What should I know before renting a boat in the Florida Keys?

Published On: February 13th, 2023Categories: Boating Tips
Florida Keys Sunset Cruises

Our Pontoon boats are all about having fun, relaxing, and taking in the sights.

This is a common question asked by Florida Keys tourists, including some of our clientele. The immediate answer we give them is when we travel, we never rent anything except a car!

Many of our clients are boat owners themselves. Many of the people on vacation have boats back home. They feel that renting a boat here is more cost-effective than paying for charters. We, unfortunately, disagree with that for almost every customer!

The biggest downside to renting a vessel instead of chartering it is the responsibility it entails. Besides being liable for the safety of everyone and the condition of the boat, there are also rules and regulations that you must follow.

A day cruise with your friends is always fun in the Florida Keys!

Do I Need a License to Rent a Boat in Florida?

To rent a boat in Florida, you need to complete an approved Boating Safety Course. The FWC website links to approved courses for this. If you were born before January 1, 1988 you are exempt from needing this certificate. There are several other exemptions, such as being a licensed U.S. Coast Guard Captain or operating the boat on a private pond instead of the ocean. If you are 21 or younger, you must carry an I.D. and a Boater Education ID card. If you are under 18, you cannot rent a boat.

Ensuring Your Safety On The Water

While moving on the water, our Captains constantly monitor our surroundings for safety. The Florida Keys, especially Marathon, is known to have thousands of stone crab and lobster pots in the water. Running over a lobster or stone crab line is a quick way to end a trip. We are also always on the lookout for folks on kayaks, wave runners, paddle boards, and swimmers.

We are also vigilant of a lot more when running our charters. For example, if you are driving a boat in the Keys, you must look for boats that have divers in the water, especially the ones that forget to put a dive flag up. When your flag is up, you should also know how far other vessels must stay away from you.

Florida Keys Fun Cruise

On our charters you can relax and have fun without having to sweat the details.

Knowing Local Laws and Regulations

You want to be aware of the areas that are protected, reserves, or illegal to fish. Our Captains know what fish to keep and which ones to throw back! The Fish and Wildlife Commission has undercover boats, ensuring illegal fish are not harvested and enforcing consequences for keeping the wrong fish. Our coast guard certified Captains know how to handle random inspections and boardings from the U.S. Coast Guard and are sure to have all documentation up to code. All these things must be considered before renting a boat in the Florida Keys.

Our Captains fish daily which is why they know how to find fish.

Local Knowledge

Having local knowledge is so crucial in Marathon, Florida waterways. The Florida Keys is well known for having shallow areas called “flats” everywhere. Especially on the bayside, where most renters use their boats. Imagine being 10 miles away from land, and there is a barely visible football field size of land just covered by water. We don’t have to explain what happens when a boat runs into one of them. In many cases, it’s even considered a crime! Running a boat aground has a tremendous negative effect on our precious ecosystems.

This is another one of the reasons Captains often do not rent a boat when they are on vacation! We want it to be hassle-free and focus on having a good time.

A Better Alternative To Boat Rental

At ManicSportfishing, we offer private charters that are a cost-effective alternative to renting a boat. Hiring a private Captain to charter a vessel is a fantastic way to ensure you have a fun, safe, and worry-free adventure on the water.

Our Captains inspect our boats before every charter, including multiple trips on the same day. Below is a list of what takes place before you and your family even get on the boat.

Our private pontoon charters are so affordable we are often hired by couples.

Trip Pre-Departure Checklist

Before each trip, our Captains inspect the vessel’s bilge to ensure no leaks. Once they confirm that there is no fuel, oil, or water leakage in the hull, they test each float switch, bilge pump, and high water alarm.

Then we check the oil and coolant in the motors and the fuel in the boat. Fuel is checked visually, like on our double-decker pontoon boots. We do not blindly trust fuel gauges! If we cannot inspect the fuel level visually, we look at our fuel log books. The logbook tells us when and how much fuel we added before or after the last charter and how far the boat traveled on the previous trip. This lets our experienced Captains know how much fuel is in the boat and whether or not to add more fuel before departure.

Pontoon Sandbar Trip

We run private charters in Marathon Florida 7 days a week.

Safety Equipment Check

Before our trips, we count life jackets, flares, and throwable life-saving equipment. We also inspect and test our radios, horns, and whistles.
The boats’ engines are then warmed up, and all pumps, lights, and gauges are inspected.

We then ensure there is plenty of complimentary drinking water for our customers. Water is our friend in the Florida Keys!

We offer a variety of fun activities in the water.

Fishing Charter Pre-Departure Checklist

When it comes to our fishing charter boats, our Captains always make sure they have plenty of tackle and gear for the fishing trip. They also make sure their fishing lines are fresh and re-spool them if needed. We also inspect all fishing rods and reels daily. Additionally, we make sure our live bait is in excellent condition for a great day of fishing.

The pontoon, snorkel, eco tour, and fun boats are also inspected as described above in the event they are fishing during that charter. We also thoroughly clean all the snorkel equipment, check the water mats for integrity, and test the water slide. We make sure we have a dive flag in perfect condition.

Captain Greg Fabrizzi keeps a daily float plan, so he knows where his boats will be on every trip. If there is a problem, a float plan is crucial to ensure the location of a vessel that is running late or hasn’t checked in.

Customize your trip to your exact specifications.


These are just some of the tasks we must complete before every charter. We want to touch on every detail, but the list is too long. Whether we have the opportunity to take you on a fishing charter, snorkeling, or cruise, rest assured we have done everything listed above and more.

Make sure your vacation in paradise stays a vacation! Sit back, and have a few drinks while an experienced U.S. Coast Guard licensed Captain takes you and your loved ones out on the water. If you are interested in coming aboard one of our vessels and making memories that will last a lifetime, page or contact us or book online right now.

Be sure to check out our many reviews and see what everyone is saying about Manicsportfishing!

African Pompano

Our local knowledge is how we caught this fish in 30 feet of water!

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