Tips for First-time Boaters


With warm weather right around the corner, it is only natural that people’s thoughts will turn to the outdoors. One of the most enjoyable ways to experience nature is to take a boat out on one of Great Parks’ beautiful lakes. But if you’ve never been in a boat, then heading out on the water can seem a bit daunting. Here are a few tips for you first-time boaters:

1: Pick the best boat
Determine what type of boat you would like, and more importantly, what type of boat you are comfortable operating. Great Parks offer many different types of watercraft that you can rent.

Winton Queen
If you are interested in a relaxing and educational tour on a lake, Winton Woods Harbor offers pontoon boat tours during the summer months. These are designed for groups of up to 36 people to give you an up-close look at the lake, local wildlife and surrounding area.

Pontoon & Motor Boats
If you would like the freedom and fun of piloting a motor boat, the parks offer both eight-seater pontoon boats and four-seater motor boats. All operation and steering instructions are given by trained park staff who will make sure that you’re completely comfortable with the boat before you take it out.

Row Boats
If you are interested in spending the day fishing, there is no better way than to take a row boat out and try your luck on some of the best fishing lakes that Ohio has to offer.

Pedal Boats
If you would like to spend some quality time with your family, a four-seater pedal boat will keep you entertained while you experience both the scenery and aquatic wildlife.

Canoes, Kayaks & SUPs
If you want an exhilarating outdoor workout, Great Parks offers canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) as a way to exercise and explore the parks from a new perspective.

2: Dress for success
Dress appropriately for the type of boat that you will be operating. If you are planning on spending time on one of the pontoons, then any type of outfit will do. But if you are taking out a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, then shorts or a swim suit that are quick-drying and easy to move in are best.

In all boating situations, you will want to use sunscreen with a high SPF rating to ensure that you are always protected from harmful sun rays. It may be necessary to also wear a hat and sunglasses to receive the maximum protection from the sun.

3: Always wear a life jacket
Great Parks provides free life jackets that are designed for every age and weight. All of life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved and kept in good condition. They are mandatory for all children under the age of 13 while they are on board any type of boat. But boaters of all ages should wear them as well.

4: Keep a weather eye open
Always be aware of the weather. Great Parks’ harbors have strict weather guidelines for launching boats. If lightning and thunder is observed, all boating activities will cease until dangerous conditions have passed.

When you are out on a lake, pay attention to the horizon and look for dark clouds. Changes in wind speed and temperature are also good indicators of a possible storm front moving in. If you are caught in bad weather, then return to shore as soon as possible. You can relaunch once the weather clears. It’s not worth your safety to be caught out on the water in bad weather.

5: Follow the rules of the “road”
For everyone on the lake’s safety, all boats must stay at least 50 feet away from the shore and from other boats. If you’re in a motor boat, be mindful of your speed and be careful not to leave a wake – especially if you are close to a non-motorized watercraft. It’s also the responsibility of the motor boat to vary its course so as not to collide with any slower watercraft that they are passing. And no matter what boat you’re in, always be respectful of buoys or markers that are set in the lakes, and never go into areas that have been sectioned off by them.

Following these tips will help to ensure that your first boating experience is an enjoyable one. Any questions that you may have can be answered by the knowledgeable staff who work at all of Great Parks’ harbors. They are there to help you discover the many personal rewards that can be attained from boating.

Ryan Dunn, Assistant Guest Experiences Manager, Sharon Woods Boathouse