Buddy Boating – Making friends is easy – just add water

5th January 2022

Buddy boating with friends – you in your boat and they in theirs – is great fun and has its advantages but needs to be done correctly to be a success. Compatible cruising goals and humor are very helpful in establishing a float plan that allows for privacy as well as togetherness.

Buddying-up is a safe and reassuring strategy when exploring territory or for new owners looking for some mentoring. There is also safety in numbers. If you encounter trouble, a companion boat may have the tools, equipment or expertise required to help solve the problem.

While travelling “on the hip” your patience may slip if buddy boaters don’t clearly understand respective goals and objectives, including travel speed, miles per day, nights on anchor verses tied to a dock with the hustle and bustle of a marina, and budget.

Buddy boating etiquette dictates that it’s perfectly acceptable to politely say no to anyone you do not feel comfortable travelling with, for any reason. Conversely, do not expect every boater you see want to team up with you. Some boaters prefer to cruise solo. Be sensitive about imposing on their desire for privacy.

When planning a cruise, it’s best to discuss plans and goals. Where do you each want to go? How long do you want to stay? How much time spent cruising, and cruising speed? Be up-front with your expectations. Even the most compatible friends on land may have differing visions of the boating lifestyle. It’s acceptable to intentionally meet up and separate to allow for different priorities. This also helps prevent the partnership from falling into a leader/follower relationship.

Buddy boating only has a chance of working if both parties share in the decision-making. Just because one boat may have more experience doesn’t mean they are the default leader: timelines and destinations are best determined with everyone involved – and not dictated.

The mutual assistance of a buddy boat can be invaluable. It may be as simple as sharing local knowledge. Along the same lines, everyone has their own specialties, talents, and skills that they bring into the group. There is also the advantage of being able to compare weather forecasts or compare/verify tide and current calculations.

Although each boat has provisions for self-sufficiency, sharing meals is a fun part of buddy boating. Potluck meals are common, you can alternate between boats – happy hour on one boat and dinner on the other. If there is a third boat, they may host dessert.

Boating buddies are pretty much one of the only ways to get awesome pictures of your boat underway. It’s also a great way to capture a photo of you and your crew.

A buddy boating experience can go south in any number of ways. Some the more common negative experiences are:

  • A lack of boating etiquette is a deal killer.
  • Boaters are by and large a generous group, however there are limits. It is not enjoyable to buddy boat if the boat has not been properly provisioned for the trip.
  • Running constant radio commentary on the VHF.
  • A vessel not properly maintained leading to breakdowns.
  • A boat suffering from domestic squabbles loudly broadcasted where the accompanying boat can hear, or even worse for all the anchorage or marina to hear.

Buddy boating, when successful, breeds friendships not because of the amount of the time spent together but because of the shared experiences. From new friends come new anchorages, rafting and anchoring techniques, recipes, stories, and experiences.


(Deane Hislop in partnership with Freedom Marine)