Boating Etiquette Basics: Unwritten Rules at Sea

Boating Etiquette Basics: Unwritten Rules at Sea Blog

Along with the rules of boating (safety, right of way etc.), everyone should understand boating etiquette basics. If you charter with a skipper, they will run you through the boat, safety and boating etiquette basics. However, if you bareboat, this knowledge and responsibility will land on your shoulders. So, we thought we’d write a refresher. Here are some boating etiquette basics – the ‘unwritten rules at sea’ that everyone should know.

Be prepared, patient and polite 

Start your holiday in the right way by understanding patience and manners go a long way. Etiquette begins the moment you arrive at check-in. We advise people to be on-time when it comes to check-in and be prepared – i.e. have all of the necessary documents, ID and cards with you to make the process as smooth as possible. Be aware that during peak-season, check-in can be busy for our team at the counter and technicians. Allow a couple of people to deal with check-in and send everyone else to get provisions or relax with a drink. If you use a cart to get your gear to the boat, get it back as soon as possible so others can use it too. 

When everyone first steps aboard it is good to go around the boat together.

Educate your guests

Maybe you have spent a lot of time at sea but your guests haven’t. When everyone first steps aboard it is good to go around the boat together. Point out where everything is and how everything works. Make sure everyone knows where lifejackets are, how to move around the boat carefully, where to stand (i.e. mind the boom) etc. Keep communication clear and in time. For example, the captain should let guests know if you are crossing a wake or when you are tacking, so everyone is prepared and has time to react accordingly (sit down, get out of the way).

Slow down

Let’s face it, you’re on holiday, nothing should be a rush. Keep your speed down when entering a marina. During peak-season it can sometimes take time for dock attendants to get to you, wait patiently until you are waved in. As you move in to dock, do so slowly and calmly. Make sure all of your crew are aware of their responsibilities – i.e. who is throwing the shorelines and catching the mooring lines? Sometimes too many hands can get in the way if people aren’t sure what they’re doing. Also, move slow through bays and pay close attention because often people are swimming around their boats.

A tidy boat isn’t just for the aesthetics, it is practical and safe

Keep everything in order

A tidy boat isn’t just for the aesthetics, it is practical and safe. If everything is always stored away, lines tidy etc., there are fewer chances for accidents or belongings going overboard. The same goes for when you are in a marina – stow your lines, cords and hoses neatly at the dock to avoid the hazard of passers-by tripping over.

Watch your wake

You are responsible for your wake; causing injury or damage to another boat is the last thing you want. So, pay attention; when you are sailing or doing any manoeuvres, think about how your boat’s passing and wake could impact others – especially the likes of kayakers.


It should go without saying but unfortunately, this is not always the case… Do not throw any rubbish into the sea. The exception being biodegradable food wastes – but be sure to throw it when sailing, not near the shore or in a marina. Try “go green” when sailing. Limit your use of plastic and recycle where possible. Croatia now has recycling bins (paper, glass, plastic) in most marinas and ports. So, keep your waste separated and discard it appropriately when in a marina. Make sure all heads are running into the holding tank when in marinas or near shore.

Be considerate of your neighbours, especially when you are in a marina.

Mind your neighbours

You have come to the sea to relax and enjoy, just remember that everyone’s idea of enjoying is different. Be considerate of your neighbours, especially when you are in a marina. Playing loud music until 3 am is not always appreciated by others. If you want to have a ‘late night’, consider anchoring in a secluded bay and play music to your heart’s content.

Turn off all electronic equipment if you leave your boat at night to avoid your radio disturbing your neighbours. Check all your lines before you go to sleep at night, so you aren’t the neighbour with the loud tapping lines through the night. On a separate note – be a helpful neighbour. If you see someone in need of help – especially when docking, be sure to offer a hand, not everyone is a salty seadog. In the same breath, never be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

When dropping anchor, be sure to keep an adequate distance from other boats

Anchor away…

Whether you are dropping anchor for a short swim-stop or the evening, be sure to keep an adequate distance from other boats. Another good rule here is to mimic what other boats are doing, how they tied off etc. so when the wind changes, you all move in a similar way. 


It sounds obvious but when you go to fuel-up, be sure you know the correct tank because many deck fittings look similar and fuel going in the fresh-water tank happens more often than you think. Pay attention when fuelling and don’t overfill. Burping or overfill is a good way to ruin a deck or cause environmental damage by running into the sea. Move away from the fuel dock as soon as you are done because normally others are waiting to move in.

Being at sea is being part of a community

By all means, enjoy your time sailing in Croatia but believe us when we say these etiquette basics will help you do so. In short, boating etiquette is about safety, thinking of others, and the environment. Lastly – wave to other boaters. This isn’t compulsory but as well as letting the other boat know that you see them and acknowledge their course, it is just a nice gesture and helps you feel part of a community.

Get Quote