Cruisers come in all kinds of boats. From trawlers to sail boats. Monohulls to catamarans. Small cuddy cabins to massive mega yachts. One thing that is common among each of the different types of cruisers is the need to get from the vessel to the shore. This is where the fabled tender comes in.
Whether you have a small kayak, a 12 foot RIB, or a 20 foot speed boat as your tender there is a dinghy etiquette that each of us should follow:
1) Approach the dinghy dock at a slow speed. You would be amazed how often I watch people plow into other dinghies as they come to the dock.
2) Use the appropriate space for the size of your dinghy. There is nothing worst than coming back to the dock and seeing your dinghy getting hammered by the bow of a 18-20 foot vessel that someone tied to the dinghy dock. If you have a large tender then you need to get actual dock space.
3) Most often you do not need a stern line out getting in the way of other cruisers. With no current and a breeze pushing your dinghy off the dock you do not need a stern anchor. If on the other hand the wind or current will not keep you off the dock then by all means use a stern anchor to keep from bashing against a wall, bulkhead, or iron shore.
4) Leave enough painter to allow your dinghy to be pushed aside as other cruisers get onto and off of a crowded dock. This also gives people space to pull their dinghy up if they are loading stuff on to it.
5) Similar to the above rule, make sure to leave any ladder at the dinghy dock clear and do not tie to it. This is especially important in areas with significant tide where the ladder may be the only way to gain access to the dock at low tide.
6) Locking your dinghy is acceptable, even necessary in many locations, but make sure you do not accidentally make it so someone cannot get their dinghy unlocked and free. I have seen this more than you would think.
7) The rule that makes me madder than any other when people do not follow it and that is to never leave your outboard tilted up out of the water. This one should be fairly obvious, but the blades of the prop can slice right through an inflatable and even hard dinghies will get gouged. If you must tilt your outboard up for whatever reason then have the courtesy to cover the lower unit with a bucket and tie it in place.
8) The final “rule” is to be happy, kind, and respectful to others at the dinghy dock. I have met so many wonderful people from all walks of life at the dinghy dock by simply saying “hello” or “can I give you a hand”. Some of them I have ended up chatting with for over an hour before we finally retired to the boats for sundowners. 🙂
If everyone follows the above dinghy etiquette then even a very busy dinghy dock can be efficient and accommodate a large number of tenders. On the other hand, just one person not following suit can throw the entire dock into dissarray.