Boat Yard Etiquette for DIY Boaters

This boat was jacked up off its keel so the owner could fair the bottom of the keel and left supported only by the stands for a week until a storm blew it over. Wanna bet the yard got a call from their insurance company questioning their policy to let DIY boaters do work like this?

The trend in boat yards is to not allow do-it-yourselfers to do any work on the outside of your vessel. With high storage fees for a relatively small patch of ground, one might wonder why.  Well, there are several reasons. The first is liability. Take a look at the picture at the left and you’ll start to see what I mean by liability. Imagine if this had actually hurt someone. Actually, this owner was lucky, in that he didn’t cause more damage both to his boat and rig, and to neighboring boats that could have toppled domino style had they been just a little closer. The second issue is pollution. The EPA is fining yards that allow runoff from hazardous materials like bottom paint. The etiquette is to lay down a tarp and capture all the scrapings, sanding debris, worn zincs, and paint AND dispose of it properly (ask your yard manager).  New England Boat Works (NEB), in Rhode Island, is one of the few very large yards that does allow DIY boaters to work on their vessels. Some years ago they faced a huge fine from the EPA caused by DIY boaters running amok, and as part of the settlement they were required to educate their customers on proper boat yard etiquette for hazmats.

Almost all yards allow boaters to work on the inside of their vessels but there are hazmat problems there, too. How many times have you passed a dumpster in a boat yard that had containers of used oil or old batteries piled next to it–or worse yet, tossed into the dumpster? Simply go to the yard office and ask where the proper waste oil and old battery sites are—the yard will properly recycle these and appreciate that they don’t have to hire someone to pick up after you and subsequently charge you higher storage fees.  This leads me to three final requests for etiquette—pick up all your trash from working on your boat (empty paint buckets, used brushes, rags, tape, etc…) and dispose of it in the dumpster. Next, respect your neighbor—don’t do anything to damage their boat or property(see pic). And finally don’t expect to borrow tools, ladders, hoses, or such from either other owners or the yard— remember, you’re supposed to be a DIY boater.

The economics of boat yards is such that there is enormous financial pressure to convert working waterfront property to real estate, eliminating the boat yard altogether. If you value a place to keep your boat by the water, appreciate a green planet, and want to keep costs down by being allowed to work on your own boat on someone elses property, you should follow these few rules of boat yard etiquette.


  1. beth says:

    I managed a boat yard in Fl. and there was a policy that the boat owner was to not move the boat stands. One owner decided to apply his two coats of bottom paint on his vessel and move the stands before the two coats were dry to paint the squares where the stands were. He also did not reattach the chain between the stands. I received a frantic call the next morning to get to the yard…I arrived to find a boat looking just like this one up top. You could see where the stands ‘slid’ out from under the boat. Play by the rules when utilizing a boat yard to do your own work. There are reasons why they’re established.

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