Ready To Join The Boating Lifestyle?

Updated 10:50 AM ET, Mon November 23, 2015

Article highlights

  • Joining a boat club can help you find the right boat to fit your needs and wants.
  • Freedom Boat Club, Waves Boat and Social Club, Seaworthy, and Carefree Boat Club are just a few of the boat clubs that you can join.
  • Renting or chartering different styles and types of boats is an easy and hassle-free way to determine if the boating lifestyle is for you.
You think you want to buy a boat, but you're not sure what type of boat will fit your needs? Do you enjoy fishing, the occasional sunset cruise, a day at the sandbar; or, are you ready to make boating a full time lifestyle? Deciding what kind of boat will fit your needs before you sign on the dotted line can eliminate your "buyer's remorse".

Ready To Join The Boating Lifestyle?

Finding A Boat To Fit Your Needs

The Internet is a great way to research the different types of boats out there. You can check out everything from the small runabouts, to the center consoles, and the trawlers / to the sailboats. How do you narrow down what works just for you? Boat reviews certainly help narrow the list. Attending various boat shows is even better because it allows you to get a hands on feeling for the type of boat that may interest you.

Why You Should Rent or Charter A Boat Before You Buy?

Once you have narrowed your list down to a particular style or type of boat, why not consider renting or chartering before you take the plunge to buy? Numerous boat clubs allow you to take different boats out daily, and boat chartering companies allow for weekly rentals or longer. These boat clubs that cater to one-day rentals all have varying types of boats that complement their fleet.

What Type Of Boats Are Available For Renting or Chartering?

Depending on the location of the club, you can rent anything from a pontoon boat, bow rider, or center console. It all depends on your needs. Do you want to just tour the waterways (pontoon), zip out to the sandbar (bow rider), or have a day of fishing (center console)? Renting a boat will let you get comfortable with operating that particular boat. You will get a feel for how the boat handles in the varying wind and water conditions, and let you see if it is enough for your needs. Overall, you can assess if this is the boat for you.

What Are Boat Clubs?

There are a number of local and national boat clubs you can join. Listed below are a few clubs where you can learn more about these programs:

Freedom Boat Club is a national private boat club with locations across the United States. If you have no boat operation experience, they have licensed Captains who will take you through an orientation, both on land and water, to be sure you understand the "Rules of the Road" and boat operation. You can rent different styles of boats for a few hours or for the day, allowing you to narrow down the style of boat that will fit your long-term needs. Other boat clubs include Waves Boat and Social Club, Club Seaworthy, Carefree Boat Clubs.

There are hundreds of boat clubs all across the United States to choose from; some will even allow overnight use of their boats. Most of these clubs have a one-time membership fee plus a monthly fee that allows you to rent any boat in their fleet at your convenience. When you show up at the marina, your boat will be ready for you to load up your gear and enjoy the day. When you return, the club will take care of cleaning and putting the boat away. You are free to just collect your gear and go.

If you have some boating experience and you are looking to charter a larger boat, in the 30-60 foot range, you should consider one of the boat charter companies located in the United States and worldwide. Through these companies, you can charter a larger boat for: half to full days, 3 - 4 days, and one week. Many of these companies offer sail and power boats. You will be responsible for all provisioning of the boat, and there may be a fuel charge in addition to the charter fee.

If you are not comfortable with handling a larger boat, these companies will allow you to charter the boat with a Captain for a few hours or for the entire charter.

Chitwood Charters, based out of Sarasota, Florida, offers just such an experience; you can find other charter companies like Chitwood Charters all up and down both coasts of the United States. These larger boats have a full galley (kitchen) and accommodations for 4 to 6 people for overnight consideration, but if you are only doing a day charter, you can have as many as twenty family and friends for a day of fun and sightseeing.

What If You Want To Live Aboard?

If you are thinking of living aboard a boat full time, then bareboat chartering is a great way to narrow down the kind of boat you are looking for. With a bareboat charter, you can rent a power or sail boat for one, two, three weeks or more depending on your time and budget. Because these bareboat companies have locations around the world, you can turn your boat search into a great vacation: like the local boat clubs there are many bareboat charters from which to choose. Some of the major international charter companies are:

- The Moorings
- Sunsail
- Tortola Marine Management

The Moorings and Sunsail have locations around the world. They charter both power and sail boats that will accommodate couples only and larger boats that can accommodate up to 10 guests with 4 or 5 cabins onboard. These companies will provide you with a "Concierge Experience" where prior to your arrival they will send you a "menu" of offerings for your charter. They can supplement your boat with water toys such as kayaks and floats, and nearly all of the boats will come with their very own water taxi/ dinghy. This small, towable boat will give you shore access if you decide to anchor in a cove somewhere or just outside a marina. The dinghy will usually accommodate 4 people, and can be used for a fun day of exploring the coastline while your floating "home away from home" stays anchored. You can use it to head inshore for land excursions or just to head into town for dinner and entertainment. The "Concierge Experience" will also extend the option of provisioning your boat with food and drinks from their menu (prior to your arrival) or you can go out on your own once you arrive and provision the boat yourself.

If you want boat ownership, but are not 100% ready to pull the trigger completely, take a look at the fractional boat ownership programs offered by the larger boat charter companies. The level of ownership will vary from company to company, but you can buy part ownership, or a percentage, of the boat you think you would like to own permanently. This affords you the opportunity to use "your" boat a number of times each year while the Yacht Management company is responsible for all maintenance, upkeep, and chartering of the boat to others. Fractional boat ownership has many pros and cons, but if you really are not sure about 100% full-time boat ownership, this may be an option for you.

The Pros and Cons Of Fractional Boat Ownership

The pros of fractional boat ownership are:

- Less overall operating costs then encountered with full ownership.
- Maintenance free responsibility.
- The ability to charter similar boats in different locations from where your boat is located.

Some of the cons of fractional boat ownership can be:

- Your boat may not always be available when you want it; you must "pre-schedule" the use of your boat.
- If your percentage of ownership is less than that of the other owners, your boat can be sold without your agreement.
- You will not be able to "personalize" your boat as you are only a part owner.


As you explore all these different boating options, you can take the time needed to find "your boat". You can begin the search for your own personal boat without making the big mistake of selecting too early in the decision-making process.

Renting or chartering different styles and types of boats is an easy and hassle-free way to determine if the boating lifestyle is for you. It allows you the opportunity to make sure you are buying the kind of boat that will meet your everyday boating needs without buyers remorse. Remember, every time you are on the water should be a great time!

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