Ten marina rules that will make you look like a seasoned captain

dock-cleatBy Capt. Kevin Deiter

We all know there are many rules, regulations and laws to boating—most learned from years spent on the water. For many new boaters, a lot is learned through trial and error, such as a soft grounding in the mud resulting in a little less paint on that shiny new skeg. Some lessons are a little more obvious—the guy in another boat yelling at you to slow down because you are making too much of a wake, and the most direct hint; an encounter with the boys with the funny looking, flashing blue navigational lights telling you to put your vessel in neutral as they tie up to you.

There are a few boating educational resources around like the Power Squadrons, but there are so many “unwritten” rules in the maritime world that it often takes years of practical experience just to happen upon a few that really make you look like you know what you are doing. Regardless of where your boating education comes from, very seldom is there a chapter on “marina etiquette”.

Unfortunately, executing a Google search on “marina etiquette” will not always reward you with all you may need to know about accepted practices. Not understanding the norms can be intimidating for a novice boater or someone exploring a new area, leading to a lot of apprehension, or worse, upsetting the marina managers or dockmaster. Here are a few tips that should shed some light on those customs.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #1: Regardless or your religious beliefs, the dockmaster is God in any marina. Unless you have a prearranged slip or dockage, always contact the dockmaster on VHF ch.16 and tell him or her what your intentions are. They will then tell you how to proceed, and where to dock your boat. Unless you have a very unique reason to deviate, never second guess or alter from the direction they gave you. If told to pull along the seawall and do a “port-side” tie up, do it, unless you have a real good reason not to, and if he agrees with you. Dockmasters have good memories; they will remember the captains who turn their hands green in return for their help, leading perhaps to a free bag of ice or a discount on fuel.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #2: Never dock your boat in an empty boat slip unless specifically told to go to that slip. And never pull into a slip that already has dock lines hanging from the pilings or cleats on the sea wall. Usually, these are private slips, and when they are empty, the boat owner is simply out fishing or cruising for the day. There is not much worse for a slip owner than to return back to the marina to find a boat tied up in their berth.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #3: Never tie your boat up at the fuel pumps unless you are actively fueling your vessel. In most cases, the pilings around the fuel pumps will be painted red to signify the area, and signs will be affixed to the pilings. If they say “No dockage”, respect this and find another place to tie up. This is especially true after hours when the dockmaster may be off duty, because it can be a major insurance liability concern.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #4: Never remove a dockline from a piling or cleat that is not yours. Every vessel should have adequate dock lines available at all times, and taking one just to “borrow” for a short stay is unacceptable. More times than not, the line finds its way onto the boat permanently, and the owner has a problem tying up their boat when they return to their slip.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #5: Only approach a dock or slip as hard as you want to hit it.


[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #6: Idle speed at all times. When you think you are going slow enough, slow down some more.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #7: Never remove a hose or its nozzle from a boat slip without permission from the owner. If you do borrow a hose, ensure it is returned, coiled up and the water turned off when you are done.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #8: If the trash can you have been using is getting full and there is a large dumpster nearby, empty the trash.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #9: When filleting fish in the designated fish cleaning area, always pop the eye balls and break the fish’s spine before returning the carcass to the environment. Popping the eyeballs sounds gross, but it helps keep the carcass from floating back up to the surface as the fish decomposes, thus smelling up the entire marina.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ule #10: Always help out fellow boaters. This is especially true when a captain is backing into a slip or pulling up to a dock. Quietly hand him or the mate any lines he may need without talking to him. Usually there is already enough yelling taking place at this point and the added conversation may distract the captain as he gets close to the sea wall or piling. Be helpful, but quiet unless engaged by the captain.

These tips are by no means all inclusive, but will help most new boat owners achieve a greater comfort level. Dockmasters may remember captains who are good tippers, but they also remember those who do not understand proper etiquette. Avoid being referred to as a “Nautical Nightmare”; show them you are a confident, knowledgeable captain!

Capt. Kevin Deiter, of The Feeding Frenzy Sportfishing and Boating Academy can be reached at (941) 234-2041 or www.feedingfrenzysac.com.