THE BLOG
08/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Boors At Sea

Even in these tough times, we've managed to hang onto our boat. While it takes quite a bit of planning and expense to entertain aboard, we like to share offshore summer days with friends. While I can't get up in arms if I've shopped for lunch only to have Mother Nature let loose with thunderstorms, I am angered if I've purchased provisions for seven people who all cancel at the last minute. I seriously considered not inviting anyone along anymore when friends said they would join us "unless [husband] oversleeps"!

Happily, as Editor-In-Chief of Boating Times Long Island, I have an outlet to rant about nautical louts. Before raving alone, I asked my magazine's readers to share stories. Armed with a bounty of boorish behavior on boats, I sought insight from etiquette guru Lizzie Post, the author of How Do You Work This Life Thing? With regard to cancellations, Ms. Post advised: "Unfortunately, cancellations happen in life, so try to get a fill-in. Lots of people would love to spend a day on a boat!" If the reply to an invite is "sure, if nothing better comes along?" I was counseled to "take control. If the invited guest is not willing to respect you as a host, say 'OK, since we really need a solid head count for this trip, let's make plans for you to come out on a more casual day.'"

My readers seemed eager to pass on stories of disrespect at sea (as long as I protected their identities). "J" wrote about an utterly loutish marine ambush: Is there anything ruder than inviting one couple onto our 22' boat, and having them meet you at the dock with five friends of theirs? Oh, we figured you wouldn't mind, they said! We promised our neighbors we'd hang out with them today!

"R" told a terrible tale: You want rude? How about inviting a big client aboard, only to watch him get drunker and drunker, and then thinking the VHF radio mic was actually for karaoke? My wife wouldn't talk to me for three days after this jerk embarrassed us in front of other guests by trying to dedicate '80s songs to a teenage girl onboard.

"D" divulged that everyone on board was trying to avoid eye contact with a guest who started drinking before we left the dock and only stopped when the margarita mix ran out. If you couldn't stay away from him (our boat is only 25 feet) he would tell you everything that was wrong about you, and I mean everything. Your hair, your spouse, your religion, you name it. Everyone was angry or crying by the time we got home three hours earlier than planned.

Many real-life responses entailed alcohol abuses. A smashed sailor on deck requires a captain to recruit other guests as safety monitors to stop Soused Sarah from slipping over the side. Lizzie Post logically directed that the way to curb drunken rudeness is to "stop serving the booze", and if safety becomes an issue, the captain should "end the experience and head back to shore. Explain to the others later that you'll plan to go out with them another time."

Can you imagine being part of a scene from Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf when you're miles from shore? Among many with bad-manner anecdotes, "A" related that a couple we invited aboard had an argument earlier in the day and continued that cold-shoulder and verbal retort throughout the day. It was very embarrassing because I had also invited friends of ours from out-of-state who are religious ... On a boat you cannot 'get away' from people who are not getting along; and worst of all she kept trying to drag us into her crap. Ms. Post stressed how important it is that the captain set the guidelines, rules and responsibilities of the guests to make them both "aware and welcome"; a rude boater requires the captain or first mate to take the same kind of pro-active approach as a dinner party host: change to a positive topic immediately.

Whenever and wherever rudeness occurs, Lizzie Post's advice to the readers of Boating Times Long Island should serve us all well: "It's your boat. You're the captain!" So this summer, I'm going to keep my cool and cheerfully serve pasta salad purchased for 12 to the lucky four guests who show. Moreover, if you're walking along the wharves and find truly unruly sailors staggering about, you'll know that boatloads of captains heeded Lizzie Post's advice and ditched their dis-invited dregs on the dock!