Yacht etiquette: the golden rules

Getting yourself an invitation onboard somebody else’s yacht, or indeed owning or chartering your own, is something that every gentleman should aspire to. It’s also one of the best ways to spend your holiday. However, it’s important to remember that yachts present an entirely different social environment than anywhere else, and every gentleman should know how to act correctly – even in this scenario. So, if you’re lucky enough to be setting sail this summer, here is everything you need to know about behaving onboard well enough to guarantee yourself another invite next year…

Treat the yacht as you would your own home

It can sometimes be difficult to relax when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings. But you’re on a yacht, so you need to try and ease your way into it. The crew (and your friends) want you to be as comfortable as possible, and you’ll only fully appreciate how amazing the experience is until you totally relax. So make like you’re at home, just a much, much better one.

Give the crew your full respect

Treat them as you would highly valued employees because each of them from the captain to the stewardess, has an extremely busy and hectic job. From making sure the ship is in good working order and there is enough food and drink on board, to making sure that your holiday is exceeding each and every expectation. The team works hard, so give them the respect they deserve.

yacht etiquette- gentleman's journal

Make sure you plan any party in advance

Being able to entertain guests in grand style is one of the major plus points of having your own yacht, so why wouldn’t you want to share it with a few friends? The golden rule of throwing a party on board: making sure you let the crew know what you’re planning in advance. This is crucial and means that you’ll have plenty of food and drink to see the night through in style, rather than expecting them to sort everything out at the last minute. Having a party where you have to stop half way through because the champagne ran out is just poor form, gentlemen.

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Allow the crew enough time to get the yacht looking ship shape

While yachts are lavish floating pleasure palaces, they inevitably still need to be kept clean. So give the crew a chance to make sure the beds are made and everything is working smoothly, either take the time to explore which ever exotic port you find yourself in or just leave the crew to it while you top up the tan on the upper deck.

yacht etiquette- gentleman's journal

Make sure you know what the smoking policy is onboard

Smoking in the cabins of most yachts is not allowed, but if there are  then ask your broker about smoking facilities first. A thoughtful guest will enjoy their evening cigar on the stern or downwind side of the yacht so the smoke dissipates without inconveniencing anyone else.

yacht etiquette- gentleman's journal

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Make sure you bring suitable luggage

Yachts don’t tend to have an enormous amount of storage space. So while your hard-sided suitcase might look great and be eminently useful in a myriad of situations, here might not be it. So, make sure you bring suitable soft luggage that is easily stored in the limited space you have.

yacht etiquette- gentlman's journal

Make sure you respect the barefoot rule

Many yachts require you to remove your outdoor shoes before stepping on board. If this is the case, often the crew will provide a basket either at the end of the gangway or at the entrance of the main salon when you get to the yacht. There is a good reason for this rule: heels can damage the teak decks and and dirty soles can leave unsightly scuff marks. However, shoes are sometimes allowed on deck, but they should always be soft-soled deck shoes.

yacht etiquette-gentleman's journal

Listen to the safety briefings

Your safety and enjoyment on board the yacht is the prime responsibility of the captain and crew, and as a consequence they do take it very seriously. You’ll have a safety briefing about lifejackets and life rafts onboard, so ensure you digest the information given. It is a requirement of both insurance and maritime laws.

Don’t invade the crew’s private areas

It may seem a little old-fashioned, but yachts still operate with an upstairs/downstairs system. A gentleman should never invade any personal space that isn’t theirs, and the same goes for the crew on board your yacht.

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(Photo: Camper & Nicholsons)

Don’t expect the crew to come on sightseeing trips with you

One of the great joys of going on holiday is seeing new places, and having your own yacht gives you even more freedom to decide what you want to see. However, don’t expect your crew to also act as your chaperones. There are slightly different attitudes on yachts around the world. In America, there is often a more informal tone between crew and guests, whereas European crews are trained not to be seen until they are asked to perform a service. They are always busy, so no matter how friendly they are don’t expect them to accompany you sightseeing.

yacht etiquette

Don’t be cheap

Many brokers suggest that guests treat the captain and crew to dinner ashore on one night. This is entirely optional and of course depends on the size of the ship’s crew, but they will appreciate the gesture. However, if they refuse, don’t be offended. Similarly, it is customary for guests to leave a gratuity for the crew of between five and fifteen percent of the charter fee, dependant, of course, on your satisfaction with the service on board.

Don’t take matters into your own hands

If there is a problem on board, talk to the captain, don’t just presume to take care of it on your own. It is the captain’s job to make sure standards are maintained, so leave it to them.

yacht etiquette- gentleman's journal

(Photo: Dreamstime)

Don’t do anything illegal

The idea of freedom, where laws no longer apply are murky waters indeed. However, the tolerance level aboard yachts for illegal activities is absolutely zero. The penalty for this kind of behaviour is the yacht itself being seized and the license lost, therefore the captain and crew will turn you in to the authorities. In most countries, the penalty is jail for such behaviour too, and no gentleman looks good in a florescent orange prison jumpsuit, do they?

Main and featured image: JFK at Manitou’s helm. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House)

Further Reading