Introducing Friends To Boating

By Michael Vatalaro

Introducing your non-boating friends to boating is rewarding, but ripe with opportunities for blunders.

Growing up, my sister and I invited dozens of our friends out for a day of waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding, and so we developed a pretty good checklist of items for a day on the water. Some of these will seem like common sense to a boater, but many non-boaters may not have considered what is necessary to be comfortable on the water all day.

10 items your guests will need on your boat

  • Bathing suit, towel, and change of clothes: With watersports always on the agenda growing up, it was rare to have someone show up without swimwear, but it did happen. And more recently, with our larger cruising boat, it seems to happen more frequently, as do forgotten towels. Being damp at the end of the day because you lack a change of clothes isn't the end of the world, but why let your guests be uncomfortable unnecessarily?
  • Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen: Non-boaters often fail to appreciate how little shade there is on many boats, and how much the reflection of the sun off the water adds to the strain on your eyes, not to mention the UV exposure of your skin. Fried foreheads are no fun.
  • Small bag/backpack: Emphasis on "small" as in stowable. You want your guests to pack a bag that can be tucked into a watertight compartment on your boat, where space is often at a premium. True story: Back in 2001, my parents owned a small runabout with an unfortunate tendency to bury the bow, particularly when coming off the first of several large waves. Water would flow along the foredeck and cascade down through the open windshield to land between the front seats — which in at least one instance was exactly where my buddy's girlfriend had stashed her open-topped canvas tote. The one with her purse and her dry clothes for work, where she was heading after the boat ride. Oops.
  • Drink (and food): Having water, sodas, or sports drinks aboard isn't optional (it's important to stay hydrated), but asking your guests to provide their own certainly is. On our small runabouts growing up, we'd pack a picnic lunch for everyone and use one compact cooler. But on our larger cruising boat, our experienced boating friends often show up with a cooler full of food and drinks for everyone. Whichever way you choose to handle it, just make your intentions clear beforehand.
  • Flip flops/boat shoes: Not sure which is harder on a boat: high heels or sneakers full of mud or dirt. I do know that telling your guests to expect to spend much of the day barefoot or in flops or sandals will make everyone much happier.
  • Life jackets for all ages: If you are inviting guests with kids aboard, you'll need to know the ages and approximate weight of the kids in order to ensure you have properly sized life jackets available. If you don't already own child- or youth-sized life jackets, you can borrow one for the day through the BoatUS Foundation's Life Jacket Loaner Program, which has over 500 locations all over the country. See to find one near you. 

— Published: Summer 2013


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