Blue skies and blue water are the perfect match for a summer day.
One would think that the Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes would have plenty of options for tourists and guests when it came to boat rentals.
Surprisingly, there are few to none available. There are charter boats, paddle boats, kayaks, and cruises for rent, and plenty of marinas to dock personal watercraft at, but options are limited when it comes to renting a boat and steering it yourself.
Michigan Boat Rentals and owner Katie Stepp is hoping to change that. The company is now open for its first full season this Explore the waterways in the Port Huron region, even if you don't own a boat.year, after a brief start at the end of last season.
Stepp acquired rental space at Desmond Marina and runs the business on her own for now, but has had support from both her husband and her colleagues at the Blue Water Convention Center, where she works as an event coordinator.
"I'm on a ‘nauti break' right now and plan to return in the fall," says Stepp. "An intern was brought in for the summer to help while I'm away. I really appreciate my boss Gino [Giacumbo] working with me on this."
She has been prepping the office, which is actually a house boat that resembles a beach cottage, and is already thinking of the future.
"I have a thousand ideas! This year I need to see if I can float enough boats in this area to support a seasonal rental business," she said. "If all goes well in time I want to expand the fleet with variety if the space provided by Desmond and the city allows it."
The decision to open a boat rental company almost came naturally to Stepp.
A floating office is the perfect summer office for Katie Stepp."I live here," says Stepp. "And I was the harbor master at a marina south of here [St. Clair], and would get a lot of requests for boat rentals."
But she says that due to liability risk, other rental companies were hesitant to let boaters rent the boats and then pilot them themselves.
"No one else was willing to do rentals," Stepp says..
When she was no longer the harbormaster, she still kept up on the boating "gossip" and goings-on, and remained passionate about boating.
"So I just said ‘let's do it!'"
Stepp has two new 2017, 22-foot TriToon G3 Suncatcher boats for rent, as well as kayaks and paddleboards.
The boats hold up to 12 people, and feature a partial shade Bimini top, easy access swim ladder, radio with Bluetooth, and more.
Rentals start at $99 for boats. Kayaks start at $15 per hour, and stand up paddleboards start at $20 per hour, with discounts for both for four hours or more.
Stepp thinks that people will want to rent boats from her for several reasons.
"Everyone and anyone can go out and buy a boat and put it in water tomorrow, but those who are thinking about buying it and want to check it out, can come do that here," she says.
She also thinks that the younger generation would rather rent things than to purchase them outright.
"Having a boat is a lot of work," says Stepp.
So far, she has had several renters, both local and from places abroad, such as Germany and Brazil.
"We have shared our wonderful boating experience with several friends," says one of Stepp's renters Cathy Martinek. "And they are all truly excited about having this great opportunity in our area."
"We enjoyed our experience renting a pontoon boat from Michigan Boating Rentals," says Thomas Riopelle. "Katie Stepp was a pleasure to work with, and made the rental process very easy. Even in bad weather we had a great time!"
Michigan Boat Rentals is located at 561 Quay St. on the Black River, right in the heart of downtown Port Huron.
"I love the vibe in Port Huron with the progress it's already made and the future growth on its way," says Stepp. "The renovated lofts and new businesses are attracting residents, visitors and creating a fun atmosphere downtown. Port Huron is changing in a great way and I'm glad to be a part of it."Visit https://www.michiganboatrentals.net/ for more information.
Michigan Boat Rentals currently has two boats available.