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Boat-sharing, a newly exploding segment of the sharing economy, enables the rental of someone else’s boat in the same way one rents a place to stay through sites such as HomeAway and Airbnb.
The number of boats rented by each “peer-to-pier” operation is doubling or tripling every year, the companies report, and now include a large variety of watercraft. Water enthusiasts can rent everything from paddleboards, kayaks and Jet Skis to houseboats and luxury yachts — all through a smartphone app.
The options are many: Spend a day in a 22-foot sailboat in Miami for $203, or rent a stylish motorboat in Barcelona with room for six for $334. Take a group of 25 people on a fishing charter in San Francisco Bay for $2,568, or relax on a 12-foot pontoon in Paw Creek, N.C., for $225.
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The sharing system makes sense for owners, too, considering that the average boat owner uses his or her craft only 17 days a year, according to a U.S. Coast Guard survey.
Among some sharing services:
Boatsetter. The Florida-based enterprise is the biggest boat-sharing company, with 200,000 registered renters and 20,000 boats available. Rentals include 24-hour on-water support, and there is a network of captains you can hire if you aren’t experienced at the helm.
Click&Boat. This European-based company handles 60,000 annual rentals and has 150,000 boat renters registered on its platform, with one-third of the 22,000 listed vessels piloted by a Coast Guard–licensed skipper or the boat's owner.
GetMyBoat. A worldwide service launched in San Francisco, it has more than 108,000 listings in 184 countries, from Australia to the Caribbean to the Oregon coast.
To rent a boat, you need to register at one of the sites; pick a location and boat; specify the date, time and duration of your desired sailing; await approval by the owner; and then pay for the rental, fees and security deposit online with a credit card. If you are planning to captain a boat yourself, the owner is likely to ask about your boating experience.
All three boat-sharing companies require that owners’ boats be insured and that both owners and renters pay a commission. (GetMyBoat, for instance, charges a 7 percent commission to both renters and boat owners.) Emergency towing services are typically included, but it’s important to read a company’s terms of service closely so there are no surprises.
Another safeguard against a boating excursion going off the deep end is the posting of reviews. Renters and owners alike post and read them, which helps both parties feel more comfortable with the arrangement if the reviews are positive. And all parties are screened for fraud and driving records — on both land and sea.
If you want to do more than lounge in a boat, Boatsetter has partnered with Airbnb experiences in several cities, so you can, say, learn how to sail in San Francisco Bay or fish for marlin off the Florida coast. GetMyBoat also offers experiences, ranging from surfing and diving lessons to whale-watching expeditions.