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Sure, owning a boat is ideal. But there’s more than one way to get out on the water. And trust us, it’s easier than you think. Whether you decide to rent a boat or charter one, learn to jib or balance on a paddleboard, this page will help make it happen. So grab the sunblock, slip on your flip-flops and discover all the ways you can get your feet wet.

Find quick ways to get on the water

Other ways to get on the water

Boat Rentals

Renting is a great way to get your feet wet and compare boat types and models before deciding to buy. Most boat rentals are by the hour, half-day or full day. Available boat models will vary by operation and rental fleets tend toward basic models. Boat rental operators will give you a tutorial on how to operate the boat, safety instructions and an overview on the waterway you’ll be boating. Be sure to check your local laws to ensure that you have the proper education or license before renting.

Paddlesports Rentals

Paddlesports include canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards. Extremely popular around the US with easy on-water access combined with added fitness benefits, there’s ample opportunity to climb aboard a kayak or SUP through rentals, classes and more.

Boating Classes

Take the helm with confidence! Whether you're new to boating or an experienced skipper, one of the best ways to make boating even more fun is to sharpen your boat handling skills. There are a wide variety of class options are available - from online courses to practical on-the-water workshops.

Boat Charter

Want to explore new waters in the U.S. and abroad? Chartering a boat provides that opportunity and offers options for level of service, size of the boat and duration. Want to do it yourself? A bareboat charter includes the boat and rest is up to you for a day, week or more. Want to have a captain and crew? A crewed charter includes the boat, professional captain or crew, supplies and provisions typically for multiple days. Looking for a guided tour? A full-service charter includes the boat, crew and supplies, for a half-day, full-day or more, for a fishing, diving or touring excursion.

Boat Clubs

You don’t need to own a boat to join a boat club. Members have access to the boat club’s fleet of boats and can reserve them online. The boat club maintains, cleans, insures and stores the boats and many also provide on-water training. Members are typically responsible for their own fuel. The boat club takes care of docking, maintenance and everything else, plus most offer extensive boater education programs.

Boat Clubs

Fractional ownership programs give you flexibility while still allowing you consistent time on the water. Members of these programs usually pay an annual membership fee and have to schedule time on their boats when they want to get out on the water. Once a time is scheduled, the member heads to the marina to enjoy time aboard their vessel. When the scheduled time on the boat is complete, the boat is returned to the dock and prepared by employees of the ownership program for the next member. All the benefits of owning a boat without most of the responsibilities. No slip fees, insurance or maintenance costs.

The fractional company typically provides new boats and handles most of the upkeep (such as fueling, pump-out, insurance, etc.), allowing members to focus on learning the ropes and enjoying the boating lifestyle. Members often get the added benefit of lessons, flotillas and additional crew, if needed.

Fractional ownership programs are similar to boat clubs with a few subtle differences. Boat clubs offer their members a choice of what boat they would like to rent, whereas fractional ownership programs assign members to one boat (like a timeshare). Also, members of boat clubs pay monthly dues, however, fractional ownership programs are usually an annual fee.

Peer-to-Peer

Experienced boater? Rent someone else’s boat for a convenient way of getting on the water. New-to-boating? Rent someone else’s boat with a captain. Boat owner? Rent your boat and earn income. Companies are popping up across the U.S. offering boats from kayaks to yachts for rent and including safeguards like insurance and the ability to decide who rents your boat.

peer-to-peer

Bob has a boat that needs the dust washed off it. Plus, there's that payment book. Sue has a vacation planned and hopes to incorporate boating in it. Trouble is, she has no boat. Happily, there are matchmakers to connect them. Peer-to-peer rentals can serve both of these boaters well.

Peer to peer services enroll boat owners interested in renting out their craft, connecting them with folks who have boating in mind but no boat. They often perform similar services for personal watercraft and trailers. The company typically provides a contract, vets both parties, handles the money, and carries and provides insurance.

Figure on plunking down a deposit- $1,000 seems common. Turn in a clean, undamaged boat, and back it comes. If the boat is dirty, you pay for clean-up. If there's an insurance claim, your deposit becomes the deductible.

These aren't beginner rentals. Most services require renters to pledge they've had two years of experience operating the kind of boat they're renting. It's a big plus- and in some states, a legal requirement- if you complete a safe boating class before you rent.

Have a boat you'd like to rent out? Peer-to-peer probably won't make you a profit, but it can help underwrite the costs of your boating. Remember, though, if you take in $600 or more in a year, the taxman is likely to hear about it and come calling. You're not giving up control of your pride and joy. Contracts specify that the owner, if uncomfortable with the qualifications of the renter, can call the whole thing off dockside. There can be other restrictions, such as no night operation.

Each service has a minimum age and requires a driver's license. As with car rentals, figure on putting a credit card into play. Others can operate the boat if they're listed on the agreement and are 18 or older. The boat owner might provide safety equipment, but you're probably better off bringing your own in the sizes you need and the style you like.

As with a commercial rental, the owner (or agent) and renter inspect the boat at pick-up, when the owner goes over safety features and basic operations. You get it full of fuel and bring it back full, or pay for gas. There may be extra charges for delivery, accessories (skis, fishing gear, etc.), and extended instruction.

As part of your rental, most companies provide a supplemental insurance policy for liability and collision/damage to the rental unit; however, with some it's a separate item.

Owners, who set their own rental fees, pay nothing to list their boats. The company handles the money and paperwork and keeps a percentage of the fee. But as my literary agent told me just before I signed with her, 85 percent of something is a lot better than 100 percent of nothing.

Fractional Ownership and Partnering

Looking to go in on a boat with friends, family or even strangers? It’s a great way to get on the water and share the cost. The first rule of thumb for this type of co-op is to have a conversation about, and put in writing, partnership details and operating rules. It’s also important to consider how to effectively and efficiently manage the usage and maintenance schedule to keep things balanced.

Fractional ownership

Fractional ownership programs give you flexibility while still allowing you consistent time on the water. Members of these programs usually pay an annual membership fee and have to schedule time on their boats when they want to get out on the water. Once a time is scheduled, the member heads to the marina to enjoy time aboard their vessel. When the scheduled time on the boat is complete, the boat is returned to the dock and prepared by employees of the ownership program for the next member. All the benefits of owning a boat without most of the responsibilities. No slip fees, insurance or maintenance costs.

The fractional company typically provides new boats and handles most of the upkeep (such as fueling, pump-out, insurance, etc.), allowing members to focus on learning the ropes and enjoying the boating lifestyle. Members often get the added benefit of lessons, flotillas and additional crew, if needed.

Fractional ownership programs are similar to boat clubs with a few subtle differences. Boat clubs offer their members a choice of what boat they would like to rent, whereas fractional ownership programs assign members to one boat (like a timeshare). Also, members of boat clubs pay monthly dues, however, fractional ownership programs are usually an annual fee.