Boat Yard Etiquette

I really didn’t think too much about the unwritten rules in a boat yard. The marina, where we keep our boat, seems to have some basic rules. They have bins marked for recyclables, organics and garbage. They have proper disposal places for oil, gas, antifreeze and diesel. But beyond that there seems to be no more rules.

I see people putting up tarps, when sanding their boats.  I assumed it was a basic rule, although it hadn’t affected me personally in anyway. Michael will say something to someone who is sanding without any protection, while he is painting. But what happened to me one spring had me in tears.

Layton washing the cockpit.
Layton washing the cockpit.

I spent a full day applying oil to the wood on some of the areas on the boat. That was after I did hand sanding. I finished up the floor, did the doors to the companionway, oiled some of brightwork around the wenches, the boom crutch, tiller and our decorative Foo Dog.  At the end of the nice sunny spring day, we went home. It was damp and foggy the next day so we didn’t go to the boat. We returned the following day.  The owner of the large boat beside us was sanding the hull. The bow of their boat was within climbing distance to our boat. I didn’t think much of it. I climbed aboard and noticed immediately that the wooden doors on our boat looked like the finish was bubbling. It was weird. I thought it was because of the dampness the previous day. I opened them up. They were a bit sticky.  I went down below and the floors seemed to be dry.  I started to do something else and quickly noticed that that a fine white dust was starting to appear down below. It still didn’t sink in. I couldn’t figure out what was making this mess on my newly cleaned interior.  I went back out, and it was then that I noticed the tiller covered in the same small bubbles. On closer examination, I realized it was white dust from the boat being sanded next to us. Although they were sanding their hull at ground level, the dust still was raising up and going all over our boat. I quickly closed off the interior of the boat and continued inspecting the work I had done two days previously. As it had been foggy and damp the previous day, everything I oiled was still slightly sticky. Just sticky enough that the dust of a mixture of what I assumed was fiberglass and white paint, was now embedded into my freshly oiled wood work!

In shock, I screamed out. The offender, still sanding away, had headphones on and couldn’t hear my angered cry.  Michael didn’t know what had happened and stopped what he was doing, when he heard me yell out. When I told him what was happening, he wasn’t too pleased either. Not sure what would happen next, I made enough loud comments to Michael, that the other boat owner finally realized what happened and said they had been sanding all the previous day and since we weren’t there, they thought we had finished all the work on our boat. Then the comment came from them:  “After all, it IS a boat YARD!” I was stunned. Yes, it is a boat yard, but common courtesy and common sense should prevail.  And to make matters worse, the person with the sander continued on with their job. With no covering tarp, with white dust flying and forming this white cloud around us. It is easy to tell a boat neighbour to tarp their boat, when you don’t know them. But when you have formed a boat yard and marina friendship for several years with someone and this happens, you really don’t feel comfortable about making a scene. Finally, Michael asked for a cease and dismiss and they did stop for the day. I know the white dust would eventually wear off the oil as it hardened but I really think people should be more considerate of not only their neighbours and what they are doing on their boats, but also the environment. Many boat yards have strict rules and those that don’t, the boat owners should still be aware of their surroundings.

Basic Rules:
1. Clean up after yourselves. I am constantly walking around my boat, while in the yard, cleaning up and disposing of items that we used and others have used and left behind.

2. Tarp the areas where you are sanding. This might be more uncomfortable for you, and if this is the case, rent a respirator and wear masks.

3. Put ground covers down if needed. Depending on your location and whether you are on asphalt, soil or stone, you might have to collect the debris coming from your boat and dispose of it properly while pressure washing and painting.

4. Most of all, be conscientious and considerate of your boat neighbours. If you think you might be disturbing them in some way, ask if there is a better time for you to be performing your task.

Yes, it is a boat yard. But is it a place we all have to share!

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