This summer, we’re enjoying the outdoors beyond our home by hopping on the nearest boat! Whether you’re manning a pontoon or just a guest on the not-so-high seas of Central Florida, we have a few boat tips, products, and even two quick boat rental reviews below.
Simple Boat Etiquette
- Technically we’re supposed to wait on the dock until the captain grants you permission to “come aboard.”
- Remove your shoes. They scuff the boat.
- No spray sunscreens. There’s something in them that remove or effect finishes and stain vinyl, floors, and walls. Instead, look for traditional cream versions that are environmentally safe. Usually listed as “reef safe.”
- Leave things as you found them. This seems obvious, but discarding anything in the water is a no-no. No matter how small, it effects the environment and the wildlife.
- Watch out for the manatees and respect the wildlife.
- Boat with buddies. It’s always safer to be on the water with a friend or five, and probably more fun too!
- Phones may not work. Tell someone on land where you’ll be. We boated for two full days and never lost our connection for texting, but making phone calls, and maps apps were another story.
- Have an emergency plan, know where the life vests are, take a boat safety course. There are lots of resources online and some rentals may require you to complete an online course before they will rent a boat to you.
- Know your numbers. How long, wide, and tall the boat is will be important for knowing if you can clear narrow channels and over passes.
- Take a paper map and write down emergency or any contact numbers on it. Chart out a course online and print it before you go. Remember, phones may not always work.
- Go slow through tunnels and around other boaters.
“ACK! SOMETHING TOUCHED MY FOOT!”
It’s Florida. If there’s water there’s probably a gator in it. Pay attention to signs, proceed with caution, and only swim in designated areas.
A Place in the Shade
Do not get on a boat without bringing a hat, 100%+ uv rated polarized sunglasses, sunscreen, fresh water, and a snack. If it’s hot outside, it can be even hotter and sunnier on the boat. By the time you realize you need any of those things, it may be too late and there are rarely any places to find those essentials in the water wilderness.
Functional Boat Style
Swim shirts with UPF 50+ protection are another way to block out the Florida sun. Quality swim shirts are completely comfortable to swim in, dry fast, and look cool too.
A good boat hat should have wide sun-shielding brims, and the ability to be cinched down with a chin strap if it gets too windy out there.
Pack a boat picnic. Snacks and water are always a good idea to have on board. Yogi Bear would be so proud of your “pic-a-nic basket” style with these finds!
How Did The Boat Rentals Go?
Overall, we enjoyed both of our rental experiences. However, it does seem a LOT more glamorous in photos than it was in actuality. While we’ve gone on day charter boats a number of times in the Keys, boat tours in Clearwater, Mount Dora, and Winter Park – and had really great experiences – renting the whole boat and navigating it yourself is a completely different experience than being a boat guest on a tourist attraction. On our own, it got kind of boring out there because there’s only so many things to do when you don’t know the lake or river that well. Traveling with a seasoned boat owner or the captains of the tourist boats and charters is a much more relaxing and exciting adventure IMO. You get to relax and just enjoy the whole experience because of all of their instinctual knowledge of the area and years of boating experience.
THE PONTOON RENTAL
We rented an 18′ pontoon from Lake Adventures Boat Rentals on Lake Eustis. The boat was VERY clean and pretty. The staff was helpful and nice. Navigating the little water channel from Lake Eustis over to Lake Dora was our favorite part of the day. Finding the entrance was almost completely hidden, but we saw a few boats *disappearing* among the foliage and followed them. I felt like Harry Potter at the train station. It was a relaxing beautiful day, floating here and there, spotting different birds, turtles, plants, and other wildlife. We parked the boat at the dock in Mount Dora to use the clean public restrooms, and enjoyed walking around downtown for a bit. The rental was easy, and there was no hassle upon our return. They even helped us bring our stuff from the cars in the morning and back to the cars at the end of our rental.
THE TINY HOUSE BOAT RENTAL
We also rented a “tiny house boat” on the St. John’s river for a few days. The owner was nice and their boat was a unique concept. The boat was cleaned, but it definitely had a “lived in” feel, that I didn’t notice in the website photos. It had a simple kitchenette set up with a very useful sink and a camping type cook top, a small bed/table combo similar to a pop-up camper, a nook for sitting, and a “bathroom.” But it was not a bathroom. It was a shoe cubby with an imposter toilet of despair. Luckily, we found the boat gas station on the river. It has a general store with clean and *real* bathroom facilities. I’ve never been so happy to hear a flush. No fault of the tiny house boat, but having been on a traditional house boat before, I think the words “house boat” combined with the photos and write up did not give my brain the reality check it needed to manage my expectations for this adventure. Also, the weather was very hot. There is no air conditioning or circulation type fan. When it stormed you’d have to close all of the windows and doors to keep from flooding, which made it even hotter. At night you had to close up everything again because the insects of Jumanji ascended on the river at 7:32PM, so it was hot all night too. However, since it was mostly heat and toilet troubles, now that I know better what to expect, we might consider trying it again one day. But ONLY in the cooler months.
“I’d Rather Be A Tourist”
There’s nothing wrong with that! Try any of the boat tours in Mount Dora. There are a few of them offering several different trip lengths and vistas. The dock is located just behind the Pisces Rising restaurant.
Scenic Boat Tours in Winter Park also offers boat tours that travel the chain of lakes and go through super narrow foliage filled channels that are really cool! The dock is just off Park Avenue at the bottom of the hill. 312 E. Morse Blvd.