In boating, there are social taboos and safety taboos — and while the former might leave some boating pals offended, the latter can leave them waiting for an ambulance.
One example of a social taboo is hopping on board wearing heavily lugged black rubber soles. Ideally, guests should remove their shoes upon boarding. Nobody gets bloodied over that slip of protocol, but you might like to know about it so you don’t look obtuse next time you’re invited aboard a friend’s boat. Or, in case you’re inviting friends aboard, you don’t have to feel conspicuous about asking them to kick off their kicks. My tactic is to open a deck locker on my boat and invite my friends to drop their shoes inside where they’ll be secure for the day. Handled correctly, you’ve offered your guests a convenience for the safety of their shoes and set the tone for a relaxed day of barefoot cruising.
Safety taboos are far more serious, of course. Here are some to avoid if you want to keep your crew safe.
Breaking the Most Important Rule
Few people would take up tennis, golf or bowling without understanding the rules. However, I run into people every day who think boating is like driving a car but with a propeller. And then there are those who say that rules were made to be broken.
Boating rules are different. There are hard and fast steering rules designed to help boaters avoid collisions, of course, but they only work when both parties know the rules. Sadly, some boaters learn all of the rules except the one that I’ll paraphrase here: No matter what the rules say, it’s your job to do whatever you can to avoid a collision. Here’s a poem that perfectly summarizes the risk of rigidity:
"Here lies the body of Johnny O'Day
Who died Preserving His Right of Way.
He was Right, Dead Right, as he sailed along
But he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong"