If you’re a boat owner, it’s more than a little likely that you’ll end up spending time in a boatyard doing your own routine maintenance, such as bottom painting. The unfortunate news is that there are some folks out there who can unwittingly conspire to make your boatyard stay an unpleasant one. And you might even become one of those folks if you don’t know the basics of good boatyard etiquette. With that in mind, let us present to you some basic yet unwritten guidelines for staying out of trouble during your next boatyard stay.

A photo of a boatyard.

Boatyards are great places to take care of routine maintenance and occasional repairs, but a few bad customers can spoil it for everyone. Photo courtesy of Pierside Boatworks

Thou Shalt Not Park Thine Vehicle in the Travelift Slip

You’d be surprised at how frequently an improperly parked vehicle brings a boatyard hauling operation to a complete halt. Even if you don’t see the Travelift parked somewhere you’re thinking of parking (and that sometimes means in the rows between boats, too), that doesn’t mean it won’t need to be there ten minutes from now. Park only in specific designated areas, or the yard may just launch your car into the water.

Thou Shalt Dispose of Toxic Materials Responsibly

No, the boatyard’s regular service dumpster is not the place for your engine’s worn out 10W-40 motor oil, your bottom’s leftover ablative paint, or the half-empty container of paint stripper sitting in your lazarette. If you don’t see a place to dispose of these nasty materials, ask. Most boatyards have some sort of program for disposing of hazardous materials properly, so make use of them.

A photo of oil recycling equipment.

Most boatyards have facilities for disposing of oil and oil filters properly. Use them, not the dumpster. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Thou Shalt Use a Dustless Sander

Dust clouds of any sort are not welcome at a boatyard, especially if that dust is made up of bottom paint or fiberglass. It’s almost impossible to find a boatyard that allows open-air sanding these days, and for good reason. Those airborne particles not only stain people’s boats and equipment, but can be a health hazard, too. Don’t worry if you don’t have the requisite equipment; many yards rent dustless sander setups for a reasonable fee.

Thou Shalt Not Ask To Use the Boatyard’s Tools

If you don’t have the right impeller puller, die grinder, or metric socket to complete your DIY project, don’t expect the yard to lend them to you. In fact, don’t even ask. Boatyards incur a significant expense to have the tools on hand that they need to do serious work. One way to become an unwelcome boatyard guest is to ask them if you can borrow their 12 millimeter socket wrench for a few minutes.

A photo of boatyard tools.

Hands off. The boatyard's tools are not yours for the taking. Photo: Gary Reich

Thou Shalt Not Go Where Thou Art Not Allowed

In a previous life as a boat yard service manager, I can’t tell you how many times the crew and I came back from lunch to find a boatyard customer rummaging through our workshop (see above commandment). The shops and service outfits at your boatyard aren’t actually part of the facilities you’re paying for when you keep your boat at a boatyard, so unless you’ve been invited, stay out. It’s sort of like going into your neighbor’s garage and looking around without an invitation.

While there are certainly more things you can do to be a good boatyard tenant, minding these essential commandments can make the difference between an unpleasant visit and a horrible one… for you and the boatyard.