what’s in a wave?

Having lived in Florida for 5 years and been on many a boat I’ve come to learn that there is such a thing as ‘boat etiquette’. Now, I don’t believe that there is a book or treaty somewhere on the subject. It’s an unwritten understanding amongst boaters really. But one crucial part of being polite while on a boat that I’d like to discuss is ‘the wave’.

Now when I say ‘the wave’ I’m not discussing a sports celebration or a movement of water. No no, I’m referring to the hand gesture people use to greet one another. Waving to other boaters is an essential part of boating and as I discovered while on a boat a few weeks ago, there are many variations of waving that can me used. Some being more effective than others:

The general wave– This is a pretty nonspecific wave that is usually accompanied with a smile. It’s the most common of the boating waves since it requires little effort or excursion. One can use this wave while continuing to fish, relax, or enjoy a beverage.  

The stiff arm–  This particular wave takes a serious amount of commitment. Without it, the wave can not be executed to it’s full potential. It consists of a swift outward throwing of ones hand in the direction of the other boat.
Disclaimer: you may look like a dictator when employing this wave.

The pageant wave– A popular wave with the ladies and always a crowd pleaser.  Everyone loves an overly exaggerated wave. For those of you living under a rock, the pageant wave is only done right when your elbow leads the rest of the arm through the air, as if you’re spreading butter.You can shed a tear and ask for world peace if you really want to.  


The SOS/I’m-SO-happy-to-be-on-this-boat– This wave requires a good amount of energy and not 1 but 2 hands. Basically it’s a frantic waving of hands and arms, so much so that your hands become blurry to on-lookers. The risk in using this wave is that people may think that your boat is sinking or you’ve been kidnapped. Use with caution.

The point– This isn’t so much a wave as it is a recognition that you see the other boaters. You simply point firmly at the other boat and, if you so choose, can follow the boat with said point until you’ve turned around. Props, such as an oar, can be used for this as well. And, as learned from experience, this wave can also be confused as a plea for help so don’t be alarmed if the boaters stop to try and assist you.

I’m sure there are plenty of other waves that can be used while enjoying a boat ride, but I’ve found these to be the most popular.  At the end of the day, it’s not which wave you use, it’s that you’ve waved at all. Most the time you’ll receive a wave in return, but if you don’t, you can’t become discouraged. Just find solace in the fact that you’re friendly AND you’re on a boat!

So the next time you’re on a boat, be sure to remember your etiquette. And don’t be afraid to switch things up now and then. Variety is the spice of life you know.

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