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At Crab Island Watersports, we consider safety to be an essential part of a great day out on the water. We pride ourselves on maintaining our vessels and keeping them at a high standard to keep guests safe and providing you with a seamless experience. We start every rental with a safety discussion where we will fill you in on all you need to know, such as rip currents, no-wake zones, and other navigational tips. If you prefer to read up on everything before you arrive, take a look over our Choctawhatchee Bay jet ski and pontoon boat safety guide.

The Basics

There are a few basic rules to keeping safe on a pontoon boat or jet ski, Crab Island Watersports complies with all these rules and will provide you with the necessary equipment to keep safe.

Life jackets

Life jackets are not compulsory on pontoon boats but we strongly advise children and any adults who are not confident swimmers to wear them. Ensure everyone has their arms and legs inside the boat while on the move, and ask fellow passengers to keep their eyes out for obstacles in the water. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and when you’re trying to focus on navigating your way through Choctawhatchee Bay, you will want to do so with the peace of mind that everyone is safe and prepared. When it comes to jet skis, life jackets are compulsory, but we can assure you that it doesn’t take away from the fun!

Drinking & Grilling

We know that many people’s vision of an ideal day out on the water includes a cold beer in hand. That’s why we allow drinking on our boats for everyone apart from the captain. When driving you need to be alert and conscious of your surroundings so no alcohol is permitted. Also, remember not to bring any bottles onto the boat, cans only please. If you would prefer everyone to be able to drink on the boat, consider hiring a captain for the day, it’s a popular service here at CIW.

Unfortunately, we cannot allow grilling on the boat, but don’t be defeated! There are plenty of waterside restaurants around Choctawhatchee Bay that serve up delicious dishes. If you prefer to stay aboard, prepare a picnic the night before, go all out and create a banquet for your group to make the day extra special.

Capacity & Weight Limit

We do have to be strict with capacity, on our regular pontoon boats the maximum is 12 people and 14 on the double-deckers. Pontoon boats in general are very stable vessels but by exceeding the recommended capacity the boat is more likely to run into a difficult situation.

Let Down the Anchor

When you and your group find an ideal spot not far from the shoreline and want to stay put for a while, be sure to release your anchor. It may sound obvious but you don’t want to surface from a refreshing swim to find your boat has drifted in the other direction! We will give you instructions on how to sink the anchor and how much rope you’ll need.

Weather Changes

We’re lucky to have pretty great weather here on the Emerald Coast, but we are not exempt from storms and other extreme weather conditions. In the event of unfavorable conditions, we will reschedule your rental for another day. It is always good to keep an eye on the weather forecast in the days leading up to your excursion. Knowing when the winds will pick up, whether there is a chance of rain, or even knowing about high temperatures, allows you to arrive prepared and sail away without surprises.

Florida Boat Rental Test

Before arriving for your boating adventure, the driver of the boat needs to have completed a Florida Boat Rental Test(opens in a new tab). Not only is this a requirement to rent a boat, but it’s also a great way to feel prepared to get out on the water and ensure you feel confident of navigational rules and symbols. Questions include topics such as what to do when a passenger falls overboard, the meanings of different color buoys, and the laws you will need to comply with while boating. We will ask to see your certificate before boarding, so make sure to get organized and take your test with plenty of time to spare.

Tidal Flows & Currents

Despite being in a protected area, Choctawhatchee Bay is still prone to rip currents and tidal flows. This is nothing to worry about, but knowing how to navigate the sea’s drifts is always a good idea.

Rip Currents

Rip currents are narrow, fast-moving channels of water that start at the shore and move through a line of breaking waves out into the sea. Rip currents often occur at low tide and while they don’t necessarily affect boats and jet skis, they can affect you when you stop off for a quick dip. An important thing to remember is to stay calm and let the current take you, trying to swim against a rip is fighting a losing battle and will lead to exhaustion. If someone is on the boat, lift the anchor and carefully maneuver to wherever the current is leading the swimmer, that way you can pick them up. Rip currents often occur close to sandbars so be aware of this when visiting Crab Island.

Tidal Flows

Knowing the times of the tides before you head out on your trip is a great way to come prepared. Not only does knowing the times of high tide and low tide help you think about potentially hidden obstacles, but there are also places that are best to visit at high tide. Crab Island, for example, is at its best at high tide when the water is pulled in from the Gulf of Mexico and fills the spot with the emerald water that it’s known for. Be sure to ask us when you arrive about tidal times, or if you want to plan your route in advance, check out the tide chart for Choctawhatchee Bay.(opens in a new tab)

Navigation Rules

In your pre-rental briefing, we always go over the basic navigational rules of the ocean.   However, checking them out before your test and refreshing your knowledge is definitely a plus. There are plenty of resources to give you tips(opens in a new tab) on how to overtake, when to give way, the directions you should take when meeting another vessel head-on or at a crossing. Reminding yourself of basic signs is also a good idea to ensure a safe day on the water. You can never be sure of how other boats will navigate, so make sure to be responsible and always keep an eye out for other boats around you, leaving plenty of space for both you and them to navigate.

No Wake Zones

Near popular spots such as Crab Island and closer to the shore, you will see signs warning you to reduce your wake. Pontoon boats have a maximum speed of 25 mph which means they don’t create such a big wake as other boats and jet skis. When you see the no-wake zone sign, be sure to reduce your speed as much as possible while still being able to move forward. When passing other boats, it’s also important to be aware of your wake so as not to cause disruption or risk an accident.

If you have any issues while renting one of our pontoon boats or jet skis, don’t hesitate to contact us, or in urgent situations, please call the Okaloosa sheriff or the Destin Coast Guard. If driving your own boat seems a little overwhelming and you’d rather just enjoy the day, remember that we offer the option to hire a captain for the day. None of these suggestions should concern you, they are simply ways you can prepare for your outing and ensure a fun-filled day for you and your group. If you have any questions about boat safety, don’t hesitate to ask, we are always more than happy to help.

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