Marina Manners

12 June 2009 By Elizabeth Altick

Marina staff generally find captains and crew an agreeable lot, highly skilled and likeable during their stays. But there are always exceptions to the rule. These dockmasters (and crew) have a few kernels of advice that might keep life safe and happy – for marina staff and crew – during your marina sojourns.

Behave appropriately

It’s usually frowned upon to catch a few winks or otherwise on a yacht where you’re not employed. Capt. Morgan Baker observes that to some inexperienced crew, yachts, gangways and even crew quarters begin to look the same after a night on the town. Avoid the embarrassment of waking up next to someone you don’t know.

Think before you act. Crew at one marina in St. Thomas thought it would be funny to take the shoe baskets and scatter the footwear around the marina. Infantile, yes. Helpful, no.

Be safety conscious

A dockmaster in St. Thomas generously throws a party for crew each year. One partier decided to freshen up by jumping into the water. What fun, until the swimmer discovered that the concrete dock was six feet out of the water and, uh-oh, there were no ladders. Security jumped in and guided him to the stern of another boat so he could climb back to the dock.

…and be aware that security measures are prevalent, and smile!

That same dockmaster shares this warning – you never know who’s watching your shenanigans. “A captain went to a bar just off the property and returned with someone of, let’s just say questionable values,” he says. “They were completing an exchange in front of the marina office when there was an altercation and the stranger ran off the property. The captain told security that someone came out of nowhere and mugged him. Little did he know all of this was on tape, including walking out of the bar on to our property.” Just behave as if your mother was watching your every move.

Respect marina property

An unidentified captain was talking to his girlfriend on the marina’s phone. When he found out that she’d spent more than he made that month, he broke the phone…in half.

A phone is easily fixed, perhaps, but golf carts are a little pricier – Capt. Baker reminds crew to return golf carts to where you found them so marina personnel can make their hard-earned tips. Above all, keep carts on dry land. One marina in the Florida Keys lost its carts when crewmembers raced them into a lake.

Dockmasters also aren’t too happy when you try hopping the security gate. Stash your keys to the dock gates where you can find them when you’re not very intelligent in the wee hours.

Leave the driving to the pros

A Long Island dockmaster cautions that no matter how much they implore, dissuade inexperienced yacht owners from taking the helm from the captain, or at least be nearby to supervise. One amateur took out a $5,000 finger dock; another was lucky a bridge tender on the Intracoastal was alert.

Pay attention

Michael Ott, chief engineer on M/Y My Iris, says that the overwhelming majority of crew are vigilant when re-fueling. However, he’s seen crew chatting merrily away while diesel fuel they’re pumping is draining out the opposite vents due to faulty valve alignment, fueling the wrong tank or failing to notice that the fuel gauge is registering the wrong levels. This goes for any work performed in the marina.

Be reachable 24/7

Captain and crew should provide correct, complete 24-hour contact information in case of emergency while they’re staying in a marina. When alarms go off on a yacht, Mike McGrath, the marina manager at Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale, says its essential to be able to reach someone on board. Pounding on a yacht’s hull rarely rouses anyone. Once, two fire alarms went off and he could only reach a responsible party by getting in touch via friends of relatives of a crewmember.

Don’t leave anything behind

Or if you’re still expecting deliveries or mail and you have to leave, consider leaving an itinerary or forwarding addresses at the marina. “We receive everything from clothing and makeup to carpet samples with no way to forward them,” McGrath says. “We once received a life raft for a yacht that had already departed for an overseas voyage.”

But it’s not all bad! “For the most part, we love the captains and crew here,” says Deborah Pennell, the dockmaster at Shelter Island Marina in San Diego. “We have strict environmental policies and the crew do a great job of containing their supplies and debris, which makes us look good, too. I say, the more crew, the merrier.”

What tops your list of marina dos and don’ts?