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For this month’s installment of our “Sail Away” series, TPG Contributor (and experienced sailor) Shayne Benowitz explores the latest arrivals to the sharing economy arena: websites and apps for on-demand boat charters.
Today’s tech-savvy travelers have grown accustomed to the near-instant gratification of on-demand services such as Uber, SilverCar, HotelTonight and Airbnb, which provide what we want, when we want it with the mere swipe of an app on our smartphones.
Recently, a number of startups have jumped into the water with this same tech-forward approach to boat rentals and charters. Eliminating the need to hunt down the local marina and ask around the docks for charter captains, sailing clubs and boats to rent, these new services allow you to simply log into their websites and apps to make a selection from a virtually unlimited fleet. Whether you’re an experienced sailor looking for a bareboat charter or you simply want to get on the water with the guidance of a licensed captain, you have plenty of solid options.
Here are are four of the best on-demand boat charter services:
Considered the Airbnb of boat rentals, the GetMyBoat service/community is available online and as an iOS or Android app, with an inventory of more than 29,000 privately owned boats for rent in 135 countries (and counting).
Users start their search by location, then narrow the results based on whether or not they require a captain. Next, they filter their needs by type of vessel (fishing, sailing, power, non-power or megayacht), price and passenger count. Available rentals range from hourly charters to full days. Once a user finds a potential rental, the detail page for that boat links to more information about the vessel, additional images, user reviews and an interface to request the boat during a specified date and time.
I took GetMyBoat for a test spin by searching for Miami-area sailing charters with a captain and found 20 options, including a good-looking 40-foot sloop that was docked in Coconut Grove, charged $145 an hour and could accommodate six passengers. There were also smaller sailboats available for $50 per hour, as well as day charters starting at $465 for a Beneteau 40, and topping out at $1,800 for a 44-foot Lagoon catamaran accommodating eight passengers.
However, searching through the inventory, I didn’t come across a single vessel with user reviews. Just as with Airbnb, there’s a certain amount of trust necessary to engage in these services. While rental liability insurance is available starting at $27 per day, the onus is on the renter to virtually vet a prospective charter.
A next-generation approach to the long-practiced flotilla vacation model, Sailing Collective‘s beautifully designed website offers detailed information about captain, destination, itinerary and vessels with plenty of images that will make you want to dive through your computer screen. For sailors of all levels — whether you’re traveling solo or have your crew established — the company offers year-round and worldwide organized journeys (from roughly $2,000 to $2,800 per person), as well as customized, private charters (from $9,000-$30,000 per week). Prices include the majority of food provisions.
Led by experienced captains, upcoming organized, week-long journeys are heading to Nosy Be, Madagascar on a 40-foot Lagoon catamaran with four double cabins in late May; Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda aboard a three-cabin Jeanneau 44 in June; and Phuket’s Andaman Sea aboard a Lagoon or 48-foot luxury monohull with four cabins in December of this year and February, 2016.
Similar to GetMyBoat, but on a smaller, domestic scale, Boatbound is a marketplace of 13 million boat owners nationwide offering their boats to pre-screened renters. Founded in San Francisco with headquarters there and in Miami, Boatbound offers both sail and powerboats along with bareboat and charter captains throughout the country.
I searched New York City and narrowed down my selection to a sailing charter with captain to find five options (about half as many as in GetMyBoat’s inventory) with prices ranging from $590 to $1,700 for full-day charters in New York Harbor. Hourly rentals were not available, but half-day options were. As with anything, comparison shopping can’t hurt, and Boatbound is another established source for boat rentals calibrated to the sharing economy.
For South Florida boaters, Boatyard offers on-demand convenience to boat owners looking for typical boatyard services with the swipe of an iOS app. For everything from boat washing and fuel to delivery of ice and drinks, Boatyard matches service providers with boat owners to save them valuable time and hard labor. The service even provides charter captains for full or half-day sails, as well as boating lessons. The “Whatever” button allows for just about every request under the sun: a wedding officiant to marry you at sea, engine maintenance, bottom paint application, you name it!
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How do you typically arrange a boat charter? Have you used any of these apps or services?