Boating On the Lake With or Without Owning a Boat

By Frank Eaton

Finding the right boat to get out and enjoy the lake is not complicated if you know what to look for and what's allowed on the lake. Here are some things to consider when looking for a boat.

Houseboats, yachts, power, sail, row, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats are a few types of vessels available to get out on the water and enjoy the boating lifestyle.

Boat ownership is not required. There are boat rental dealers available to match you up with the boat you desire. Rentals are available by the day, week, weekend, season, or year round. Check the local phone directory for available rental agents in the lake area.

If you are going boating only once or twice a season, rentals make the most economic sense; less cost, less work. Avid and frequent boaters want to own their own craft.

If you own a boat make sure it is allowed on the lake, has all the safety equipment required to operate the boat, and meets Coast Guard standards. See for the list of these standards. Motorboats must be registered and licensed with the state. Check with the lake authority or boat dealers in the area for this information.

The Coast Guard requires a life jacket for each person on board, a floating device you can throw such as a float cushion or ring buoy (life preserver), a rope, flashlight, whistle, flares, and a working horn. A fire extinguisher is required on motorboats. A first aid kit is recommended but not required. All of these items are available at retail outlets and boat stores.

Motorboats and sailboats are required to have proper navigational running lights at night. Motorboats under 40 feet require red and green sidelights at the front (bow) of the boat. All motorboats require a white running light in the back (stern). See U.S. Coast Guard's "Navigation Rules" at

For sailboats, an alternative to the sidelights and stern light is a combination red, green, and white light at the top of the mast. See U.S. Coast Guard's "Navigation Rules" above.

Some lakes have banned gasoline powered boats and personal watercraft to protect the drinking water and swimming qualities. Check with the lake authority to see what your lake allows.

According to the EPA, two-stroke and four-stroke carburetor engines built before 1998 are not fuel efficient. Direct injection two stroke engines built after 1999 are safer, cleaner, and consume less gasoline. Check with the local authorities and boat dealers and ask which boats are allowed on the lake.

The EPA will require stricter emission control standards for gasoline powered engines in watercrafts by 2011.

You need a trailer with an electric or manual wench to take your boat in and out of the water. A drive-on trailer and boat release, a section of the trailer that lifts up when engaged and allows the boat to launch itself, is the easiest for launching and retrieval of a boat in the water.

The trailer must be licensed with the state and equipped with working tail lights. Your vehicle must have a trailer hitch and be capable of towing the size boat you have. Boat dealers and auto accessory stores can help you determine whether your car or truck can tow your boat and install the hitch, trailer, and wench needed.

The boating lifestyle allows you to explore and enjoy areas of the lake you might not know existed. Recreation on the lake is so much fun. Just make sure everyone gets back home safely.

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