Introducing a Younger Generation to the World of Boating

We are always trying to keep up with what the younger generations are interested in, what’s “cool” and what’s keeping them busy on the weekends. In the boating world, we want to know how to cater to them to encourage more young boaters. Many people enjoy getting out on the water, but not too many people in their 20s and 30s can afford a boat and all the expenses that come with it. Of course, that’s not the only option. Marinas want to stay up to date with what younger adults want, whether that’s boat rentals, boat sharing, or other affordable ways to get out on the water. As for any business, these methods must make economic and financial sense. Having a profitable company is the bottom line for most marinas. Luckily, I am here to give you an inside scoop. As a Gen Z myself, I’m going to share my personal perspectives on how boating is viewed in my generation.

Historically, owning a boat has primarily been for middle-aged boaters in the United States, with the average boat owner age of 58 years. However, after the pandemic drove many to explore more solitary outdoor recreation such as boating, the average age has dropped to 46 years. New boat sales surged 40% during the pandemic, and, although not as drastic, the upward trend seems to be continuing. More and more people want to get out on the water. Even so, there is still a stigma about the amount of money and effort owning a boat entails. Although boating can be quite expensive, it doesn’t have to be.

This year’s boat statistics prove that 95% of recreational boats in the United States are less than 26 feet in length. Owners of boats that are smaller in size, can avoid slip fees by storing the boat in their back yard and trailering it to a launch each time they want to take it out. Another way of saving money and precious time on the weekends is by joining a boat club or boat sharing program, which provides boats whenever (and nearly wherever) you want.

Boat Sharing Trends
Boat sharing is the latest and greatest in recreational boating options. Boat sharing is a little different than simply renting a boat. Renting boats has been around for ages and it’s a great way for families and friends to get out on the water for the day. Boat clubs are taking this idea of boat rentals to the next level.

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Boat sharing has become a cost effective alternative for boaters who want to get on the water but don’t have the ability to own a vessel.

Boat sharing companies introduce the simplest, cleanest, and cheapest (so they say) alternative to buying a boat. There are a few different ways boat sharing can work. Whether it’s a boat club that has its own boats, or a system where boat owners can offer up their boats to other members for the day, boat sharing makes boating easier. Peer-to-peer boat sharing is a way to connect boat owners with interested renters to take a boat out without the commitment of having their own boat. Boat clubs have a variety of boats in stock, so renters can choose a different boat every time they go out if they want. Additionally, with larger boat club companies, some have locations all around the country, so a member can go to any club they want and take a boat out. That’s a little easier than hauling your own from coast to coast. When it comes to choosing which boat to take out, the options are nearly endless – if your budget is too! People love taking sailboats out for a Sunday morning regatta or a sunset sail; ski boats can tow innertubes and wake boards behind them; and of course, we have the popular pontoon for fitting a whole party onto one boat. This is a fantastic option when you have a divided family that can’t decide which boat would be best to buy. The solution is to simply join a boat sharing club so you can take the sailboat out one weekend and get a cruiser for the next. Some people say that as technology advances, we become more accustomed to instant gratification. A prime example of that is clicking a button on your phone and 30 minutes later a boat is awaiting your arrival, ready to go.

Boat Rental Trends
Another option for marinas to add a revenue stream is offering small craft, human-powered vessels for rent. This could be any combination of kayaks, canoes, SUP’s, and paddle boats. Some people want to get out on the water for exercise, which is a great alternative to going to the gym, and is more environmentally friendly than an engine-powered boat. Again, the convenience of not having to lug this small vessel around, bring it to the water with a trailer, or having to clean and maintain it saves time and even more money. Instead, people will gladly pay a small fee to go out for an hour or two. This added amenity makes marinas stand out from their competitors.

Marina owners can create a rental business for any watersport, from kayaks and paddleboards to pontoons and cruisers.

The sharing economy that we have recently become accustomed to includes automobile rides and homes, so why not create a space for boats as well? Sometimes it is not feasible for boat owners to go out on their boat every weekend. This leaves vessels to grow old in their slip. Why not give them a better life? There are many boat sharing companies and clubs, do your research before jumping into one. It’s important to investigate the insurance policies and coverage, annual and individual fees, and of course, what kind of boats they have! Some companies are local, while some have marinas all over the world.

Boat Valet Trends
Another growing trend that may or may not appeal to younger boaters is boat valet services. This requires you to have your own boat. The process goes like this: the user calls the marina or storage facility the day before they want to take their boat out, the facility brings the boat to the launch, and the user takes the boat out. When they are ready to come back in, they give the facility a heads up, drop the boat off at the launch and head home. Additional services can include refueling, cleaning, and repairs. An over-the-top feature may include the facility providing ice, drinks, and food when the boat is ready to head out for the day. This valet service can also be combined with the boat clubs, where the club provides all the necessities ready to go when the renters arrive. This process takes much of the additional time and effort out of owning a boat but introduces a financial barrier that is likely too much for most young people.

Without a doubt, there are still people who want to buy their own boat to operate and maintain themselves. Boat sharing allows more people to get into boating, and decide if owning their own boat is the right choice for them. In the end, the amount of time and money you save depends on how often you take a boat out. Overall, it is great to see more and more ways for people to access and enjoy the water without immediately investing in the commitment that individual boat ownership requires.