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Boat Rental and Boating Terms

Learn everything there is to know about boating. Whether it’s your first-time boating or a third time, you’re likely to come across some terms in the boat rental process that need clarification. We think jargon has no place in the boat rental journey, so we created this helpful glossary to fill you in on every term you need to know—from covering what a boat captain really does to what closing means and more.

Advance: The distance a pontoon boat travels after its steering has been turned to a different course.

Aft: The rear section of your pontoon boat.

Amidships: The middle of your pontoon boat.

Bilge: The lowest area of a boat where excess water gathers.

Bow: The forward half of your pontoon boat.

Burdened: A burdened vessel is a vessel that must yield to another craft.

BWI: Acronym for Boating While Intoxicated. BWIs are the number one cause of boating fatalities in the United States.

Catamaran: A boat with two hulls. Many pontoon boats are catamarans.

Cross Beams: Parallel slats that connect two or more pontoons and form the basis of a foundation for the pontoon boat’s deck.

Deck: The floor of your pontoon boat.

Deck Boat: A monohull boat constructed with fiberglass.

Gel Coat: A colored layer of resin that covers the fiberglass of pontoon boats.

Head-On: An event where two vessels approach each other head-on. Neither vessel has the right of way and both should usually pass each other on their port sides.

Helm: The directional control station on your pontoon boat akin to an automobile’s steering wheel.

Hull: The outside of a pontoon boat that makes contact with the water.

Inboard: An arrangement where the engine of the board is in the interior of your pontoon boat.

In Extremis: A condition where neither captain of a vessel can avoid a collision and both should attempt to maneuver and take a “glancing blow” to reduce damage.

I/O: An abbreviation for “inboard/outboard” configuration where the engine is in the interior, while the drive unit is on the exterior. Also known as a “stern drive”

Inverse Buoyancy: A unique condition for pontoon boats was adding more weight to the pontoon boat decreases stability and increases the possibility for capsizing.

InSight: A condition where the captains of two or more vessels can see the other’s boat.

Logs: Cylindrical pontoons that provide buoyancy for pontoon boats.

Navigation Lights: All pontoon boats must display lights during nighttime travel to show the size, type, and direction of the pontoon boat.

Making Way: A vessel that is both underways and propelled by an engine or sails.

Mayday: A term used over marine radio frequencies to denote a boat with an extreme emergency, such as a fire or sinking.

NMMA: Stands for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which is the only organization that certifies the manufacturing and quality of pontoon boats.

Not Making Way: A vessel that is adrift, not anchored, and moving due to currents or the wind.

Outboard: A configuration where both the engine and drive are on the exterior of the boat.

Overtaking: An event where one faster boat approaches from a slower boat’s rear. In this situation, the slower craft has the right-of-way.

PFD: Stands for Personal Flotation Device. Law requires that every pontoon boat have at least one PFD per passenger.

Pontoon Boat: A multihull vessel that uses hollow cylinders for buoyancy.

Port: The left-hand side of your pontoon boat.

Pressure-Treated: The infusion of chemicals into the wood to stop rotting. Many pontoon boat decks are constructed with pressure-treated wood.

Prop: The pontoon boat’s propeller that provides forward motion.

Restricted Visibility: Rain, snow, or other weather condition that reduces visibility.

Right-of-Way: When encountering another craft, your pontoon boat with right-of-way can continue with its course and speed.

Rafting: A group of boats banded together.

Safe Speed: The maximum speed that a pontoon boat can undertake to ensure no collisions with other vessels.

Stability: A pontoon boat’s potential to handle weight shifts from side to side.

Starboard: The right-hand side of your pontoon boat.

Stern: The rearmost area of your pontoon boat.

Throttle: A hand lever or levers that control speed and forward or reverse motion.

Tracking: The degree to which your pontoon boat can hold a straight course.

Trimaran: A boat, such as a pontoon boat with three hulls. A few pontoon boats have trimaran designs.

Underway: A boat in motion, either by deliberate direction or by drifting on a current.

Vessel: Every sort of vehicle, including pontoon boats, whose main mode of transportation involves water.

Visual Distress Signals: Non-electronic signals, such as flags or flares, to draw attention to a vessel.

Wake: The waves that are a result of the forwarding motion of your pontoon boat.

Whistle Signals: Audible signals, made by air or electric horn blasts, to communicate between vessels. All power-driven vessels, such as pontoon boats, are required to use these signals.

Water Stage: The water level and depth of rivers. This varies based on location and season. Also known as a river’s “gage.”

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