Hey there boating buddies! You’ve all heard of the Rules of the Road, which dictate on-the-water safety; but, I wonder how many of you are aware of the unwritten rules of boating courtesy? Your boat is identifiable by its name; and your reputation will follow you everywhere. Test your knowledge by answering these questions to find out whether or not you are behaving like a Doofus, i.e. an inconsiderate clod.
Are you a water hog? You are responsible for your wake, and any damage it causes. Yes, I know it’s tempting to rev up that engine and speed across the bow of a sailing or motor yacht; but, if by doing so, you have forced the vessel to change course or dance violently under your wake, you are behaving like a Doofus. Likewise, if you speed past a slower boat, traveling so closely that your wake causes it to flounder or risk going aground. Do you speed through marina areas, hoping no on will notice that it’s your wake that’s causing boats to rock merrily in their slips or on moorings? If you do, you’re a Doofus.
When crossing another boat, head for the stern and neither of you will feel as if you’ve survived a potential collision. When you aim to pass a slower boat, your wake won’t be as disruptive if you slow down and allow as much seaway as possible. You might even hail the other boat on the VHF to ask the helmsman to slow down further, enabling you to provide a wakeless pass. On the ICW, this is common practice. When nearing a marina or anchorage area, heed the posted speed limits—usually no wake--and other boaters won’t shake their fists and shout obscenities, as you pass through.
Are you a mooring grabber? When you are cruising for a vacant mooring, and spot one that another boat is approaching, do you race over to grab it first? If you do, you’re a Doofus. I once witnessed two boats actually fighting over the same mooring, boat hooks extended, trying to see who could pick it up first. The proper thing to do is to pick another spot. Moorings, as well as anchoring spots are first come first serve, unless assigned by a harbormaster. By the same token, unless you have permission, it is unwise to pick up a private mooring unless you don’t mind being kicked off at the least opportune time.
Are you a dock hog? When you pull into the fuel dock, do you take the opportunity to go shopping or to leisurely wash your boat? If you even think about it, you’re a Doofus. Unless the dockmaster has given you permission to remain at this dock for time beyond fueling up, seek a vacant slip for extraneous activities. Also, if you tie the dinghy up to a boat dock, in lieu of a dinghy dock, beware of blocking another boat’s access to any boarding ladders, fueling or watering areas.
My pet peeve is boaters who snug their dinghies so close to the dock that there’s no room for other dinghies to wedge in between. Doing this seems to be a new trend that I can only guess was begun by some neatnik who likes to see the docks look tidy. So, on this one, you’re only a Doofus if you continue to do this. We all love to go into shore, so please, when you tie up your dinghy, leave room for the rest of us.
Not sure how to do this? It’s easy. Just allow your painter to extend out 8-feet or so, permitting others to wedge their dinghies in between. A side benefit is that other boaters won’t need to crawl over your dinghy to tie up. And, if you tie the painter under the lines that precede you, it won’t be necessary for another boater to disturb your lines to free his dinghy.
Are you a dock nasty? Camaraderie among boaters dictates we help each other when necessary. If you pretend you don’t notice a boat coming into your dock that looks as if it needs a hand, you’re a Doofus. The larger the boat, the more complex it is to dock. A high freeboard may make it impossible for crew to hop off and tie up, and not everyone is adept at the task. Your offer to take a line can make all the difference to a newbie or a single hander.
Marina walkways are narrow. Only a Doofus would clutter the path with hoses, lines, and other paraphernalia. Coil lines and hoses, and stow barbecue grills and cleaning equipment to prevent a fellow boater from tripping over your stuff. If you haven’t proper storage aboard, invest in a dock box. Also, if your anchor extends into the walkway, tie a life preserver on it to alert passersby and prevent them clunking their head on it.
Like music? We all do, but not when it’s blasting in the wee hours. Only a Doofus would be inconsiderate enough to make undue noise. Run engines and generators at times when people aren’t trying to sleep or enjoy a quiet meal.
One of my bugaboos is people who use marine provided carts, and leave them stranded miles away from the parking lot. Come on guys, think about us new arrivals who must cart-hunt before unloading the car.
I’ve saved the worst dock nasty for last. Is the head on your boat so bloated that if you don’t pump it, it will blow? If you pump out in your marina or anchorage area, you are the King of Doofuses. Believe me, there is no stealth way to do this. Your neighbors will know who you are and ban you from all future cocktail parties. Head off the problem by hailing a pump out boat before the situation becomes critical. If this is impossible, take a long boat ride, at least three miles from shore per the marine dumping laws, to relieve the problem.
Are you the social butterfly from Hell?It’s great to be sociable; but not everyone wants company. Consider that a boat is a person’s home, while the surrounding waters or dock is their back yard. Only a Doofus would go into someone’s home uninvited. Therefore, it is crude and rude to hop aboard any boat without permission, even if these people are good friends.
Boats on moorings or at anchor are particularly vulnerable, and some relish their privacy. If you want to say hello or ask about their boat, always approach them from starboard, remaining at least six feet away. If the owner wants to speak with you further, he will invite you to come closer or to tie up and come aboard.
Say you and your spouse are invited to another boat for cocktails or dinner. You’re a Doofus if you arrive empty-handed. Offer to bring something, asking specifically what they would like—an appetizer, a side dish, beverages? At minimum, bring a bottle of wine, a six-pack of beer or some soft drinks. They will love you if you arrive with your first drink in hand. For brownie points, bring along a plastic bag to stow your returned dishes, and wash them on your own boat.
So, how did you rate on the Doofus scale? None of us is perfect; but if we at least try, we can avoid being a nemesis to other boaters. How ‘bout it?