Tips and Tricks

The Ultimate Guide to Sailing Etiquette

Common sense can be a safe method to follow, however, there are some unwritten rules you’ll need to know before setting off to your destination. Most sailors know the rules surrounding sailing etiquette creates smooth sailing. If you’ve never gone on a sailing holiday before, have no fear because Tubber has you covered.

Before Departure

  • When packing for your vacation, only pack the minimum amount of things. Boats have limited room for baggage, so the less you bring, the better. Don’t bring your newest suitcase; it’s best to bring a soft duffle bag instead.
  • Before you depart, it’s best for everyone aboard to discuss the rules and expectations while on board. Expectations could include pollution, smoking, noise, drinking, appropriate behaviour, and other things important to you or the crew.
  • You should also discuss safety and emergency procedures. These typically will be things such as docking/undocking, fueling, radio usage, wearing your lifejackets, etc.

On Board

  • If you’re sailing with a skipper, commander of the boat similar to the captain, it’s best to listen to what they have to say. Most skippers are very relaxed, however, if something happens you need to understand the safety of everyone on board could be at risk. Listen to them at all times and help out when needed.
  • Living in a small space means sharing everything! Be sure to discuss the sharing of toilet and washing facilities, the kitchen, and general space awareness. Be considerate of others on board.
  • Keep everything in its place. Again, living in a small space makes it difficult for everyone so try to help out by keeping things tidy and out of the way. No one wants to see your dirty clothes lying on the floor, wet towels all over the boat, or cushions on the floor.
  • If you are sailing on a boat without a crew on board, make sure everyone you are vacationing with has their duties and tasks. Divide the duties equally and make sure you all know your tasks and how to complete them, whether it’s preparing lunch for the day or handling the lines.
  • Water Conservation: Saving water on your boat is important. There is limited fresh water for drinking, cooking, and washing. Make sure to discuss water usage with everyone.

On the Water

  • Make sure you understand the rules regarding “right of way.” Steer clear of approaching boats, leaving plenty of room for larger boats, and always be aware of your own wake that you create.
  • On this topic, you are responsible for your wake and any of the damage done by it. Always remain aware of your position, speed, and sailing pattern. There’s nothing more upsetting than a large yacht speeding along the water, passing by and leaving a huge wake, which causes your meal to fall onto the deck.
  • When you pass a smaller boat, make sure to make as much space as you can between the two of you and slow your boat down to pass.
  • In turn, if a larger boat is attempting to pass you, slow down to allow them to pass you more quickly.
  • Pumping out: If your boat has a holding tank, you will need to know where pumping stations are along your sailing route. Make sure that you pump out your tank at the end of your sailing destination but before you depart for home.
  • Help out fellow sailors at sea. If you see someone having trouble, do your best to help out while also keeping your own boat and crew safe.
  • Water is necessary for sailing; be respectful and keep it clean! Leave the ocean as you have found it, in a pristine natural condition. This seems like a common sense thing but not everyone follows this rule, we still see people throwing garbage in the ocean. You can be a great example for other sailors by following this simple rule.


  • Be sure to enter the harbour, or Anchorage as it’s commonly called, at a slow speed, always aware of your wake.
  • Never anchor yourself too close to other boats. If the wind changes quickly, you can end up tangling your lines with other boats, or worse, crashing into another boat. You don’t want any embarrassing domino effect situations where you tip over five boats at once.
  • When you arrive at the harbour, follow the existing boats in how you tie off your lines, anchoring, and how much space to leave for others.
  • Beware of anchor drag; when your boat drifts and moves despite your anchor is down. If your anchor begins to drag, react quickly before a collision occurs. Let out more of the rope or chain attached to your anchor. If this does not work, you will need to pull up your anchor and change it out for a different one. Anchor types depend on the water depth and sand below. If neither of these solutions works, try moving to a different area with a more solid sea bottom.
  • If there is no one attending to the boats as they arrive, try to help out other sailors tie their lines and anchor their boat. Sailors always appreciate a helping hand.

In the Harbour

  • Generally, it is best to arrange for a “mooring berth” before you dock. This simply means that you contact the port authorities and get assigned to a specific anchoring location to ensure you have a place to put your boat. This will help if you travel to a popular location.
  • Be respectful to your fellow sailors at the harbour. If you have a group and know you will be loud or playing music, anchor your boat downwind from the others. This will keep the noise from travelling to the other boats, and avoid irritating any sailors.
  • If you plan to use your dinghy (smaller, inflatable boat) at night, use oars instead of a motor. It’s considered rude to cruise around the harbour at night disturbing the peace with your loud motor.
  • When fueling up your boat in the marina, be aware of the other boats and sailors that need to use the dock area. If you also need supplies, move your boat to a quieter docking area after fueling up to let other boats through for fuel.
  • Make sure your dock area is always clean and clear. Clean up any lines, mops, buckets, hoses, and any other supplies away from the middle of the dock and close to your boat.

If you follow these simple rules, your sailing holiday will be smooth sailing for everyone.

What are you waiting for? Book a boat and start planning your sailing trip today!