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2020 saw increased sales of new and pre-owned boats, with many first-time boat owners

Charis Patires
Lake Sun Leader
MarineMax offers an introductory Women on Water class that covers basic boating tips and focuses on teaching ladies how to safely drive and dock a boat. Pictured, instructor Greg Riley with Women on the Water participants.

The boating industry surged, not only on Lake of the Ozarks, but nation-wide last year. Families looked for a safe way to social distance, spend time together and enjoy the outdoors. With schools, summer camps, sports leagues and other activities shut down because of the pandemic, families had more time to spend at the Lake. That means there are more first-time boat owners out there who may not be as familiar with operating a vessel as they should be. 

According to Greg Riley, a licensed Coast Guard Captain who has been teaching boating lessons for more than 25 years, owners should know how to safely operate their boat, understand water safety, be knowledgeable of Missouri boating laws, and be aware of local knowledge including speed limits, marked and unmarked shallow water areas, buoy markers, contact numbers for the water patrol and tow boat assistance. They should also know how to encounter a wake and be responsible for the wake they create, he said. 

While some marine dealers might give a short tutorial before handing over the keys, others take more time to make sure that each new boat owner is comfortable behind the helm. Riley teaches a Women on the Water course at MarineMax. 

MarineMax offers a full range of services to include boating education, service, fuel dock, storage, parts, gear center, and all things boating. Professional delivery service to all new boat owners ensures that everyone in the family can safely and comfortably operate their boat. They also offer organized boating events that create opportunities to explore new waters, form new friendships, and boat in the safety of a group. Other available resources with lots of good information include funlake.com, Lake Locator app, lakeozarkboatdealers.com, and lotocaptain.com.

“Lake of the Ozarks offers some of the best boating in the nation. Boaters love the diversity from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam, the gorgeous landscapes, the abundance of coves to explore, the social entertainment provided by numerous waterfront establishments, quality fishing, watersports, and the many organized Lake area events and activities,” Riley said. “As a weekend destination, Lake traffic is high Friday through Sunday and boaters need to pay close attention to other boaters. As a large lake, there is a lot of areas to learn and become familiar with.”

Ryan Miller learned first-hand how challenging driving a boat on Lake of the Ozarks can be. Ryan and his wife, Winter, moved to Lake of the Ozarks in March 2020, and bought their first-ever boat on Facebook Marketplace. 

“Before buying this boat neither of us had any boating experience,” Ryan said. “I have been in a boat before but nothing more than taking the wheel to hold a boat in place.” After purchasing the 2004 Sea Ray 270 Sundeck Ryan admits they learned how to operate it by “trial and error.” 

“Thankfully the gentleman who we purchased the boat from was very patient and kind. He took us out on the boat, and even let me drive while he was teaching me the very basics boating on LOTO,” Ryan said. “We've met some great friends here. They all have shared their boating knowledge as well. I still am interested in taking a boating class, as does my wife. I believe that would be the best advice to give any new boater.” 

“One thing to keep in mind for a first-time boat buyer is to set a budget on what you want to spend, and then throw that number away and triple it,” Ryan said. Initially the couple wanted to spend $5,000-$10,000 on a 19-foot runabout but were quickly talked out of making that decision from their neighbors. The advice was to go bigger. They found their boat with 500 hours on it for $21,000 but with titling, the cost of a boat lift to handle the weight and other fees their budget grew to $30,000.