Every time I drive my car on a crowded road, I am amazed by how a machine can transform one's personality. I personally live in downtown Chicago and believe me when I say, “I can tell you some stories!”
If someone pulls out in front of your car, you may honk, scream, curse and generally take on the personality of a Chicago Bears defensive linemen!
Another scenario: If you were walking along at the mall and someone stepped out of a store in front of your path, you would not start screaming at that person or threaten him with violence. OKAY! You might if that Bears lineup racked you up hard!
That type of thing can happen in boats, but it is far less common. And that is because there is such a thing as “Boating Etiquette”, a group behavior that almost every boater seems to learn.
Definition of Boating Etiquette:
“The customary code of polite behavior among members of a particular profession or group. In boating, etiquette is not only about social norms but also about safety!” Boat owners feel a privilege of ownership. Humble in the fact that they have been awarded the opportunity to even have a boat.
Boater owners consider themselves like neighbors or very friendly business associates with everyone else on the water. It’s that mindset that forms the basis for good boating etiquette. This leads to those “UNSPOKEN RULES OF THE WATER!”
These scenarios have happened to us all!
If you have been on a boat that has broken down, run out of gas or become incapacitated in any other fashion, you have probably experienced the feeling of brotherhood boating or a community coming together.
I have been boating for a number of years, and while not a huge number of occasions, but on each occasion, boaters spent more than amble time with me to make sure everyone was safe on board and helped with my recovery!
My experience would tell me that if my car broke down in Chicago, I am not getting that same type of treatment!
There is a legal rule involved in this help-your-neighbor policy, at least when you are at sea. On the ocean, it is a requirement that you stop and render assistance to another boat that appears to be in trouble.
Think about it this way: It is a logical rule to apply. If you want someone to stop and help you when you are in trouble, then you need to be willing to stop and help others when they are in trouble. Simple as that!
But most boaters stopping to assist their fellow community boater are not doing so to comply with any laws or rules, they are simply doing it because it is the right thing to do!
They are practicing EXCELLENCE IN BOATER’S ETIQUETTE!
WHEN THE GOOD SAMARITAN RULE FAILS!
How many times has the following scenario happened to you?
Have you been anchored in a cozy romantic cove when a mysterious boat appears? OMG! No way! You immediately think they are invading your space but are there only to ask if you NEED ASSISTANCE!!
But for every incident like that, there has been an occasion on which another boater has stopped when I've really needed help. I've had people come onto my boat with tool boxes, pull the cowling off my outboard and actually make engine repairs just because it was clear to them that I was out of my league in trying to fix my own stranded craft.
Another example of this type of courtesy happens in every marina I've visited. Pull up to a dock with people on it and likely as not, a stranger will come running over to help you with your docking lines, or use his foot to fend you off from rubbing your rail too hard against a piling. There are dozens of other little courtesies, like slowing down even when you do not have to, just to keep your wake from causing another boater a problem. These courtesies are usually logical and pragmatic.
Good boating etiquette like this usually comes from experience on the water and learning the unwritten rules that go beyond what is legally required. And that can take years. But the basis for mastering this etiquette is simply learning the written rules, the statutes, the state and federal requirements you must legally follow as a boater.
In PART TWO of this Special Series of Blogs, we will discuss learning more about the legal requirements of boating and the courses you should take to become a MASTER!