Burning Question | Marina etiquette

Cool, or not cool? - (Photo courtesy of Flota Navium)

Cool, or not cool? – (Photo courtesy of Flota Navium)

It’s fall again and folks are settling into their slips again for the winter, filling marinas and reacquainting neighbors with one another, both cordially and otherwise. And nothing is more grating than a neighbor, new or old, who doesn’t respect your property or the common areas of the marina.

This survey was inspired by a rather old blog post by one of our Guest Dock bloggers, Chris Wallace at Flota Navium. I’ve been mulling the topic over ever since she posted it about a year ago, watching carefully and considering what most of us take for granted but few seem to agree on: marina etiquette.

Wallace described an incident she witnessed in her marina that would raise most of our hackles: a large catamaran came in to a nearby slip shared with another vessel, and to give themselves more space, untied the lines and re-positioned the other boat without the other owner’s knowledge, presence, or permission. Unsurprisingly, this damaged the paint job and raised the hackles of the other owner when he found out, and so the cat was moved to another slip — shared, unfortunately, with Wallace.

And if the cat owner hadn’t sufficiently displayed his classiness after that first move, Wallace returned one day to find that they had snagged her dock water supply. (Chris has a somewhat older post on a similar topic with even more examples of poor etiquette and good advice on getting ready for the winter)

But it made me wonder if what each of us individually takes for granted as items of common boating etiquette are really more varied and less common than we may suppose.

There are a number of supposedly common taboos that are regularly violated without incident or mention in our marina, for example. Our linears are packed pretty tight, and it’s not terribly unusual to end up sharing cleats with other boats; consequently the stricture “If it ain’t sinking—don’t touch the lines” is broken all the time as a simple consequence of getting in and out of the place.

Similarly, boarding without permission happens regularly and excites little comment. As large vessels are moved in and out of inshore slips, we clamber like monkeys over boats on either side to help fend them off or pull them along through tight quarters–it’s just a consequence of the layout and pitching in to help out. In other marinas we have visited around the Pacific Northwest, conditions seem to differ on what is or is not proper etiquette.

But what do you think? Take our poll below and see what boaters in the Pacific Northwest consider taboo or okay in marina etiquette.

Got any other points of marina etiquette we didn’t mention that you think are commonly observed (or aren’t, but should be)? Leave a comment and let us know!

9 Responses to Burning Question | Marina etiquette

  1. ben May 20, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Our marinas here in Juneau are working marinas, so the expectations are quite a bit different. I think the commercial fisherman would crack up at a lot of these points of etiquette. When the state announces a fishing open, you work…which means generators, running motors, cranes, etc. regardless of the time. Personally, I try to minimize my noise, but things are what they are. I think a big part of etiquette that people forget is that other people have a right to enjoy their boat and boating time. My enjoyment might not be your enjoyment….but your enjoyment doesn’t have priority over mine. Lighten up and go with the flow.

  2. Diane October 18, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    My peeve is careless dog owners. How can a dog possibly poop on a dock without the owner seeing it to clean up? And i don’t see this at shilshole much, but i see on vacation a lot at resort marinas, peaceful desolation sound anchorages, etc… people who leave their dogs alone on their boats. rest assured that if a dog is left on the boat alone, it will bark/whine/whimper, and annoy all the neighbors who are feeling really sad for the hungry/lonesome/needs to pee animal.

  3. Stormy October 18, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    I leave my dock lines coiled on the dock. When I want to leave the slip I un cleat them from the boat and leave my lines on the dock so when I return they are always set perfectly. I always have a spring line on the boat and ready to go, its the only line you need when docking and has complete control of the boat. I always have multiple sets of lines on the boat for use at other docks. In a perfect world I have a set of fenders fastened the dock, this way when I want to go sailing I simply uncover my sails un-loop two dock lines and leave, no storing or drama involved. WhenI return I have fenders and dock lines set at the dock and just pull in furl my sails and pour a nice glass of scotch. Why don’t people understand and use spring lines???

  4. Mike W October 18, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    Where I seem to disagree with the majority is regarding water bibs. Except in the very rare circumstance of one bib per slip, that’s a community resource. Nobody gets exclusive right to it. If it’s not actively being used, disconnect your hose from it. If you are clearly violating this and I have need of the water, I will disconnect your hose and carefully stow the end in a safe place that won’t drop into the water (nor will I reconnect it – it shouldn’t have been there).

    The obvious exception is if you seem to be just taking a break from a big wash down.

  5. Steve Hulsizer October 18, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    Lines should not be on the dock,period. Real ships send the eye of the mooring line to the shore and put it on a cleat or bollard. What drives me nuts is seeing the eye doubled under the cleat on board and the bitter end in a pile or coil on the dock. If the boat had to get underway quickly in a breeze, there will not be enough slack to unfasten the line from the cleat.

    If you have to share a cleat, pull the eye of the new line up through the eye of the first line and then over the cleat. That way either boat can get under way without disturbing the other’s mooring line.

    • Scott Wilson October 18, 2014 at 9:27 am #

      That’s an interesting point, Steve, but it’s fairly rare to see it done that way except on larger vessels. And I can’t really think why–it doesn’t seem any more or less difficult than doing it the “normal” way.

      Got any theories?

      • Steve Hulsizer October 18, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

        Scott, you will see very few if any cleats made for larger vessels that have a hole through the cleat. Even if they did, it would not be practical to bend the larger lines through the cleat. Some boaters seem to think that if they don’t pass the line through the hole, that the line will slip off. Given the shape of some of the cheaper boat cleats, they may be justly worried. Get a proper cleat in the first place. Then we have the racing sailboats who don’t have any cleats on board and merely tie off to a stanchion or padeye, leaving two bitter ends per line. Can’t afford an extra ounce in favor of good seamanship.

        • Scott Wilson October 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

          “Some boaters seem to think that if they don’t pass the line through the hole, that the line will slip off. Given the shape of some of the cheaper boat cleats, they may be justly worried.”

          They should be! I’ve seen them come off, generally at the worst possible moment.

          The few larger vessels I’ve been on use cleats completely differently than most recreational boats, I’m guessing that most recreational boaters just never learn the techniques.

          And we won’t even talk about racers!

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