Before You Come On My Boat…

Published in the June 2019 Issue January 2020 Feature Brady L. Kay

It’s probably fair to say the larger the boat you own, the more you enjoy entertaining and having visitors on board. From family to friends, it would be a shame not to share our vessels with others. After all, aren’t we all ambassadors to boating on the Great Lakes in one way or another?

For most of us, friends will probably be included in our summer plans this year, including those who have never stepped foot on a boat before. It reminds me of a cartoon about the invited couple arriving at the hosts’ vessel for the overnight cruise.

The lady is wearing a miniskirt and high heels. He’s still wearing his rumpled suit from work. He has an overstuffed briefcase tucked under his arm. His shoulder is weighted down with golf clubs and tennis rackets. They have two stuffed, hard-sided suitcases and the cell phone on his belt is ringing.

Have you met this well-meaning couple in your own lives? Probably so. The cartoon overstates the typical scenario, but clearly makes the point that non-boating guests just don’t know what to bring or what to wear when they’re invited to come boating.

We can also safely assume they do not know boating’s protocols. For example, they do not realize that on a boat it’s really bad form to take long showers or turn on the galley tap and let the water run. They don’t know that reading lamps are used sparingly, if at all.

You may be starting to ask the question, “So if guests are such a problem, why do you invite them in the first place?” The reason of course is that we like our friends. They’re our friends for a reason; we enjoy their company and we like to boat. When you combine the two, life on the water is great.

The challenge is how to gently educate new friends and the answer is what I call Boating 101 for Newbies.

It’s clearly best to talk to your friends ahead of time and suggest to them what to wear and what to bring and, more importantly, what not to bring. Boating is a lot like camping; space is tight and they need to know this before they come. The newbie couple also needs to know the boat only has so much fresh water so you’ll want them to take quick and infrequent showers. Reading lights are fine when the boat is running or plugged into power at a marina, but otherwise they just drain the batteries. Being clear up front is helpful to set the tone early so they understand that as boaters we give up some luxuries in order to experience the joy of being on the water.

Now some items are best discussed when the guests are on the boat and can see what you’re talking about. Show them where you keep your lifejackets and how to put one on. Other good visuals include showing them the first aid kit, the flashlight and the location of the fire extinguishers too. This is also a good time to let them know what to do with wet towels and such. Also, cover safety matters such as never letting their hands get pinched between the boat railing and the pilings.

As much as this will benefit them, going over some of these details—which often seem like common sense to you—is very valuable. Guests might be oblivious and do something that really annoys or upsets you and not even know it. That’s really not fair to them if it’s something you’ve never mentioned before.

In the end, we love boating and we want our friends to love it too. So let’s get them on board this summer and give them a taste of the good life. 

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