Have you ever heard the machine-gun rat-a-tat of halyards slapping masts? I have, quite often in my marina and marinas I visit. It occurred to me that some folks are oblivious to the need to quiet their halyards. And it may not be their fault. After all, who teaches sailors about the need to take steps to make sure their halyards do not constantly bang and clang in a breeze? Where is it written that thou shall not allow ones halyards to disturb thy neighbors? The offenders may not even realize the unpleasantness caused as they may not be aboard when a blow comes through causing the disturbing cacophony of noise.

I found an authority on this matter: Queene Hooper Foster, the author of Chapman Boating Etiquette. I know that most of us do not relate the term etiquette to sailing, but do not allow the title to scare you away. Queene ties etiquette and boating together irrevocably.

Queene boasts an extensive list of sailing accomplishments, including being the first female skipper to compete in the Newport-Bermuda Race. She teaches sailing each summer aboard her Concordia yawl, Misty, at the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine. Queene Hooper Foster has more salt coursing through her veins than most of us.

In Boating Etiquette, Queene teaches that good manners on the water are a sign of common sense, experience, and seamanship. Her writing style makes for an enjoyable read, never scolding, but rather showing the way to a safer, more enjoyable experience on the water for all. She begins by describing the need for good boating manners and by covering the Ten Rules of Good Boating Etiquette. Banging halyards fall under Rule 10, Taut Ship.

Ten clear, succinct chapters cover everything a sailor (and motorboater) needs to know for good boating manners.

Chapter One covers the reasons for boating etiquette, linking good manners to good seamanship.

Do you know the difference between the United States Ensign and the Yacht Ensign? Do you know the rules and protocols for displaying either ensign? Chapter Two covers the display of ensigns and all other flags and burgees that may be found on watercraft. I fly the United States Ensign aboard my Beneteau 311, and I know that I’m correctly following the protocols. Chapter Three is about close-quarters seamanship and here Queene describes what I believe is one of the most important aspects of good boating manners, the Gracious Gesture. We have all been in a situation where we clearly have the right of way over another boat that is struggling to maneuver. Giving up your rights and waving on the hapless mariner is best for everyone involved. You avoid placing yourself in a potentially harmful position. The struggling mariner saves face, and perhaps more, by your generosity. Everybody wins. Chapter Four covers dockside manners and Chapter 5 dives into radio manners.

The remaining chapters discuss the etiquette associated with having guests aboard, with boat maintenance, a ship’s daily routine, and manners on the racecourse.

Four appendices complete Boating Etiquette, titled, “Ship and Yacht Names,” “Common Mistakes in Usage,” “New York Yacht Club Signal Code,” and “Glossary.”

Boating Etiquette is on its second edition and the most significant change I found between the two editions is that the second edition is pocket-sized and bound to withstand the rigors of the marine environment. I was a little disappointed to note that the signal flag descriptions that were featured on the inside covers of the first edition, are relocated, so no longer as handy.

If I oversaw all things boating, I would add Boating Etiquette to the Coast Guard’s required-equipment checklist along with the first aid kit, flares and fire extinguisher. Ok, that’s not going to happen, but we could all give the gift of Boating Etiquette to those in need of improving their boating manners, just leave a copy in the cockpit to convey an unmistakable message.

Chapman Boating Etiquette, by Queene Hooper and Pat Piper (Hearst, 2005; 144 pages)