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Boating Etiquette: Consideration for your fellow boater

Boating Etiquette: A little consideration for your fellow boater can go a long way toward avoiding any misunderstandings, conflicts and new laws

By Nicki Polan, executive director, Michigan Boating Industries Association

There are written and unwritten rules on every lake that help us to assure everyone gets to enjoy Michigan’s lake living.  We recommend everyone take a boating safety class, but beyond that there are important things to understand that help us be conscientious about safety, property and other people on the lake.  Whether you are a wake boat operator, angler, sailor, swimmer, kayaker or PWC operator we all need to share the water.

My father-in-law, an avid fisherman, has forever been concerned that PWC operators churn up the fish beds on his lake.  He is also quick to remind us that ½ hour before sunset and ½ hour after sun up are reserved for fisherman, yet I have a good friend who feels these very same times are reserved for water skiers.  There have also been rumblings of lake associations interested in banning wake boats because of the damage and erosion that wakes are causing.  All this talk and concern is proof that if we want to preserve our type of preferred boating, we must be respectful of others as we boat.  This means obeying the laws, keeping our distance, maintaining our volume, respecting the environment and each other.

There are a good number of videos on YouTube which have been produced by the PWC, wake boat, and many other industries that address this very issue, and can help to educate boaters on how we can be more considerate boaters.  My favorite so far is from the Water Ski Industry Association (WSIA) featuring Shaun Murray, called “Buddy” - which references etiquette for wake boat operators.  If you are new to boating or have kids who are newly certified to operate a boat, this is a good time to share the etiquette lesson beyond what is taught by law enforcement, and YouTube is a great place to find this content.  If you are new to a lake, ask your neighbor or fellow boaters about specific unwritten rules – like a designated no wake or slow wake swimming area, or an area known for fish beds.  These areas likely will not have signage but will be “known.”

We all need to understand the important customs and traditions that help us, as boaters, get along independently while respecting that right for others.   Without them we are at risk of losing our waterway, or may face a ban on our preferred water activity.  While it may feel like you’re the captain of your nautical domain, remember that a little consideration for your fellow boater can go a long way toward avoiding any misunderstandings, conflicts or new laws, which affect the type of boating you enjoy most.

A few of the many video’s available to keep us safe and courteous on the water:

WSIA Shaun Murray “Buddy”

WSIA Inflatable Towing Safety Video

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