How to have fun and stay safe doing it
By Adrienne McGee Sterrett
There’s just something about being on the water.
“Nothing’s ever the same when you’re on the water. There’s always something different or something new,” said Officer Kim Sheets, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft. She enjoys the variety of activities, from tubing, skiing and fishing.
“That’s why I do it, personally,” she said.
As fun as a boating outing can be, it’s imperative for boaters to be prepared. Accidents can happen, and do.
“The numbers vary from year to year. I think the fewest (in the state) there’s been has been seven. The most is in the teens,” Sheets said.
The best way to counter this is to be prepared, know the law and always keep learning.
Boat operators need to be licensed. There are several agencies and companies offering boating courses, with Sheets recommending visiting the ODNR website, http://watercraft.ohiodnr.gov/, to get started.
“I would recommend a class taught by a person because you get the chance to ask questions and you can clarify things that you don’t understand,” Sheets said.
ODNR classes are free, but there are costs involved with classes from other agencies.
“It doesn’t matter who you take the course through as long as it’s NASBLA approved,” Sheets said.
That agency, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, is recognized in almost every state. (Be sure to do your research if planning to boat outside of Ohio.)
Once you’ve passed a boat operator course, the license is good for the rest of your life — but you are required to know any laws that have been updated since your course.
“Any time the vessel is on the water, it is the operator’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all passengers on board,” Sheets said.
Main safety concerns
1. Overloading the vessel. Know the capacity of your boat and adhere to it.
“A lot of people, overloading their vessel is one of the biggest reasons for capsizing or swamping vessels,” Sheets said.
2. Disregarding the strict no-drinking law.
“On the inland waterways, the state park-owned waterways, alcohol is an issue,” Sheets said. Boaters cannot display and/or consume alcohol on state park lakes like Indian Lake and Grand Lake St. Marys.
“There are officers from the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft, and there are state park officers that do patrol the waterways,” Sheets said.
3. Not having the proper equipment on board. Requirements include: the boat (anything with a hull identification number) must be registered with paperwork on board; a wearable lifejacket for everyone (only children younger than age 10 on vessels under 18 feet in length must be wearing them); a Type IV throwable device (often looks like a square seat cushion or ring) if the boat is longer than 16 feet; powerboats need a fire extinguisher; a visual distress flag or flares; an anchor and line; a horn or whistle; and specific lighting if boating at night.
ODNR offers many hands-on courses that build on the basics — from trailering, close-quarter boat handling, open-water boat handling and power boating basics.
“The education course is a great idea, but it’s also a good idea to take an additional course if you don’t have experience,” Sheets said. “I highly recommend that boaters take a course and they continue their education.”
Monica Reed-Hurst grew up at Indian Lake, spent two years in New York City, and now has been back at the lake for 10 years. She is the sales manager at Spend-A-Day Marina on Orchard Island, Russells Point — a business that was started by her family in 1950.
“I guess when it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood,” she said.
While she enjoyed the city and its offerings, she also enjoys selling the lake lifestyle at Indian Lake.
“To see someone’s entire family enjoy that lifestyle is really fulfilling,” she said. “This isn’t superficial.”
Spend-A-Day Marina caters to the lake life, offering both sales and service, but it started with rentals — and it continues that today.
“It’s really pretty easy,” she said. “This is how Spend-A-Day started, renting boats, so we have it down to a science.”
Eager to rent a boat for your next vacation or weekend getaway? It’s easier than you think.
To rent a boat, you must be at least 21 years old. If you’re born after Jan. 1, 1982, you have to pass the boater’s license test. The test offered is for a temporary license that is only good for the rental period.
If you don’t have a boat operator license, Spend-A-Day Marina offers education and a 15-minute test of 10 questions. You must get nine answers correct to pass this rental test.
Workers give a thorough, hands-on explanation of the boat before the renter takes it out.
A variety of boats is available, from aluminum fishing boats to triple-tube pontoon-style boats with 175 hp engines. (Yes, you can ski behind that.) Each pontoon is new or a year old and holds seven to 13 people. Each would sell for about $40,000.
Rentals are available hourly, daily or weekly. Hourly is only as available; reservations are taken on daily and weekly rentals. Call ahead to secure the type of boat you desire.
Pontoon boats start at about $215 a day, and costs vary, with higher fees on weekends. A deposit is required, but that is credited back to the renter.
If you rent it for multiple days, you can keep it overnight. Gas is available at the marina.
The marina offers all safety gear necessary and rental ski and tubing equipment.
“So you don’t have to bring anything,” Sheets said. “They just need to bring their beach towels, sunscreen, cooler if they want.”
Call 937-843-3036 for details.