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Renting a Private Boat

By Tim Claxton

Private boat rentals come of age.

Photographer tallies up trout on Sarasota Bay, as fellow renters work on more.

Buy a boat. Join a boat club. Pay a charter company. Or, why not rent a boat from a private owner?

Just as Airbnb took the hotel and B&B market by storm, making it easy for travelers to rent other people's homes, there are now boat-sharing sites which make it simpler for folks to spend a day on the water.

Companies like Cruzin.com, Boatbound, BoatSetter and Getmyboat are providing a marketplace to connect renters with a community of boat owners. If you are looking to rent, you search for boats in the area you want to go afloat, find out the availability for your schedule, and then reserve the boat—all online. You can even get a captain familiar with the boat, possibly with diving or fishing experience.

Recently, I counted around 1,100 boat listings on boat-sharing sites across Florida (although there may be duplicates). Not surprisingly, most were around the Miami/Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay areas. They range from kayaks to sportfishing boats and luxury yachts and pricing from $50 a day to several thousand. Most common types are pontoons and walkarounds for inshore or bay use in the $300 range.

Insurance seems to be the number one concern when it comes to sharing. The good news here is that the boat-sharing companies take responsibility for the insurance during the period of the rental, so the owner's personal insurance policy is not involved. Renters put their credit card down to cover the deductible, which is minor bumps and damage. I would encourage both renters and owners to check out the policy small print, which does vary.

Lance Wynn in Sarasota, for instance, has been renting his 2014 18-foot pontoon boat for just over a year on Cruzin.com site and via his own site, www.lanceboatrentals. com. He started sharing his boat following some medical setbacks as he was not been able to get on the water and could not keep up with all the bills.

But other people have benefited—renting his boat over 20 times this past year. When I interviewed Wynn during the summer, he had nothing but praise for his renters. “Every person brought the boat back, just like when they left, no damage or anything,” he said. Wynn does have some rules. Renters born after 1988 must have a boater safety ID card. And no-drinking for the driver.

Thinking of offering your own boat through one of these sites? Wynn offered some hints for smooth sailing:

•Good value—Don't rent at high prices or match the commercial charter alternative. People are looking for a good deal so make the price look good.

•Make it easy for renters—Ask what they like to do, offer suggestions on where to go, be friendly and put some ice on the boat. Lance has even stored local destinations such as Siesta Key, Lido Key, Sarasota Bay Front and local restaurants and places to hit the bathroom into his Garmin GPS. This also keeps people going places where they won't run aground.

People keep coming back for more: Wynn's next rental was with a couple coming back down from Canada. FS

Renting? Here Are Some Suggestions

•Do your research – With many boats and boat sharing sites now available, take time to select one that fits your needs.

•Ask questions – Before you book or before taking the boat out make sure you feel comfortable with the booking process, insurance terms and the boat itself, especially when it comes to safety equipment.

•Understand fuel costs – Renters are usually responsible for fuel use, so check the owner's rules before heading out across the bay.

•Clean up – Cleaning fees can apply if you bring the boat back dirty.

First published Florida Sportsman August 2015

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