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Dockside Etiquette 

Dockside RaftupOur book, Happy Hooking – The Art of Anchoring, covers etiquette in the anchorage, and we also touch on dinghy etiquette. But some issues around a new pontoon installed at our sailing club started me thinking that perhaps provoking some thoughts on dockside etiquette could be quite useful for those days when you just have to stay in a marina or tie up to a dock.  Judging by the things we’ve seen all around both sides of the Atlantic and Caribbean, not everyone is aware of the unwritten rules of etiquette. Even though picking up after your dog seems obvious, other prickly matters may need a bit of reminding.

So here is our list. If you have more to offer, please send us a message

1.       When fuelling or loading your vessel at a temporary loading or fuelling slip, move your vessel as soon as you are done so others can get access. Do not exceed the time limits without the dock master’s permission.

2.       If you must use your head (toilet) ensure that it goes into your holding tank. Never discharge your waste in a harbour or a marina.

3.       Coil your ropes, cords and hoses and don’t have them cross the dock if you can avoid it. They are serious tripping hazards, particularly at night.

4.       Don’t stow your gear on the dock. Aside from the possibility that it may disappear, it’s just another hazard to contend with.

5.       If possible, don’t let your bow extend out over the dock.  It is a hazard, particularly if the anchor is protruding.

6.       Don’t leave food or garbage out in your cockpit or on the dock. Rodents and roaches are local residents, and you’ll learn your lessons the hard way if Ratatouille and his friends descend on you.

7.       Always ask permission before boarding another boat.

8.       Even though boating is social, respect your neighbours and keep the noise down. Remember, noise travels easily across water and not everyone might appreciate your musical taste or the sound of your generator in an otherwise peaceful setting.

9.       When boats are rafted, cross over the bows to get to the dock. It is not proper to cross over boats through the cockpit where you might be disturbing the other boaters.

10.   Shut off electronics when not in use and when you leave your vessel. I have heard VHF radios long into the night on unattended boats and seen navigation lights left on at the dock.

11.   Use spring lines and chafe protection gear to secure your boat effectively. You don’t want your boat to break loose and cause a chain reaction of accidents around you.

12.   Don’t use your barbecue in the marina. Aside from the fact that it is against the rules in most marinas, it is also a major fire hazard where fuel and vapours from so many vessels in close proximity collect.

13.   Clean up after your dog.

Keep in mind also that marinas and dock areas are no wake zones. Most dinghies actually throw a larger wake than the big boats, so be very careful and drive slowly so as not to disturb the waters around boats tied to stationary objects.

In addition, most marinas don’t have enough boarding ladders so that if someone does trip and fall into the water, they may not be able to get back out. That happened to me one early spring day in New York State. I slipped while cleaning the hull and fell in wearing a heavy sweater and boots.  I could barely swim, could barely breathe in the cold water so I could not scream. There was no ladder and I could not get out. I knew had just minutes before it was too late.  There was no one around to see my plight, until someone on a boat nearby happened to look over to where I was. He yanked me out and all was fine. But it could have gone differently. Maintaining dock safety is the best way to avoid potential disasters and even loss of life.

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Captains Daria and Alex Blackwell are co-authors of Happy Hooking – The Art of Anchoring Second Expanded Edition which is available here and through amazon worldwide in print and digital format for Kindle. It is the best-selling anchoring book on amazon and has received exceptional reviews from numerous boating and sailing magazines as well as Ocean Cruising Club, Cruising Club of America, Seven Seas Cruising Association and Irish Cruising Club.  Alex and Daria have sailed their Bowman 57 ketch across the Atlantic three times in three years, spending their sabbatical exploring the Caribbean and Atlantic islands and coasts of North America and Europe.


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