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Lake George fun in the sun on a boat you don't own

Summer on Lake George

Lake George fun in the sun on a boat you don't own

Thriving rental industry can put just about anybody out on the water for a day
Lake George fun in the sun on a boat you don't own
Supervisor Lindsey Ziegler shows the controls to Sara and Ken Beckley at Little Harbor Boat Rental, June 2, 2019.
Photographer: Erica Miller

LAKE GEORGE — No boat? No problem!

There are still plenty of ways for people who don't own a boat to get out on the water. It just takes a little money (or more than a little, depending on the vessel) plus an appreciation of the risks, rewards and responsibilities involved in navigating on Lake George.

Boat rental and charter businesses all run customers through a checklist of legal and safety considerations before turning them loose on the lake, whether it’s in a single-seat kayak or on a party barge.

The lake has special rules and regulations boaters must obey. There are speed limits and rocky areas that power boaters need to be aware of, and high-traffic zones where paddlers need to be aware of fast-moving boats.

But with a little caution, everybody can have fun.

Responsible fun

For a day on the lake, F.R. Smith & Sons Marina charges anywhere from $80 for a kayak to $625 for a 21-foot powerboat.

Rental manager Marie DeLorenzo said many of her renters actually own boats, but don’t live nearby. So it’s easier to rent than to trailer their boat up to Lake George, wash and launch it, and find a place to moor it. 

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Supervisor Lindsey Ziegler, of Queensbury, docks a boat ready for renters at Little Harbor Boat Rental, at Beckley’s, owned by Andrew Brodie of Yankee Boating Center (and Broadie’s Lakeside and Yankee Marina) in Diamond Point on Saturday, June 2, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Supervisor Lindsey Ziegler, of Queensbury, docks a boat ready for renters at Little Harbor Boat Rental, at Beckley’s, owned by Andrew Brodie of Yankee Boating Center (and Broadie’s Lakeside and Yankee Marina) in Diamond Point on Saturday, June 2, 2019.

“A lot of times we do find people down toward New York City, northern New Jersey, and then sometimes out of area,” she said. “A lot of them do have boats or have a lot of experience boating.”

But DeLorenzo gets first-timers, as well.

“It’s OK if you’re a novice,” she said.

The Bolton Landing marina gives everybody the same map, instructions and safety briefing so they don’t get a ticket or damage a propellor on submerged rocks in shallow water. (And have to pay for the replacement.)

Excessive speed — the lake has a 45 mph limit in daylight and 25 mph after dark — isn’t really an issue, DeLorenzo said. The marina puts governors on the more-powerful engines to keep them in check.

Personal watercraft

For a more adventurous ride, consider a Jet Ski-type personal watercraft. Free-range rentals aren’t allowed on Lake George, but guided rides are available.

Devocean offers a 30-mile, 90-minute tour several times a day.

“There’s always a tour guide, he leads the way, he makes it fun,” said manager Lily Healy. “We've had as young as 6 years old, as old as 85.”

Personal watercraft are much smaller and more open than a 20-foot powerboat, so wind speed and wave height bear heavily on how wet and bouncy the ride is.

“It does get pretty rough,” Healy allowed. But that’s part of the fun.

New this year at Devocean are boat charters: Day trips piloted by a staff member.

“It’s definitely a safer option,” Healy said. “People don’t really know where the safe spots are on the lake. We oftentimes see pontoon rentals up on the rocks.”

Paddling the lake

Lake George Kayak Company offers rentals of canoes, standup paddleboards and, of course, kayaks.

It’s the third summer for Tom and Julie Eigo as owners of the longtime Bolton Landing business, and they’ve added more paddleboards to their fleet in response to growing demand.

“A lot of people come to try it for the first time and come away loving it,” Julie Eigo said. Bonus feature: A paddleboarder can hop off and go for a swim, then easily get back on. In open water, getting back into a kayak or canoe is significantly harder.

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Alyson Mullarney, of Lake George, kayaks near the Lake George Suites in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Alyson Mullarney, of Lake George, kayaks near the Lake George Suites in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

The staff tries to match renters up with the boat that best suits their plans and skill level. Canoes are often recommended for campers because of their cargo space, tandem kayaks for paddlers with young passengers because of their stability.

LGKC is one of the few places that welcomes canine passengers in its boats.

“It’s amazing to see the dogs that come,” Eigo said. “They have their own lifejackets.”

While kayakers needn’t worry about getting a speeding ticket or destroying a propellor on rocks, they do have to watch out for wind and waves more than power boaters do — it’s easier to get swamped or fatigued in a kayak.

More: Your guide to summer on Lake George

“Lake George can be very deceiving,” she said. “The right wind and the right boat activity, it can be treacherous out there.”

The staff will often recommend paddlers head out into the wind on a breezy day, as it will be much easier to get back to the boathouse with the wind from behind. For those who want to avoid rough water and speeding boats altogether, the strait between the mainland and Green Island — where the LGKC boathouse sits — is sheltered and has a 5 mph speed limit.

Above all? Wear that life jacket!

“We really ride it into people, maybe to the point of being obnoxious,” Eigo said.

SAILING AWAY

One type of rental disappearing from the Lake George scene is sailboats.

This will be the first summer without sailboat rentals at Yankee Boating Center, which rented only sailboats when it got into the rental business in 1972, said general manager Andrew Brodie.

There’s fewer people now who want to sail and know how to sail, he explained. “It was just basically a dwindling enterprise.” 

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Owner of Yankee Boating Center Andrew Brodie at their newest marina, Little Harbor Boat Rental at Beckley’s, (also owns Broadie’s Lakeside and Yankee Marina) in Diamond Point on Saturday, June 2, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Owner of Yankee Boating Center Andrew Brodie at their newest marina, Little Harbor Boat Rental at Beckley’s, (also owns Broadie’s Lakeside and Yankee Marina) in Diamond Point on Saturday, June 2, 2019.

The company’s fleet now includes pontoon boats, deck boats, bowriders and fishing boats at three marinas, all in Diamond Point: Yankee, Little Harbor Boat Rentals and Brodie’s Lakeside.

Brodie said they get newcomers and give them the full rundown on Lake George — where it’s safe and legal to anchor, where the restaurants are, where the day-use areas are.

Also, he said, “They need to understand the lake. Even experienced boaters may come from an area that’s sandy, a soft-bottomed lake. Lake George is nothing like that.”

But many of the renters already know — a large percentage of the business is repeat customers.

“They rent the same cabin every year, rent the same boat, come up with their families,” Bordie said. “I’ve had fathers and sons coming up and renting from me for 20 years, and they still do.”

COMMISSION RULES

David Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said the number of motorized rental boats allowed on the lake at any given time is capped at 552. Also, there’s a set of rules in place for operating boats on the lake, whether privately owned or rented. 

“Lake George has its own set of regulations above and beyond state navigation law,” Wick said. 

“A few years back we had a few very tragic incidents with rental boats. Anyone born before 1996 could step onto a boat with no experience and go 45 mph on Lake George.”

Chief among the regulations is the six-minute boating safety video that renters must watch before shoving off, and the safety briefing they must hear from the dockhand.

New commercial operations are vetted by the commission before they are allowed to set up shop and start renting boats. Last year, for example, Devocean owner Tom Jones came forward with his plan to add charter boating to his services.

“That was approved, as he’s been a responsible operator,” Wick said.

More: Your guide to summer on Lake George

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