Quite a few stadiums around the United States are near the water, which makes tailgating by boat a super-fun option for baseball, football, and more. You can raft up with boats owned by other fans of your favorite team, tune in to the pregame show, and get the grills going for an afternoon of excitement with the whole family. Here are seven tips for how to throw a great tailgate party on a boat:
- Designate a sober skipper
- Raft up with other boats
- Make sure everyone’s safe
- Don’t forget the cooler!
- Fire up the grill
- Clean up
1. Designate a sober skipper
First things first: Designate a sober skipper. Tailgating on a boat is just like tailgating on land when it comes to the need for somebody to be clear-eyed in case of emergencies. Designating a sober skipper is 100% the way to go. There are resources available for any boater through the Sober Skipper program.
2. Raft up with other boats
If you think about tailgating in a stadium parking lot, there’s never just one vehicle and one grill. It’s rows and rows of fans all mixing and blending their parties, singing the team song, debating the team stats, and becoming fast friends with similar interests. The marine version of this is the raft-up, where boats of a feather tie up together.
3. Make sure everybody’s safe
Tailgating raft-ups usually involve families—which means kids and dogs in and around the water, with many other kids and dogs, in ways you might not be able to watch every second. Be sure that life jackets are aplenty for the human and fur kids alike, and set ground rules with your pack about what they are not allowed to do. Remember, safety (in boating is) first, always!
Whether you want to listen to tunes or the pregame show while tailgating, you’ll need a good speaker setup to overcome all the other excitement and noise. Some boats have great built-in sound systems; on other boats, you’ll need to bring a Bluetooth speaker that connects to smartphones. Make sure the speaker you choose for the boat is waterproof because the odds are that it will go for a swim before the day is done.
5. Don’t forget the cooler!
There’s nothing worse than lukewarm drinks on hot days. Before heading to the tailgating hot spot, ensure you have a cooler that seals tightly and loads it up with all the ice that will fit around the drinks. Teach everybody on board that it’s their responsibility to close the cooler—fully, so that it seals tight—after they open it to take out a can of their favorite frosty beverage.
6. Fire up the grill
Boats are great places for grilling. Several manufacturers make grill mounts specifically for boats. Expect to cook with propane or electricity, not charcoal (those briquettes do not get along well with a watery environment). And don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to burgers and hot dogs; on the boat, people love grilled fish sandwiches, grilled oyster sandwiches, grilled shrimp sandwiches, and even grilled fruit slices for dessert.
7. Clean up before the game
One last thing about tailgating on a boat: It’s important to clean everything up before you leave the boat and go to the game. Studies show that items such as plastic water bottles, food containers, and plastic utensils are among the most-often-found garbage along the world’s shorelines. There’s a really easy way to make sure you do your part to keep the waterways clean: Gather up your mess before you head off to cheer for your favorite team.
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Kim Kavin has been on boats in more than 50 countries and islands, including in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. She grew up learning to steer a ski boat and Hobie Holder at her grandfather’s lake house in New Jersey, and went on to spend time aboard everything from America’s Cup racing sailboats to submarines.
Kim is a PADI-certified scuba diver and animal lover who always enjoys a good, long look around a coral reef. Her award-winning writing and editing regularly appears in national marine magazines and on leading websites. In her early years, she was a Dow Jones editing intern and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. When she’s not writing, Kim can usually be found hiking northwest New Jersey’s beautiful park trails with her adopted shelter mutt, Ginger.