If you’re new to the world of yachting, welcome! Come aboard and join an exciting pastime that has a whole lifestyle of its own. Whether you are a new owner, are chartering a yacht, or are a guest aboard, there are some rules you’ll want to know and follow to make your experience as pleasant as it can be!
First, there are a few simple formalities you want to observe when you are first coming on to the yacht. These are:
- If invited as a guest…
When invited as a guest on a boat, your host will likely tell you what to bring, where and what time to arrive, when the boat plans to depart (plan to arrive at a reasonable interval ahead of time; don’t just step aboard moments before departure) and what to expect. If you have any questions about these kinds of things don’t be afraid to ask.
- Ask permission to come aboard
Climbing aboard a yacht or any other type of boat is very similar to entering someone’s home. When you enter someone’s home, you generally knock on the door or ring the doorbell and then wait to be invited in. The boat-based equivalent is to ask permission of the captain or owner to “enter” by asking “Permission to come aboard?”
- Remove shoes when boarding
Yachts are very expensive items that take a great deal of care to maintain. Often the floor and deck materials are highly polished, or very light in color and it would be damaging or disrespectful to scratch or soil them with “street shoe” that can track in all sorts of oil, debris, and dirt from land-based surfaces. For this reason, you should, at the very least, ask your host or Captain if you should remove your shoes as you come aboard. If you are told it’s fine to keep you shoes on – usually ok if you are wearing soft-soled shoes or special deck shoes – at least you have shown consideration for the yacht and its owners by asking. If you do remove your shoes, don’t just drop them wherever you take them off; ask where you should stow them. Many yachts have a basket or special area designated for storing your shoes while aboard. Keep this practice in mind when dressing to come aboard; it’s also not the most courteous practice to be barefoot on a fine yacht unless you are engaged in “outdoor activities.” Wear a pair of presentable socks (no holes, please) or pack a compact pair of soft-soled slippers or booties.
- Don’t overpack and do bring soft, compact luggage
Storage space on boats and yachts is always at a premium, no matter the size of the vessel. You need to take this restriction into account when packing for your visit. Whether you are staying overnight or chartering for a week, pack lightly and pack in soft duffle bags or kits that can be easily flattened for storage while aboard. Also, as we’ll discuss later in this section, fresh water is a premium so consider that you may not be doing laundry every day while underway. Clothes that require only a brief rinse and are wrinkle-free are your best bets, both from the standpoint of packing and freshness.
- Consider others around you and keep the noise level down
Most people spend time on a boat as a means of relaxation and recreation. There is nothing as soothing as the sound of waves gently hitting the side of your boat as you relax on deck or drift off to sleep. Having that peace and quiet rudely interrupted by the sounds of loud voices and blasting music can cause anyone to lose their cool. Because of its limited space, sound can clearly travel from one end of a yacht to the other, so keep in mind that there is a chance that your comments may be overheard by others, whether passengers or crew. This lack of spatial awareness has proven to be a damaging faux pas that can lead to cause tension for the rest of the cruise.
- Don’t take advantage of “Happy Hour”
One of the perks of a charter vacation is that you may enjoy “Happy Hour” aboard the vessel or on the shores of an exotic island with the locals. In the course of your cruse, you may meet someone from another vessel or from the town where you are currently anchored whom you wish to invite on board. Whether it is for one cocktail or to show off the yacht you’ve chartered, etiquette and protocol dictate that you first ask the captain’s permission. Consider, too, that your provisions on-board have likely been planned to suffice for your immediate size of group and time afloat, and may not accommodate additional guests. Consequently, it’s a good idea to check with your crew to see if it’s feasible to entertain additional guests before you invite your new friends aboard.
- Don’t enter the galley unless specifically invited
Speaking of your crew and their work space, it’s natural and exciting to want to inspect the yacht on which you are sailing. However, remember that this is the also the “workspace” of the crew who is serving you. To that end, don’t barge in to the galley and expect to be greeted with open arms, especially when meals are being prepared. Just as we would not like to be disturbed when preparing a meal for an elaborate dinner party, the same holds true of those in the galley. Ask for permission and find out when would be a good time for you to take a tour.Also, if you are bringing your own food or drinks, keep it simple, be sure to coordinate with the Galley Chef (for storage and suitability), and leave the large hard coolers at home. By using a little respect and consideration for the Galley Chef and staff, you’ll find this will go a long way toward getting – and staying – on your crew’s good side.
- Don’t waste fresh water
Fresh water on-demand is something we often take for granted as a routine matter of life “on-shore.” However, fresh water becomes a different matter while cruising. On a yacht, there are a certain number of gallons of fresh water aboard, which generally cannot be replenished as needed while underway. It’s not an exaggeration to say that running out of fresh water in the middle of the ocean could prove fatal. It’s important that each guest aboard respect the regulations regarding fresh water usage. Many charters have rules about washing your hair with fresh water and permission sometimes must come directly from your captain. Be sure that, if children are aboard, that they understand the rules as well, or are supervised when using the head or bath/shower facilities. However, there is no limit to the amount of salt water that may be used during your cruise.
- Follow the head instructions
One of the typical worries of a passenger unfamiliar with boats and cruising is the use of the marine toilet, otherwise known as “the head.” Believe it or not, there is an etiquette regarding head usage. Clogging the head will not only cause you much embarrassment because you’ll require the crew’s assistance to fix it, but will inconvenience the crew and fellow guests as well. Different heads have different operating instructions; if you are unfamiliar with how to operate the head on your vessel, take a minute and ask a crew member. While it may seem awkward to discuss such a “personal” function, this is one case where the ounce of prevention is more than worth the pound of cure. If the head becomes clogged, it may be necessary for a crew member to disassemble and unclog it. One common saying is that you may put anything into a marine toilet as long as it has been ingested first; except for a miniscule amount of toilet paper.
- Smoking or non-smoking?
Don’t smoke without clearing it with the Captain or owner of the vessel. Many people, of course, find smoking offensive and it’s also difficult to clean smoke out of furnishings, cushions and carpet and other guests who use the boat after you may have allergies to smoke. If you have permission to smoke do it downwind for safety and the comfort of others.
- Always obey the captain
The captain of your chartered yacht is responsible for the well-being and safety of each person aboard. Just like a scout leader or teacher, the captain has final say over almost everything on the boat. While you may not necessarily agree with the captain’s viewpoint or direction, it’s important that you respect and follow the rules at all times. Remember, he or she is much more familiar with the workings of the yacht, the conditions of the water, and requirements for marine-based travel than you are – it’s his or her job to know better.
- Tip the crew
Proper charter etiquette dictates that tip your crew from 10-15% of the charter fee based upon the services they have provided during your stay. The typical custom is that the charter party leaves the gratuity with the captain, with suggestions on how it should be distributed among the crew members. Remember, during your stay aboard the yacht, the crew has been your navigation team, wait staff, bartender, gourmet chef, and housekeeper. They may have also taken on other tasks such as dinghy/tender driver, tour guide, diving instructor, games opponent, etc. Consider all these many tasks and services when determining your tip.
At all times be guided by this one important rule: treat the boat, its owners and crew the way YOU would want to be treated if the vessel belonged to you or you were involved and engaged in its use and care. That means take care with the boat, its furnishing and toys. If something you are using breaks, or you notice damage somewhere, mention it to the crew. Be courteous and kind to the crew. Yes, they are paid staff who have been hired to take care of you, but they are people first and foremost, deserving of respect and consideration. Treat them well, and they’ll take great care of you! Remember to always follow the Captain’s directions: the Captain has the legal obligation for the safety and security of the boat and its passengers.
Follow these rules and you’ll be guaranteed a much smoother and more enjoyable cruise. Bon voyage!