Drift Boat & Car Renting Tips Abroad

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I love drift boats, just not this one. Photos By: Louis Cahill

When you’re traveling abroad on a fly fishing trip that you’ve meticulously planned out for months in advance, the last thing you want to deal with is equipment problems.

That was exactly the situation Louis and I ran into several years ago heading out to Wyoming for a week long fly fishing trip with our good friend Bruce Wayne, a.k.a “Batman”. We had pondered over and over again, prior to leaving, whether or not we should make the long drive from Georgia trailering Batman’s drift boat or instead fly out. As you probably know from following us, we love G&G road trips, almost as much as we love fishing out of Batman’s Hyde drift boat. It has all the bells and whistles, rows like a dream and the layout is perfect. Problem was, driving out with Batman’s drift boat would have also called for us to go out and purchase an expensive boat cover and extra spare tire. Not to mention, we’d also need to get maintenance work done on the trailer to ensure it would make it through the thousands of miles traveled on the road. Being the penny pinchers we are, we opted instead to go with a Plan B, which involved renting a SUV and drift boat once we got out to Wyoming. Plan B was very appealing to us because we could use our saved up Sky Miles for airfare and omit at minimum, a few nights lodging and the time saved not having to drive across the country both ways would allow us to add a couple more days of fly fishing into our itinerary. The revised itinerary seemed like a no brainer. Logistically it would be less hassle and we wouldn’t have to deal with being completely drained from making a cross country cannon ball run. Unfortunately, that Plan B went to the shitter once we stepped out of the airport, made it to the rental car headquarters and found out our SUV didn’t have a tow package on it.

Lesson Learned #1: Don’t accept the representatives word over the phone that your vehicle will have a tow package. Chances are, it won’t.

Apparently, car rental companies don’t like their renters towing anything, and 90% or more of rental vehicles throughout the country are void of tow packages. If you’re fly fishing trip calls for trailering around a drift boat, camper or anything else for that matter, you better get proof from a photo and a letter in writing before you have them run your credit card. Otherwise, you’ll have no chance at getting your money back when you show up and your vehicle doesn’t have one–leaving you with a rented drift boat you can’t use. Long story short, we rented a U-haul truck for our transportation and drift boat trailering. All U-hual vehicles come standard with a hitch and ball.

Lesson Learned #2: Be prepared to ask for additional equipment before you drive off with your drift boat rental.

The contract you’re forced to sign before you can drive off with your drift boat rental clearly states you’re responsible for the drift boat. You’re also responsible for returning it on a certain date and specified time. Don’t take the white water hippy’s word behind the counter that you can drop off the drift boat near closing time at the end of your trip. I’ve learned the hard way, that these guys are notorious for closing the doors early, leaving you screwed and charged for an extra day of rental fees. I suggest you either plan on getting off the river a couple hours early the last day to make sure the the rental company doors are still open or drop the drift boat off in the morning and spend your last day of your fly fishing trip wade fishing. This way, you’ll make sure everything is returned on time and you won’t run the risk of getting charged for damage to a boat you didn’t do.

Make sure you also get the rental company to provide you with a pad lock and key for the drift boat trailer. Without one, you run the risk of it getting it stolen at your hotel or when it’s unattended. Be ready to request life jackets, a throw cushion, spare oar, bail bucket, spare boat plugs, net and any permits you’ll need to float the rivers legally you want to fish. This is all standard practice that I promise you will not be brought up by the rental representative unless you stand your ground and request it all. Remember, drift boat rental or not, you’re subject to the same laws and fishing regulations the DNR sets during your trip. And navigating new water can be very dangerous if you aren’t prepared and smart on the water. An oar can be lost or broken during a float, leaving you helpless unless you have a spare. Backup gear and safety equipment should be on board at all times in case you need it in an emergency.

Lesson Learned #3: Don’t drive away with your drift boat rental until you’re certain it’s in safe and in proper working condition.

Take pictures and document any damage on the drift boat rental before you take off on your journey. Believe me, when I say there will be plenty of documentation required. If you don’t take the 15 minutes to do it, you run the risk of the rental company pinning the prior damage on you when you return. Even worse, you may find out like we did, that you’ve rented a drift boat that leaks like hell. Again, I learned this the hard way, when I didn’t take the time to thoroughly inspect the chines and bottom of the boat I was renting before driving off with it in Wyoming. The first day of our trip we made it about 100 yards downstream of the put-in before our rented drift boat had two inches of water in it. To get off the river safely, we had to have a dedicated round the clock bailer. Sure would have been nice if we would have taken a closer look at the boats conditions or at least remembered to ask for a bail bucket from the renter. Plastic water bottles and beer cans cut in half don’t bail very fast. It also would have been nice if we would have had a roll or two of duck tape along with us. Don’t leave home without it. That’s how we made it through the trip actually. After much looking, we finally found and purchased a roll of radiator tape that we completely applied to both sides of the drift boat to keep the leaks manageable. It slowed the leaks enough for us to only have to bail every couple hours. By all means, if you aren’t satisfied with the condition of your drift boat rental, demand another one on hand if that’s an option.

The morale of the story is penny pinching doesn’t always pay off in the long run. Furthermore, the most dependable gear by far is your own, not rental gear. Think twice next time you find yourself in the position of making the decision between making a long road trip with your own gear or flying out and renting everything you’ll need. If you do go with renting a vehicle and drift boat, make sure you remember and learn from the three lessons I’ve provided you in this post. Following them will increase the odds that you’ll have a successful trip and you won’t have to deal with the painful headaches and days lost on the water that we’ve had to deal with.

Check out the link below for an additional tip when renting abroad.

Bald Ass Tires in West Bumble @%&#

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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