Boat etiquette: how to be the perfect guest Must read.

LifestyleTravelJune 24, 2021

So, you’ve been invited to a friend’s boat? Fabulous. You know what they say: the best boat is a friend’s boat, no expenses, no maintenance headaches, no dealing with the crew, just fun, fun, fun! But be sure you know how to behave on a boat, or your friends will never invite you a second time. And here comes the little Notorious’ guide on boat etiquette.

Read it carefully, because you wouldn’t want to become the stuff of legend by being THAT type of guest that drives the hosts and everybody else insane, would you? Apart from that, many life-long friendships have ended after a week together on a boat (we won’t give names, Vicki).

That’s why we prepared a boat etiquette list with DOs and DON’Ts to make sure this won’t be the first AND the last time you spend holidays on your friends’ boat. Pay special attention to the DON’Ts as when on a boat, the smallest DON’T can cause your hosts to wish they could abandon you on the nearest desert island.

Christina Onassis superyacht fly bridge flight deck via

Boat etiquette first thought

Have in mind that a boat usually offers a rather small space, which you will have to share with others for a few hours or days, so it’s quite easy to get on each other’s nerves. Unless of course, you’ve been invited by the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov on his 156-meter long yacht, the largest in the world, in this case, you may disregard the space problem. 

The Captain

The first important rule never to forget: the Captain is the captain. Period. On a boat, the one person who decides where to go, when to go and how long to stay is the captain. He’s the one responsible for everyone’s safety, so if he tells you to go inside, to sit down or to stop doing whatever you’re doing, there’s no room for argumentation, just do as the captain says. And do pay attention to the captain’s orientations and instructions, even when you’re not supposed to help sailing, be quiet and let the crew pay attention, no chatting, no giggling, no interrupting, please.

Don’t arrive empty-handed

As you would do in any event on firm land, when invited to a boat you must bring a little something for your guests. Booze is always appreciated, Champagne, a lovely Rosé or white wine. Better bring it already cool as finding extra space in the fridge may be tricky. Ask your hosts beforehand if they’d like you to bring some food and whether you should chip in for fuel. They will be glad you asked, and even if your kind hosts decline your offer, do bring some special treats for the “aperitivo” and a refreshing bubbly.

Be on time

Your hosts, the crew and the other guests will really hate having to wait for you. Never be late, or you will come onboard on the wrong foot.

The shoes

And speaking about the foot, be careful with the shoes you bring to wear on a boat. Never wear anything with black soles as they would mark the boat’s deck. Also, forget your fabulous high heels. Actually, Sperrys are the go-to boat footwear or choose any other flat rubber-soled shoes with a bit of grip to avoid slipping and making a fool of yourself. Or, even worse, causing some accident.

The clothes

Make sure you wear something comfortable. Avoid anything you wouldn’t want to get wet. Also, remember that once you’re out in the sea, it is most likely to be windy, so be careful with the hats that might fly away. Skimpy little dresses, you should only wear over your swimsuit, or you may end up showing everyone your knickers or having to spend your day trying to hold your skirt down. We know that after a few Aperol Spritzes, you may think you look as hot as Marilyn Monroe in the iconic white-dress-blowing-up scene, but trust us, it will seem silly and only show your lack of boating experience. Shorts or a beautiful kaftan are better options. Don’t forget to bring some warm clothes too, even in summer it may get chilly at sea.


As we told you before, space is always tighter than you might wish on a boat. The cabin and toilets are cramped so stay there as little as possible, especially when the ship is moving if you want to avoid becoming seasick. But if you do feel sick, stay outside and focus on something else to distract yourself and forget about it. Don’t talk about it and don’t make a fuss; it would only make things worse. Here you’ll find a piece of good information about which kind of procedures and medication you should take in case of seasickness.

Conversation about the boat

Most certainly, the boat-owners have spent a lot of money and a lot of time to keep their boat in tip-top condition and are very proud of it. Being the perfect boat-guest that you are, don’t forget to mention how beautiful all is. Talk about the polished chrome, the shiny woodwork, your friends will undoubtedly have a lot to tell you about it. To strike a pleasant conversation, you can also ask them about all the places they’ve sailed before. Avoid talking about the cost of the boat and of the crew, it is rude, plus it would only remind your hosts of the sad part of owning a boat. Don’t spoil their fun.

The crew

And since we mentioned the crew, although you might think they all look dashing in their uniforms and tanned skin, do not flirt with the crew. They’re professionals, on the ship to work, not to entertain you nor to be entertained by you.

Don’t act dumb 

Don’t even think of getting in the water while the engine is on. We know your boating days should be fun, but jumping out of a moving boat is a total NO-GO. Wait for the captain’s OK before diving like a siren into the blue ocean. And speaking of dumb, please, forget the Titanic “I’m the King of the World” thing, it’s just not fun anymore.

Basic boat etiquette

Never forget boats are expensive toys. When possible, do not step on the seats, don’t smear them with your sun lotion, don’t spill your drinks and if allowed smoking, be extremely careful not to burn a hole in the seats and never-ever throw your cigarettes butts in the sea. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t throw absolutely anything into the water! 

Last but not least

At the end of your boating day or trip, do not simply say goodbye and leave, stay and offer to help clean the boat and don’t forget to thank your hosts and let them know how much you enjoyed yourself. Good manners are always appreciated, whether on dry land or at sea.

Hope you liked our Notorious’ guide on boat etiquette, and we wish you a wonderful trip!

Title photo damir-spanic via unsplash

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