Companies oppose training class for boat renters
by Staff Writer
MOORESVILLE – Boat rental company owners told the Lake Norman Marine Commission Monday, Sept. 12, that requiring renters to take a safety course would hurt business.
The N.C. General Assembly passed a law in 2009 requiring boat owners younger than 26 to pass a safety course sponsored by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
But there was a loophole in the law, Commissioner John Marino said.
Boat renters aren’t required to take the class, which sometimes lasts between six and seven hours.
Marino proposed renters get more training during the July board meeting, after a woman got entangled in the propellers of a boat, captained by a man who had rented it earlier that day.
Doctors amputated the woman’s arm because of the injuries she sustained, while Dennis Franklin Allen, who captained the boat, was charged with negligence.
C.S. Rentals owner Don Gooding said implementing a new safety course would likely hurt business, and that more hours shouldn’t be required because of just one accident.
“If there’s a track record going on with this that we need to know about, then by all means, I think there’s a safety concern there,” Gooding said. “But I think if we’re judging this whole deal on one incident, then we need to look a little further into it.”
Marine Commission chairman Paul Carter, serving his last meeting as chair, echoed Marino’s sentiments, but said the commission is only in preliminary stages of discussion.
“The position of the marine commission at this point and time is one of discovery,” Carter said. “The issue here is that if we’re all in a car and come to a four-way stop sign, by law, everyone should know what to do. That is not the case with a boat. We have an uneducated public that could get behind the wheel of a boat.”
Gooding said he generally puts customers through a course roughly 25 minutes in length, varying slightly on the renter’s knowledge of boating safety.
Dustin Keith, owner of Aquaventure Watercraft Rentals, said he’s calculated an approximate loss of $13 million for the area if all boaters were required to take the safety course.
“Nobody is going to rent a house on Lake Norman if they have to sit there and stare at the water,” Keith said. “They’re just going to go on to another lake. They just won’t come.”
While most rental companies provide some form of training for new or inexperienced boaters, Marino said a NASBLA-approved course would result in more safety around the lake because of the depth of the course.
“To give someone a 6-minute or 10-minute video, or a six-page checklist, to me, it doesn’t seem adequate,” Marino said. “It just doesn’t match up with a 6 1/2-hour course.”
North Carolina doesn’t require boaters to take a NASBLA-approved safety course, but Marino said more than half of the 50 states require it.
Keith said he’s a fan of the NASBLA-approved course, but doesn’t think it applies to all renters.
“So many of the topics covered in that eight hours do not apply to someone going out for a one or two-hour jet-ski rental,” Keith said. “When I teach someone to go out on a jet ski, I teach them the skills that they need to know. They don’t need to know how to tie five different knots.”
While it’s been two months since Marino proposed the idea, he said a decision likely won’t come any time soon. The marine commission convenes at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Charles Mack Citizen Center, 215 N. Main St.
“On a summer weekend, it’s like the wild west out there. We’re not trying to impede or stop your businesses,” Marino told those in attendance Monday. “But it just takes one accident to take your business out of business.”