Sunday, June 6, 2010

Boating Etiquette

One of the books in our boat library is Chapman's Boating Etiquette.

If you know a bit about boating, you may know of Chapman's Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, the "nautical Bible" (first published in 1917 and now in its 65th edition!)  We don't have THAT book on board (it's enormous: 928 pages plus 1,500 full-color illustrations), but for some reason we DO have Chapman's Etiquette, a slim volume in a water-resistant blue plastic cover.

In my rare free time I've been been perusing its pages, trying to make sure we don't inadvertently commit any major boating social gaffes.

For example: We are instructed to fly our American flag at the stern, unfurling it ("smartly") at each morning at 0800 hours and bringing it in ("with ceremony") at 2000 hours. So far so good. We only left our flag out overnite once.

We learned, however, that our American flag is a bit small. For a boat of our length (41 feet) Chapman recommends a flag 48 inches wide; ours is a mere 36 inches wide. We chose the smaller flag because we were concerned the larger flag would look oversized; but nay, Chapman says, "A very large flag is a beautiful sight on a boat."

Then there is the question of burgees, or small flags that convey important information such as which yacht club you belong to. We HAD been pronouncing this word "burgie," like a diminutive hamburger, but we learned from Chapman you say it like, "Brrrr, gee, it's cold."

We have a burgee that indicates we are traveling the Great Loop (this is very handy for meeting other Loopers, who will recognize your Loop burgee and hail you. Sharing of information ensues.  (A photo of our Loop burgee is on the first page of this post.)

Roy Eaton of Little Current Cruiser's Net
with a wall of burgees donated by
visiting boaters.
We also have a burgee from our home port, MidLakes Marina in Macedon, NY, a gracious gift from owners Libby and Peter Wiles on the day before our departure. We bought our boat from MidLakes and it was designed by Libby and Peter's dad, so we are proud to carry this sign of her heritage.

Chapman says, you can fly burgees from your starboard mainstay, or from a short mast at the bow. Alas, we have neither of these structures on our boat. Chapman is curiously silent on burgee placement on canal boats. So we have hung our burgees from our stern rail (doubtless shocking every yacht we pass).  But we think they look rather festive.

Speaking of yachts, did you know that ladies who are guests on a yacht are instructed to remain belowdecks until 0800 hours?

That's because, before flag raising, gentlemen ARE permitted above decks, to "bathe" . . . in the nude.

No word on whether this rule applies to canal boats, either.


  1. But when are the hours for ladies' nude bathing?

  2. I'm working on the second edition of Chapman's Boating Etiquette as we speak!