years I have come to the conclusion that there
are just some subjects that are best left alone
and should never become the focus of my monthly
message from the marina. However, I’ve had it
with the increasing nastiness that has come to
characterize the quest for a presidential
nomination this time around. It does not reflect
well at all on our country or our democratic
process, regardless of your political leanings.
While I have
found that process troubling, I take solace in
how the members of our boating community treat
one another. So much so that I would like to
share some thoughts about this subject as an
important reminder to those of us who enjoy our
time on board and the obligation we have to
newcomers to boating.
Etiquette, I believe, is our first line of
defense against an uncivil society. To disregard
a rule of boating etiquette is a sign that a
person does not respect any rule of boating,
etiquette or otherwise. If he or she doesn't
like this rule, I asked, what other rules are
they going to disregard?
etiquette and customs are not unlike the
protocols of the military, the White House or
the diplomatic corps. They are a good thing.
Sometimes, as a matter of fact, they can be can
downright funny, as in the names that some
people give their boats.
the fun of picking a name many people forget, or
maybe they don't know, that the name they give
their boat will be useless if nobody can
understand it on the marine radio. For example,
a name like Chip's Ship reads fine on the
transom but it invites misunderstanding on the
airwaves. I favor simple names with crisp
consonants, names like Magic. They are
easily communicated over the VHF radio,
especially in an emergency situation. The last
thing you want is others asking you to spell
your boat's name.
a traditionalist, I admit that I cringe every
time I see or hear a name that, well, lacks even
a hint of nautical class. But that’s
is the kind of information that new boaters are
not likely to know, and how would they know
unless somebody tells them?
question of where to put the name should come
up. If the vessel has an inboard motor, the name
goes smack dab in the middle of the outside of
the transom. If the boat is powered by an
outboard, it should be placed on either side of
the outboard. Documented vessels must conform to
certain type sizes and types, as specified by
Coast Guard requirements. Some do's and don'ts:
Don't use flowery script; it's too hard to read.
Don't make it too big or it will be out of
proportion to the size of your transom.
of the toughest protocols to keep alive is the
protocol of boarding other boats. The
traditional custom, derived from naval
tradition, is to always ask permission to board
a vessel. The issue seems to work itself out in
social settings. People usually know to wait
until they are invited in, whether it's a boat
or a home. But some will think it is okay to
board and knock on a cabin door. How are they to
know? The vessel owner should anticipate their
arrival and invite them aboard before they step
onboard. Discuss these things with new boaters.
Otherwise, how are they to know?
I just heard
from a client who said that his sailboat was
docked at a marina and the person on the boat
next to his saw some people come on board this
fellow’s boat. They were walking all over the
boat and sat down in the cockpit. They were not
familiar to the neighbor and he asked if they
were friends of the sailboat owner who was not
on board. “Who?’ they asked. “No, we just wanted
to see what one of these looked like!” At that
point the neighbor told them that the yacht was
private property and they’d better get off the
boat right away. The trespassers said a few
choice words and got off the boat.
then there is the subject of how to use the
marine radio properly. If you were schooled in
the proper way to use the VHF-FM marine radio
you already know how "CB" talk almost
overwhelmed accepted marine protocol in some
boating areas. I die a little death when I hear
a radio operator use phrases like "Good Buddy"
and "What's your 20?" But we who are on the
water hear him. Shouldn't we take the time to
key the mike and give a polite radio lesson? I
the way, the accepted calling language goes like
this: Magic, Magic, Magic this is Patience on
channel 16. After Magic acknowledges
you, ask the vessel's radio operator to switch
to a working channel.
point I want to
underscore is that we who are experienced have a
responsibility to pass on these bits of
etiquette, customs, and mandates. Doing so will
perpetuate good times at sea and dockside. Who
knows, maybe the lessons learned will be shared
with some of those heavily involved in
contemporary politics for application in their
daily activities. While we all know the media
thrives on bad news and controversy, they might
find proper etiquette such a departure from the
current norm; it could become the news of the
day! One can only hope.