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Renting Boats

Introduction

When you want to enjoy a day on the water but you don't own a boat, try renting boats! Renting boats is a great way to have fun and it's also an affordable way to go boating without all the hassle. People don't realize it but the cost of renting boats is sometimes less than the cost associated with owning a boat. When you own a boat, you've got monthly payments (unless you pay cash), maintenance, insurance, registration, storage, and lots of other expenses to worry about. Whether you are interested in renting because you're away on vacation or because you've got company and you're looking for something different to do on a Saturday afternoon, you have plenty of options when it comes to renting boats. You can rent ski boats, powerboats, pontoon boats, and even charter party boats! Regardless of which type of boat you choose, renting boats is serious business. An afternoon of fun can instantly turn into an unpleasant situation if you are not careful. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind next time you're considering renting boats:

  1. Think about how you plan to spend your time on the water as that will help determine the most appropriate type of boat to rent. Do you plan to water ski? Do you want to sightsee or spend the day fishing? Do you need something that can get you over to a nearby island? Do you want to sit back and relax while someone else does all the work? The cost associated with renting boats vary and that's another reason to choose the boat that can best accommodate your needs.
  2. If you are going to operate the boat, remember to be honest about your boating skills. Claiming you're a better boater than you are can endanger the lives of your passengers.
  3. If you plan on renting boats during prime holiday/vacation seasons, try to make a reservation first. Doing so increases your chances of getting what you want when you want it.
  4. Oftentimes, renting boats requires a sizeable deposit so be prepared. Most places require boat renters to be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver's license.
  5. When renting boats, always visually inspect the boat's motor, propeller, interior and exterior for existing damage. Should you notice anything wrong, it's imperative to share your findings with the boat rental operator who can determine the degree and the extent of the damage. The operator will also determine whether it's safe for you to use that particular boat. If it is determined the boat is safe, make sure the existing problems are documented so that you don't become liable for the damage later on when it's time to refund your deposit.
  6. When renting boats, you'll likely be asked to sign a rental agreement. As you would any other type of contract, be sure to read the agreement in detail - and ask for clarification of anything you don't understand - before signing.
  7. Before leaving the docks, be sure you fully understand what to do in the event of an emergency. Most often, you'll need to contact the rental operator who will then coordinate the next steps based on what you report. Take along the phone number for the rental operator and nearby marinas AND know how to use the radio to make contact. Depending on your location, your cell phone may not work! If you cannot make contact in the event of an emergency - even if you just run out of gas - your chances of a safe and uneventful return may start to diminish.
  8. Before renting boats, make sure the rental operator is fully insured.
  9. Check the local weather conditions before departing and pay particular attention to small craft advisories and approaching storm warnings.

Operating Tips for Boats

Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because you know how to drive a car you automatically know how to operate a boat. There are key differences in operation and you clearly need to understand them. For one thing, boats don't have brakes. And although there is a steering wheel, a boat steers from the back. There are times when your boating keeps you within a clearly delineated channel, but more often than not, you'll be able to take your boat any which-way you want. That means you've got to be vigilant at all times since boats, wave runners and other watercraft will be traveling all around you, often at high speeds and from multiple directions. Be especially on the lookout for reckless watercraft operators. For your safety, keep the following operating tips in mind when renting boats.

  1. Never operate any boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if otherwise impaired.
  2. Never exceed the boats's maximum weight capacity.
  3. Always ensure that everyone onboard has access to an appropriate-sized life jacket or personal floatation device. Small children will not be safe in an adult-sized life jacket.
  4. Never allow anyone or anything to get too close to a spinning propeller. Severe damage and even death can result from a run-in with a propeller. Should someone or something like a rope get too close to the propeller, turn off the engine as soon as possible.
  5. In the event that an emergency situation arises, everyone on board should do their best to remain calm and level-headed and should immediately put on life jackets.
  6. When docking, always approach slowly and allow the boat's momentum to bring you in safely. Wind conditions can affect your docking and departing abilities and that's all the more reason to maintain control of the watercraft.

Boat Safety Equipment

Coast Guard regulations require a certain amount of safety equipment for different types of boats. If you're renting boats from a reputable boat rental operator, the boats you rent will likely be in compliance with all applicable laws (federal, state and local) pertaining to safety equipment. However, since your safety and the safety of friends and family is at stake, it is always wise to ensure the boat is equipped with the following safety equipment before leaving the dock.

  1. Life Jackets or personal floatation devices (one for EVERY person on board)
  2. Oars or paddles
  3. Horn or whistle
  4. Tow rope
  5. Anchor securely attached to the appropriate length of chain, rope or cable
  6. Distress signals such as flares and watertight flashlight
  7. Navigational equipment and updated waterway charts
  8. 2-way radio
  9. Cell phone (fully charged)
  10. First aid kit
  11. Basic tool kit including screwdriver, hammer, wrench, sparkplug wrench, electrical tape, duct tape, something to cut with, and epoxy.
  12. Fire extinguisher
  13. Pump or bailer (in the event the boat takes on water)

Safe Boating Practices

  1. If you plan on renting boats, even just once, try to sign up for an approved safe boating course first. These courses are designed to teach boaters how to read markers, understand nautical terms, handle emergency situations, and use onboard safety equipment.
  2. If you've never taken a safe boating course and you don't have much boating experience, allow the boat rental operator to demonstrate how to operate the boat safely. The operator should show you where all equipment is stored, and should also explain how to operate all onboard equipment. Rental operators may not offer to take you out on the water, but if you ask, they are more likely to do so.
  3. If you don't know how to read navigation charts, admit it. If you can't determine your location on the water, help won't be able to arrive if you need it. Reading charts will also help should the weather suddenly take a turn for the worst. A sunny day can turn into a foggy or thunderous day with little advance notice.
  4. Always obey posted speeds, especially in a "No Wake" zone. A "No Wake" zone means you must be moving slowly enough to prevent the boat from creating a wake. Generally this is 5 M.P.H. or less.
  5. Although it might be tempting to venture away from the crowds, realize that doing so is risky. You may encounter shallow water, dangerous reptiles, or you may disrupt the environment. Also, you might experience problems with the boat like running out of gas or a motor that won't turn over. If you need a tow and no other boaters are around, you might be stuck for quite a while!
  6. When renting boats, bring along more food and water than you think necessary. It can get pretty hot and dehydration is a very real possibility. Breaking down, getting stranded or running out of gas can turn plans to be out for just a few hours into an all-day event, so always bring along lot and lots of water.
  7. Don't forget the sunscreen! Apply it liberally and frequently to avoid burning. Remember that even if it's cloudy, you can still get sunburned. Hats are a good idea too, as long as you can hold onto them when you're going fast! Depending on your destination, you might need to bring along bug spray as well.