FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1I know how to boat but I don't know much about the boat I am renting or the area. Is there training?
We require all persons that may drive the boat take a 15-minute training session prior to the rental. This training will cover how to operate the boat, and a checklist will be completed by your tour guide to ensure you know and understand the Coast Guard enforced laws that pertain to safety and operation of a vessel on the Great Lakes. We will also provide a map of the river and the Lake. We will review with you any known scratches, damage and gas levels prior to departure. We recommend that you arrive 30 minutes prior to your rental to allow for the training so it will not affect your rental times.
2Can I go onto Lake Michigan with my rental? Is it safe?
All of our boats except the dinghy boats are allowed on Lake Michigan. We do restrict the dinghy boats to the river. For your safety we do generally restrict Lake Michigan access for all boats on days that the Lake has more than 2 foot waves according to local buoy reports.
3Can we travel to Saugatuck or St. Joseph MI?
We do not allow our boats to travel further than 3 miles from the South Haven light house on Lake Michigan without consent. Our boats are frequently checked, maintained, and repaired prior to all rentals, but for your safety and our operational resources we must have a restriction. In the case of an emergency or equipment failure, we do not have the equipment or man-power to handle issues that arise more than 3 miles from our facilities.
4Where are you located? How do I get to Lake Michigan?
We are located at Woodland Harbor Marina on the north side of South Haven. The address is 525 Kentucky Ave South Haven, MI 49090. Our phone number is 269-872-3249. The Marina is located on the Black River. You will begin at the docks at the Marina and travel approximately 20 minutes through the river’s "no wake zone", under the draw bridge, past the beautiful riverside of downtown, and will pass by the South side Lighthouse out to Lake Michigan.
5Why is a 1-hour rental called a "River Cruise"?
The Black River is approximately 2.4 miles of passable river from Lake Michigan heading east towards Kalamazoo. Woodland Harbor is located about half way down the river. Due to the "no wake zone", it takes approximately 20-25 minutes from the Marina to reach Lake Michigan. You will not have enough time to boat on Lake Michigan during a 1-hour rental.
6What do we need in order to rent a boat? Do you charge a security deposit?
We do not charge a security deposit, but have the right to charge your credit card for damage or other rental issues. A government-issued photo ID and a valid credit card on account in case of damages, or theft. We accept Visa, MasterCard, and cash for payments. We do accept checks that are mailed and cleared 10 days prior to rental. We also required a working cell phone on the boat that is registered and verified with us prior to departure.
7Do we need a reservation?
Yes, Reservations are required to ensure that the boats are properly cleaned and ready for rent. We do accept rentals the day of but we do require a full payment to secure rental and 1-hour minimum. If you book online and do not receive the rental agreement to your registered email, please call.
8Is gas or tax included in our rental price?
Gas is included for a 1-hour river cruise rental and all single day dinghy boat rentals. All boat rentals will begin with a recorded amount (generally a full tank) and the guests are required to refill gasoline at the gas docks prior to returning to the marina. We will charge guests an unfilled tank the costs of fuel+ a $50 service fee. Guests may have to fill gas during full day rentals depending on the boat and how it is used. A tow-in fee plus lost wages fee will be assessed if we need to retrieve a boat due to negligence of the boating party.
9I am a little inexperienced or unfamiliar with the area, where do we get gas? Am I going to be able to find the place and pull up to the dock to get gas? How much time does this take?
The public gas dock (at the South Haven Yacht Club) is conveniently located on the way back into the channel from the Lake. The gas dock will be located on the same side you are required to travel back. There will be dock employees that will assist you into the dock and will pump the gas for you. The docks accept cash, or major credit cards/debit cards. The process usually takes 10 minutes. On rentals shorter than a full day we do add on 15 minutes to ending time in order to offset the delay.
10Where should we park?
We are located in a busy marina that has paid members. We have parking available in designated areas that will be coordinated prior to arrival. Parking is free but may be limited on busy weekends.
11I'm bringing a very large group, what do you recommend we do?
We recommend to car pool as best as possible, the groups of 15 should try not to coordinate parking for 8 cars.
12Am I looking for a Black River Boat rental sign on the building and parking lot?
No, Black River Boat Rentals rents space at Woodland Harbor Marina as does not have its own building and facilities. We do not have BRBR signs on the building.
13We have a large group and would like to rent a boat that we can be together, I see there are capacity limits but we have mostly teenagers, what should we do?
It will help you and our staff to discuss your group’s plans ahead of time, and review our boat selection. We will not allow rentals that exceed weight limits as it poses a safety hazard. Having a head count and a spokesperson is always helpful. We also do not recommend the person limit to be maximized as the seating can become limiting and could possibly hamper your experience. We will try to work with large groups to rent multiple boats at a discount to maximize the safety and enjoyment during your rental. Please be aware that while we have a fleet of boats, weekends and holidays are peak times and demand can be high.
14How old must you be to rent a boat?
We require you to be 25 years old with a valid credit card to secure the reservation and 21 years old with a valid driver's licensed to be permitted to drive the boat. Adults who wish to rent motorized boats for their children between 21 and 25 will assume all liability for damage and must leave their ID and credit card as a security deposit and complete the rental agreement. We do reserve the right to refuse service without refund if the renters appear to be intoxicated or unsafe to operate our equipment.
15Do we need to bring life jackets?
No, Life jackets are provided and fit for all members of the renting party at no charge. If you would like to bring your own life jackets that is acceptable, provided they are Coast Guard approved. For all boat rentals, children 12 and under must wear a life preserver at all times, while adults need only have a preserver on board with them. We cannot guarantee the comfort of jackets for all infants as we have standard infant jackets. All infants are required by coast guard to wear the jackets for the entire rental.
16Do children count towards a boat's max occupancy?
Yes, even the infants/toddlers. To ensure safety and comfort for all size groups we have to abide by the coast guard approved size limits. Also, there is only a certain number of seating and walking space available on each vessel. Please see our price sheet for details. Our boats have a strict maximum occupancy regardless of age/size, as your safety is our number one priority.
17...but do infants count towards a boat's max occupancy?
As all children must wear a Coast Guard approved life preserver at all times, we are not permitted to allow infants aboard our boats if they do not safely fit a CG approved life preserver. We reserve the right to refuse to allow an infant aboard our boats for safety reasons, so we recommend you call ahead with any questions, or prepare to have an adult on shore to stay with the infant. Please note that we cannot refund an unused portion of the rental because a child was sea sick or crying the whole time.
18Are dogs allowed on your boats?
Dogs can be allowed on some of our vessels but must be given advanced permission as we have the right to refuse a rental due to pets. Also, there may be an additional cleaning fee/deposit added due to pets.
19Can we swim from your boats? Is there an anchor?
Yes, swimming in designated areas on Lake Michigan and is part of the fun of boating. Swimming is not permitted anywhere in the black river, from our boats or otherwise. All of our boats (except Dinghy boats) do have an anchor.
20Can we fish from your boats?
Yes, however please be aware you must follow all MI fishing regulations including licensing. See the local DNR for more information. We do not sell fishing licenses, bait or poles on site, so please plan accordingly. We will charge an additional cleaning fee and for damage due to hooks in the vinyl seats.
21Can we bring alcohol?
Alcohol is allowed on the boat, but you must follow all Michigan laws. There must be a sober driver that meets our age requirements as the driver can receive a DUI while operating under the influence. You will be liable for all members in your party. We reserve the right to refuse rentals for visibly intoxicated patrons.
22Are Tubes included with the rental? Can I bring my own?
Tubes are not included but are available for rentals with an additional fee. We do recommend that you pre-book the tube prior to arrival as we have a limited supply and also need prep time to clean and prepare the requirement equipment. You may bring your own tube and ropes if you prefer. In both cases the renter agrees to be liable for any damage to our boat or equipment during rental or any injury they may result from the rented tubes. Tubing does require ropes that float on top of the water, but an inexperienced driver may run over the ropes or accidentally allow the rope to be sucked into the propeller. Damage to props/engines from ropes can cost over a $1000. All renters are liable and responsible for all damages and expenses, including expenses from the boat being unavailable for future rentals.
23How will we know when our rental is over?
We will give you a return time when you begin your rental; it is your responsibility to have a way to keep track of the time while on the water. A watch or waterproof bag for your phone will be helpful. Other suggestions are to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, towels, a hat.