Yacht Share Etiquette: Tips for First-Time Sharers

As first-time yacht sharers, there are a few key things to take on board, pardon the pun. Read on to discover the ins and outs of yacht share etiquette.  

Fascinating old sailing superstitions

First, let’s reveal some popular sea-going superstitions, some old habits you may or may not want to bring into your own seafaring life. 

As every crusty old seadog knows, mentioning the f-word – fog – is just as bad as a Shakespearian actor saying the word ‘Macbeth’. Instead, you have to spell it out: F-O-G. In the days before modern tech, fog could be deadly. All you could do was stand at the bow of your vessel and throw stones, nuts or bolts into the water ahead of you. If it hit something, you knew you’d better steer away sharpish. 

Some sailors pay respects to Neptune, the god of the sea, by pouring a tot of booze into the water before setting off. Others say you should never whistle on board because you’ll annoy the spirits of dead sailors, who will whip up a fierce gale in retaliation. Sailing across the Equator for the first time used to involve the Line Crossing Ceremony, an eccentric 400-year-old Navy tradition you’ll probably want to avoid! 

Now for the etiquette side of yacht sharing… 

Finding the perfect syndicate 

The booking process is the beginning of your yacht share journey, where you make enquiries and get matched with a suitable syndicate. That’s something we can help you with, giving you the expert support you need – if you want it – to make an inspiring decision.  

Remembering you’re sharing a yacht with other people

Because you’re sharing the vessel with other like-minded people you’ll want to treat it with extra respect so it’s shipshape for their next adventure. If you’re not sure, ask. Are they OK with you bringing pets on board, for example? Will they be happy if you frequently invite thirty people onto the yacht and party 24/7?  

Modern yacht share etiquette – The captain always knows best 

The captain, whoever they are, always has the final say. It’s all about safety at sea. You might have hired a captain and crew for a long voyage, or just so you can relax and enjoy the ride. Or you might take on the captain’s role yourself. Either way the captain takes responsibility for the boat, the crew and passengers, and for a smooth voyage. Their word is law once you’re at sea. 

Safety at sea and in port is the captain and crew’s primary responsibility. Their safety briefings are essential to keep everyone safe and sound so take them seriously. They usually cover essentials like how to use the life jackets and life rafts, and what to avoid doing on board. Because safety information is a strict requirement of insurance and maritime law, as well as your well-being, it’s wise to be familiar with every aspect of it. 

Keep out of the way of the crew when they’re doing things on deck

From a practical standpoint, it’s wise to stay out of the way while your crew are doing important things on deck, especially if it is safety-related or has something to do with navigation. You don’t want to block their view or get in the way. 

For the same reasons never leave your fenders alongside, outside the yacht, or leave lines and ropes dangling loose. They can affect the yacht’s progress as well as making you look like a rank amateur. Keeping things tidy and shipshape in general is one of the most important parts of yacht share etiquette. 

Good behaviour in port 

As a rule, you’ll want to exercise common sense in port. Consideration for other people and their boats is key here, so keep out of people’s way and treat others the way you’d like to be treated yourself. 

  • When your yacht is in port it should always be tidy, with no trip hazards or mess on the decks, your lines properly furled, and any equipment neatly packed away 
  • Yachting etiquette in port means being helpful and polite, not partying loud and long into the wee small hours, keeping everyone else awake
  • Stick to the marina’s rules 
  • Be aware of any local customs 

The all-important footwear rule 

Your yacht’s deck is a thing of beauty and it deserves looking after, so always wear deck shoes designed not to scratch or damage the surface. It’s best never to wear boots, heels, or street shoes on board since they can easily cause damage to the flooring and make the carpeting mucky. Proper boat shoes have soft soles and should be kept spotlessly clean. Alternatively, go barefoot on board and let your feet enjoy the fresh sea air. 

Knowing the flag alphabet 

The flag alphabet is really handy, as is knowing where your own vessel’s flags should be located. Your yacht should always fly the national flag of the country whose waters it’s sailing in along with the flag of the country where it’s registered. If you belong to a yacht club you might also want to fly their flag. 

The position of the flags varies depending on the vessel, but the national flag, also called the ensign flag, belongs on the stern and the courtesy flag – for the state whose waters you’re sailing in – goes under the starboard spreader or hangs from the leech. You can hang club flags anywhere you like. 

Getting your greetings right 

On small boats the helmsmen greet each other with ‘ahoy’, while on bigger craft a raised hand does the trick. The crew members don’t salute each other.

Laundry safety 

Dry wet clothing on the line, rails or boom if you like, but always put it safely away before you set sail. 

Respecting your crew 

You might or might not hire crew, or there might be crew included in the yacht share deal. Either way they know their stuff, with significant experience and expertise under their belts. The best crew will be happy to go the extra mile to make your voyage as perfect as possible, and they deserve your respect and consideration. So treat them like the valued employees they are.

Aside from common courtesy, keep the crew informed about changes of plan. Give them as much notice as you can if you plan to invite guests on board so they can buy the food and drink, prepare it, and get the accommodation ready. 

Crew members need enough time to clean the cabins, wash clothing and bedding, and prepare food. All this means you need clear lines of communication so you don’t end up in each others’ way. If you can, set a regular time for cleaning so everyone on board knows what happens, and when. You’ll soon find the rhythm of working seamlessly together, then everyone can enjoy themselves.

Your crew are experts in yachts, not children, so don’t expect them to babysit. If you want to bring the kids along but also want to enjoy some peaceful adult time, bring a babysitter with you. And please don’t expect your crew to put up with anything illegal. 

Don’t enter private crew areas unless you’re invited in, and don’t interrupt the chef while they’re doing their work. Finally, don’t expect the crew to come sightseeing with you – they’ll have enough to do already and their job involves being on board.    

If there’s an issue with the crew or anything else, raise it with the captain. It’s their job to handle problems and they’re the only person with the authority to put things right. 

Caring for our seas and oceans 

The planet’s marine life has enough to deal with thanks to vast rafts of plastic waste, micro-plastic particles, oil spills and pollution.  It’s your job not to cause any harm, which means making full use of the yacht’s bins as well as choosing eco-friendly soap, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen and make-up that won’t harm precious coral reefs. 

Essential bits and bobs   

  • Decide which cabins will belong to whom before you get on board to avoid tension over cabin allocation
  • There’s limited storage space on yachts so bring soft luggage that folds or collapses and pack as light as you can 
  • It’s customary to tip your crew for a job well done, the usual amount being 5-20% of their rate 
  • Are you a smoker? Bear other yacht share partners in mind before smoking inside a yacht and making the interiors smell. Smoke downwind on deck instead

Are you ready for yacht share? 

Follow these simple etiquette rules and everyone on board will have a wonderful time, as will the other people you share the yacht with next time it’s their turn. Take a look at our collection of superb luxury craft and see which model and location inspires you the most.