Rent Other People's Boats or Cash in on Yours With This App
When you live minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, it’s probable you’ll meet a boat owner who might invite you on board—which is ideal because boat ownership is pricy and doesn't make sense for many who earn a Florida salary. But now you don’t have to cozy up to anyone for the privilege of a boat day. Instead, the GetMyBoat app allows users to rent someone else’s by the hour and, on the flip side, helps boat owners cover their costs.
For Kim Rahrig, of Michigan, an outing on the water with her two young adult sons in January made their Sarasota vacation extra special. “We went out around Anna Maria Island and looked at all the cool houses. The boys snorkeled and found a conch shell,” she says.
She says her husband discovered the app when searching for boating options online and found that it was more reasonable than the rest. As of right now, you’ll find dozens of boat listings starting at $85 an hour for a pontoon boat to $1,510 an hour for a Lazzara yacht. Rahrig spent a little under $500 for roughly five hours.
They especially liked the privacy factor and just “doing their own thing,” she says. With boating experience under their belts, they went for a bareboat trip but app users can also choose captained options.
The GetMyBoat app launched in 2013 and is used internationally, but has seen huge gains in recent years. Since the pandemic sent the demand for outdoor activities soaring, from 2019 to 2021 Sarasota County saw more than 10 times the previous growth on the app and almost 180 times more in Manatee County. It's free to join the platform and list boats to rent, and the average boat owner earns more than $25,000 annually, says app spokesperson Val Streif. GetMyBoat takes an 8.5 percent booking fee from the owner and a 7.5 percent fee to the renter upon booking.
For Master Captain Marc Bouclier, 35, and his wife Crysten, 33, it was a life changer.
The couple live on Palma Sola in northwest Bradenton, and have been using the app for roughly two years. They started by renting out their pontoon boat. “That went really well, and we understood this could turn into something even better,” he says. Their company, Crysten’s Boat Rentals & Private Tours, went live in January, and they now rent out and captain three boats full-time. One is for fishing, one is a deck boat and the other is a tritoon boat.
“This app has actually taken our hobby into a boat business,” Marc says.
Marc worked in residential mortgage for roughly 12 years and Crysten was a pediatric dental assistant and a swim lifeguard instructor. They started building the business when Crysten was pregnant, wanting more control over their time. “We love the water and I like coming home with a smile on my face,” Marc says.
A typical day on the water for him and his passengers looks like a four-hour sandbar experience in which they pick two locations, often with a first stop on Egmont Key to look for shells and relax, then onto Beer Can Island or Jewfish Key. He likes to wrap up the trip with a dolphin and manatee sighting. Shorter sunset and wildlife cruises are also options.
Red tide has also been top of mind for renters, who often ask about conditions. (There's also a sargassum event on the horizon.) Mark urges them to refer to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission site to find the latest, most accurate information. Even so, within the 20 miles of water he is able to navigate in a typical booking, he adds that it's easy to find areas less affected, but lets renters know they may feel a tickle in their throat or the need to cough.
The only issues he’s had with renters so far happen before boarding, when some parents ask for permission for underage kids to drink and, of course, bad weather that's typically remedied with a rescheduling.
As far as the app goes, Marc especially appreciates the accessibility for both end users. "GetMyBoat can be like boating for dummies for people who have zero experience," he says. "There's instant one-on-one communication and the prices are upfront."
From a renter's side, you can download the app or visit the website, enter the destination, dates and sort boats and experiences by type, price and guest count. And users can send the owner any questions ahead of booking.
As for safety and regulation, as with many gig economies like Airbnb and Uber, the discretion lies with the owner.
"It's on the owners to follow the local laws and regulations and verify that renters are compliant. We do have fraud verification checks and other security measures in place in our system, but as far as checking boating safety certifications–that's on the owners who are renting out their boats," Streif says.
But that's fine with the hundreds of local app users, and especially with Marc.
"I used to sit in front of the computer, now I sit in front of the water," he says.
Check out GetMyBoat listing here. To rent Marc and Crysten Bouclier’s boats through the app, click here.