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The sharing economy hits the water

Dec 28, 2017
Will boat sharing services like Boatsetter take off and get more people participating in the sport of sailing?

Will boat sharing services like Boatsetter take off and get more people participating in the sport of sailing?

Courtesy Boatsetter

Imagine what would happen if Airbnb hooked up with Uber and went out for a boat ride.

It was only a matter of time: Business disrupters on the Internet have given us job sharing, ride sharing, even home sharing. Now Boatsetter gives us boat sharing.

The Ft. Lauderdale-based company has been in operation since 2015, providing an online platform where customers can access a network of fully insured, privately owned vessels with or without USCG-licensed captains.

“We have thousands of boats to choose from across key markets in the U.S., Caribbean and Med,” states Jackie Baumgarten, CEO and co-founder of Boatsetter. “What we’re doing is connecting people in the boating industry in a way that’s never been done before.”

In their investor literature, Boatsetter is quick to identify the recreational boating industry’s greatest challenge today: dealing with a shrinking and aging customer base that’s not being sufficiently replenished by young people (the average age of a boat owner is 55 and climbing). For whatever reason, and I can think of a few, the youth of the world are not getting bit by the sailing bug like the baby boomers did.

Boatsetter seeks to reverse that trend by growing boating via millennials, and to nurture the passion of sailing, making it available to anyone — no experience needed, no ownership required.

Boatsetter cites a U.S. Coast Guard survey that claims recreational boats are used an average of 14 days per year and sit idle 95 percent of the time. This is perhaps the hardest lesson for new boat owners, especially young ones — paying slip fees, insurance, depreciation and maintenance on something that often sits unused. When a boat can cost as much as a house, it’s hard to justify these costs on top of essential needs like rent, food and transportation.

Courtesy Boatsetter

But by listing their boat on Boatsetter, owners are able to turn downtime into profitable activity and recoup some of their costs. Traditional boat insurance policies do not allow rentals, so Baumgarten hit the global insurance markets and worked with leading maritime underwriters to establish the first of its kind peer-to-peer marine insurance policy.

Through recent acquisitions, Boatsetter has built the world’s largest P2P network of licensed captains and owners, and is on pace to pass 10,000 available boats in 300 fresh and saltwater destinations in North America, the Caribbean and Europe. Half- and full-day rentals run the gamut from a Celestial 32 for $201 to a Fountaine Pajot 44 for an eye-popping $1,785. Customers reserve boats with a credit card and a refundable deposit, which includes third-party insurance and towing. Boatsetter takes a booking fee from that (which is not refundable).

The functionality of the website is so user-friendly and similar to Airbnb that I had to double-check to be sure I was still on Boatsetter’s site. It even has the “add to favorites” button and first name customer reviews — which are mostly good.

“We’ve taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” added Baumgarten.

And despite damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in October, Boatsetter indicated that they haven’t had any issues with boats being unavailable.

So if you believe that the only thing better than having a boat is having a friend with a boat, then Boatsetter is surely the next best thing.

To find boat rentals in your area or to register your boat, go to www.boatsetter.com.

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