags are not considered soft luggage. Also packing light is necessary due to limited space, so just the essentials. Most importantly, don’t leave your stuff  lying around. Keep it tidy!

Noise Level

Keep in mind those that are berthed next to you and other guests, especially in more secluded anchorages. To keep things amenable, check the volume of your music and your voices. Sound travels very well over water and even normal conversations carry far.

Don’t Get in the Way

Help only with tasks that are familiar to you or follow specific instructions from captain and crew. Sometimes it is preferable to just keep out of the way, especially during maneuvering and docking procedures. Never enter the galley unless asked to. It is a very small space and whoever is the designated cook may not want you there.

Save Water

Water is precious and on a boat there are limits to how much can be carried and how often water tanks can be filled up. Running out of fresh drinking water can be a serious problem and so guests should be aware of and respect the rules on board about water. Do not leave water running when brushing teeth, keep showers short and just be aware of your water consumption in general.

The head

Onboard toilets, known as the head, work in a specific way and you should ask for a full briefing on exactly how it works. Remember that only things that have entered through your mouth should be flushed down the head – it is extremely bad form to block up the head!

Respect the Sea

It goes without saying that the sea and sea life should be properly respected. Litter and cigarette butts should under no circumstances be thrown overboard. If possible, any detergents, shampoos, soaps and sunscreens should be biological to avoid harm to sensitive sea life. Do not collect souvenirs and shells if it is home to something or still alive. It is wise to check local fishing regulations and sustainable fishing quotas before fishing.

Captain’s Word is Law

The captain is in charge of the boat. Follow their instructions and never second guess their reasons for leaving or staying. The captains job entails ensuring safety for all so do not put yourself, or anyone, else at risk - plus he or she chooses the music!

A little boating etiquette can get you far in the sailing community and even if you are a paying guest on a charter boat, your graciousness will be much appreciated by your captain and crew.


By Merryn Wainwright

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