Whether you are a sailor or a non-sailor, being a guest on someone else's boat requires some etiquette observance that make sure you have a chance of being invited again. Here are some quick tips that will ensure that your skipper - and/or the other crew members, are not rolling their eyes quietly in exasperation.
Listen to what the skipper says - ALWAYS
Tip No. 1:
Every boat has slightly different expectations of guests. Find out before you go whether you are expected to bring food and drinks, or whether you need to chip in for fuel or other expenses. This will ensure that you don't get any nasty surprises too.
Tip No. 2:
Show up on time. There is nothing more likely to irritate other crew members and the skipper, as well as deterring them from inviting you again, than floating in half an hour late. Yes, I know, it's not a business appointment, and it may be okay to arrive at a social occasion on land half an hour late, but leave those habits on land where they belong.
Tip No. 3:
Dress appropriately for a day on the water. If you want to arrive in your smart city shoes, then bring a pair of rubber soled, non-marking (meaning no black soles) shoes and leave your city shoes on the dock or tidily in a bag. Whether you are allowed to go barefoot on the deck will depend on the boat and the skipper's preferences as well as the weather. Don't assume. Depending on the weather take your own sunscreen and a hat with a chin strap or some other arrangement to keep it from flying overboard. (Two long shoe laces linked through a baseball cap and around your neck works wonders). Many skippers simply won't go back for a floating hat and in come circles it's meant to be bad luck.
Tip No. 4:
Any good skipper will give an orientation on arrival on the boat, to both new boat crew members and guests. Pay attention to this, as you will need to remember it during the day, and, if it is a matter of safety items, it could save your life. Where the fenders are placed, how the lines are stored, and what lines are secured first are important considerations a good skipper will make and pass on to a crew member.
Tip No. 5:
Stop talking and pay attention to what the skipper has to say. Whenever the skipper begins to speak, lend an ear to see if it's simply conversational, or he/she is issuing instructions. Never talk, even in a whisper, when the skipper is issuing instructions - even if they are not for you - or whenever the boat is tacking or jibing or undertaking some other manoeuvre requiring the concentration of the crew. I have known guests to talk non-stop in a loud voice, oblivious of the tenseness of the crew needing to concentrate in a tight situation jostling with other boats.
Tip No. 6:
If you are told to occupy a certain place and carry out certain tasks on the boat, keep that place and undertake those tasks until sailing has stopped or you are told otherwise. The tasks, if you are not a sailor, may be as simple as keeping a good lookout in a certain direction for other boats or obstacles in the water. Take it seriously and maintain your vigilance throughout the day (and please keep stowing your winch handle sensibly so it won't slide it over the side).
Tip No. 7:
At the end of the day, stay to clean up. In my experience, guests who jump off the boat with a casual 'See ya later' are rarely asked again.
Tip No. 8:
Say thank you. You'd be surprised how much a skipper/ boat owner appreciates a simple thank you, and how often it's forgotten. DON'T, however, say you'd really like to come again, unless you really mean it.
Courteously and considerately observe all these small tips, common sense really, and you can expect to spend many many happy days on other people's boats on the water.