The next wave of the sharing economy has arrived in D.C. And it handles waves remarkably well.
Boatbound, a year-old company known as “Airbnb for boats,” lets owners anywhere list their vessels online so other folks can rent them out by the day. A hefty insurance policy and a renter screening process are in place to prevent this concept from turning into the plot of a slapstick comedy.
The goal is to get a lot of landlubbers shipshape, founder Aaron Hall says. He grew up in Fresno, Calif., where he was always on a boat or a Jet Ski, so he’s tried to keep up the hobby. It’s been harder in some places than others: Back when he lived in Arlington, he sat on a waiting list for a slip at the Columbia Island Marina for three years before giving up on his plan to buy a boat.
Maybe that’s a clue as to why the D.C. area has been remarkably receptive to Boatbound. The company, which launched in San Francisco last summer, planned to wait until 2015 to make a promotional push in this area. Activity on the site convinced Hall it was time to dive right in right now.
“D.C. and Chicago have been duking it out for the top spot after San Francisco,” Hall says.
Boatbound currently has listings for about 70 boats in the D.C. market, ranging from a captained $3,500-a-day catamaran to a $70-a-day kayak. Hall expects inventory to keep growing. The site recently partnered with USA Water Ski, which he hopes will urge its members to get on board. Their powerboats are well suited for water sports, a rare quality in the existing rental market.
“It’s hard to find boats set up the way you want, with the right equipment,” Hall says. “And owners may use them often, but not all of the time.”
He wants to increase access to boats and make it practical for younger people to wakeboard, waterski and generally enjoy being on the water.
To draw attention to their boats on the site, owners have been adding extras, including their presence. Some have been offering to teach renters how to rig lines, fish or wakeboard, says Hall, who believes this trend may help even more people say ahoy to new aquatic experiences.
It’s free to sign up as a renter at boatbound.co, but you must be at least 25 years old and fulfill certain criteria. See the site for details.
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