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The Beauty of the Other Person’s Boat

Let’s face it–boating can be expensive. It’s an inconvenient fact of life. If you aren’t already a boater, how are you supposed to find out if you like it or not without spending a fortune? How are you even supposed to know what type of boat you’d enjoy without trying them all?

Luckily there are many ways you can get on the water without buying a boat first. Here’s a look at a few options.

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Boat RentalsBoat Rentals

Believe it or not, renting a small powerboat, like a center console fishing boat or a lake pontoon boat, is something that anyone can do. You can find a small boat to rent and have fun for the day. In most areas, it will cost around $100 per day.

Most rental companies will provide a quick checkout in the boats to make sure you know how to use it. They’ll also cover any navigation you need to know and outline where you can go on a chart. Rental boats should have GPS instruments on board to make navigating a piece of cake.

Some states do have licensing requirements that must be met before you can hit the water, but these are generally online courses. Even if your state doesn’t require it, there’s never a wrong time to start learning. Check out your state’s licensing requirements and find out if it’s something you can do online or in person. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary has offered safe boating courses for years all around the country. These in-person classes are a great way to get an introduction to the fundamentals.

Boat Share Websites

If you’d like to rent something a little nicer than a regular rental boat, check out peer-to-peer boat sharing websites. Boatsetter is the current big name in the US, and it has hundreds of boats all over the country available for rent. These sites are great in that they allow boat owners to recoup some of their costs while giving a great opportunity to new boaters or experienced boaters looking to try something new.

The boats listed on Boatsetter range the entire nautical gamut, from johnboats to glorious sailing yachts. Are you looking for a cabin cruiser for a long weekend getaway? Look no further than Boatsetter.

If you find a boat in your area that you’d like to rent but feel that you aren’t quite ready to handle yourself, Boatsetter will also connect you with an experienced captain. The captain can take you out for the day, or even teach you what you want to know.

Learn more about the True Cost of Boat Ownership in this video.

Boat ClubsBoat Club Membership

Around the country, you will find various forms of boating clubs that you can become a member of. The basic idea of a boat club is that you pay and monthly membership fee, and in return, you can use one of the club’s vessels for a certain amount of time. The club operates its own rental fleet. The vessels tend to be nicer and have a wider variety of boats than rentals to the general public do.

Boat clubs come in many shapes and forms. Most clubs are aimed at powerboats and offer bow-rider, center console fishing, and express cruiser-style boats. Freedom Boat Clubis a world-wide example that has bases in boating areas throughout the US and Europe.

Be a Good Guest

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend of family member who owns a boat, remember to show your gratitude when they invite you out. It costs a lot to own and maintain a boat, and it’s important to let them know how much you appreciate their generosity. I really appreciate friends who bring food or drinks with them. It’s also helpful when they offer to pay for fuel.

For a good friend, you might consider giving them a gift that they can use on their boat. Here are two suggestions that I have on my boat.

A Grill for the Boat

I have a portable grill that I bring when we’re exploring islands or just planning a family day on the water. I really like a grilled burger or hot dog after a day of skiing.

Check Pricing on Amazon

Yeti Coolers

The standard of excellence for boat coolers is the Yeti. They’re rugged and travel well. I have one with wheels because it’s a long walk from my car to the dock.

Check Pricing on Amazon

Yacht Clubs

Yacht clubs are formal affairs, with voted-in commodores and meetings where minutes are taken. Some may even require white pants and nautical hats. But not all of them are stuffy, and they all share a love for boating and the water.

Most yacht club organizations sponsor youth sailing or other community outreach programs. Yacht clubs are usually for people who already own yachts, but there are plenty of examples around the country that have more open membership requirements. Their goal is to share their passion for boating with the community. To that end, they can be a great place to get a taste for boating and spend some time on the water.

Boat Shows

The major boat shows usually feature a Discover Boating option, where you can get out on the water in your dream boat. Some are designed to give you a few minutes of carefully supervised time at the helm, while longer programs will show you the ropes. If you’re considering a big purchase, this can be a great way to see how your dream boat rides and handles.

Go Back to SchoolBoat Maintenance

It’s not as bad as it sounds when it involves boats. Numerous companies offer training in every type of craft imaginable. Generally, though, these courses are designed for larger yachts. But the experience is still well worthwhile even if your next boat is going to be smaller.

If you happen to be near a major yachting center, finding one of these schools is easy. For sailors, American Sailing Association offers courses in everything from small trailer sailers to enormous cruising catamarans. Likewise, US Powerboating provides Safe Powerboat Handling Courses around the country.

Yacht Charter Vacations

If you want to try your hand at driving a big boat and living aboard full-time, consider taking a charter vacation. Charter companies are located in popular destinations all over the world, with all types of vessels. This will give you a taste for what it’s like staying aboard and cruising, all while in some of the most beautiful spots in the world. The price is cheap compared to the cost of buying and outfitting a boat of your own! The two major international companies are The Moorings and Dream Yacht Charter, both of which offer sail and powerboat options.

Sail Away Courses

For those dreaming of selling it all and sailing away into the sunset, several schools will take you to sea in their bluewater cruising sailboats. The best of these courses feature small intimate groups on the owner/instructor’s boat. Many of the most popular names in sailing are now offering these programs with passage legs available all over the world. Paul and Sheryl Shard, creators of the popular cruising TV show Distant Shores, offer voyages on their Southerly 480 sailboat. Andy Schell of the sailing podcast 59 North offers passages on his school’s pair of classic Swan sailboats. And sailing author John Kretchmer offers long passages on his Kaufman 47 ketch Quetzal as well as on other vessels around the world.


The beauty of trying out boating with another person’s boat is that you can try out many cool things that you might not be able to afford otherwise. The more you try out, the easier it is to narrow down exactly the sort of boat you’d like to own. And when you do purchase your dream boat, you’ll be all the more prepared to use it safely and comfortably.

John Allen

With more than a decade of experience cruising the lakes in my Crestliner Grand Cayman pontoon boat and my Boston Whaler, I now want to share everything I've learned with my community here at Boating Hub.