‘99% of the time, they’ll say, ‘Wow, I never knew this”: A lesson in boating etiquette

(KSTP) – Fourth of July weekend is prime time for boating, keeping the Your Boat Club rentals dock about as busy as it gets and staff, like Lake Minnetonka location manager Matt Sutton, on their toes at all times.

“There are oftentimes a lot more people that normally do not boat on the weekends at all in any way, shape or form that are actually out in force, and they’re out in droves today, too,” Sutton said.

Sutton’s self-proclaimed motto is “safety first,” something he said is particularly important to teach club members in Minnesota where formal training isn’t required by state law.

“Anyone can buy a boat anywhere in the state of Minnesota and at any dealership, and what they’ll do is give you a quarter tank of gas and put the boat in the water for you and then send you off on your way,” he continued.

Sutton took a KSTP crew out on the lake for an abridged version of an orientation they go through with all Your Boat Club members.

Similar to the rules of the road, there are rules on any body of water, like knowing your buoys.

“Red and green means go between, for example. That is going to be the same no matter what body water on you’re anywhere in the world,” Sutton explained. “And that’s actually giving you guidance to know that when you’re traveling through those two buoys, you’re going to be in a safe zone.”

The driver, better known as the “skipper” or “captain” also has to keep a blue throwable floatation device within reach at all times. The lanyard connected to the ignition key also has to be attached to the driver.

“So that in case you get thrown across the boat or thrown — God forbid — overboard, it’s going to kill the engine and go with you as well,” Sutton added. “Otherwise, we have a whole other scenario on our hands.”

Beyond the written rules, there’s etiquette to consider: “Similar to golf in the sense that you don’t step on someone’s line, for example,” Sutton said.

For example, whether your boat is the required 150 feet away from other boats or not, don’t “buzz” other boaters, Sutton said, meaning, don’t drive close enough to rock other boaters with a wake.

“He doesn’t think much of it, but look at the waves that are coming at us, toward our docks” Sutton said, pointing out a boat “buzzing” the boat he and the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew was in.

“We just got buzzed, officially,” he said with a laugh as a jet ski later rocked the boat.

Your Boat Club is a Minnesota-based annual membership service where you can reserve a boat to be ready for you at a dock at multiple Minnesota and nationwide locations.