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Local boat owner says popular rental app got him into trouble with San Diego Police

Posted at 7:53 AM, May 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 10:53:22-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A local boat owner told ABC 10News he received a hefty fine from San Diego Police after they said he was renting his boat out illegally.

Vince Vera said he uses the popular app GetMyBoat to rent his boat to small groups looking to be taken out on Mission Bay for a few hours.

But Vera claimed the app service ended up getting him in trouble with SDPD last week, and he was a citation and had his boat impounded.

Vera said he’s been using GetMyBoat for nearly a year. Per the company's website, GetMyBoat operates globally. Vera explained people can browse through the app and make a reservation with a local boat owner.

Vera said he was shocked when SDPD officers showed up last Friday to confront him about it.

“As I’m tying up … I look up and there are just uniformed cops all armed just charging down,” said Vera.

Vera said he believes SDPD set him up by making a fake reservation through the app. When he showed up on the dock last Friday for the reservation, he said police greeted him with a citation and impounded his boat, which cost him nearly $800.

“When they set me up on this little ‘sting’ that they did … I called them. I said, ‘Hey, what are we celebrating?’ And they didn’t have any answer. And that should have been a slight red flag,” Vera told ABC 10News.

He said most often groups reserve his boat and services for birthday parties, bachelorette parties, and other events. He added that he wasn’t aware he was breaking any rules and had been complying with the app’s requirements.

“We’re getting everybody there and back and being compliant in every way. All the life jackets … all the things they need you to have,” Vera said.

San Diego Police told ABC 10News that they have been working to address illegal boat rentals and issued three citations this last weekend.

“I didn’t get any warning and nobody else did either,” said Vera.

While Vera and his colleagues were caught off guard, SDPD said it’s part of Mission Bay’s policy, referencing this statement:

"SDFD lifeguards have seen an increase in those who are renting vessels illegally on Mission Bay. Only licensed lessees may rent vessels for use on Mission Bay. These are brick and mortar businesses that have registered with the City of San Diego and have the appropriate business license, insurance and proof of maintenance and safety compliance. Please be aware that if you rent a vessel from someone operating out of their car or their home, you are illegally renting a vessel and can be cited under SD Municipal Code 63.20.20. In addition, if you are operating an illegally rented vessel and are involved in a boating collision that causes injury, you may be liable for medical and other costs. It’s not worth the risk!"

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While Vera plans to respect the policy moving forward, he said a warning would have gone a long way.

A representative for the company behind the GetMyBoat app also shared a statement with ABC 10News regarding the incident, which read, in part:

"Boaters can continue to use GetMyBoat to find and book all types of rentals and charters, not only in San Diego but all over the world. Regulations differ based on jurisdiction and are highly localized. Because of this, we require all owners to review and abide by local laws and regulations when signing up.

With regards to this inquiry, we believe it is an isolated incident, and we will continue to investigate details and cooperate with the local authorities in San Diego, as well as educate our San Diego-based owners on specific regulations that apply to their operations."