Boats and the Gig Economy

The recreational marine industry is a small subset of larger industries.  We are a small part of manufacturing, banking, insurance, and yes the gig economy.  As with most of these industries, the boating industry’s slice of the pie is small, but to those involved it is significant.  Some of us love the progress and convenience that comes along with these new ideas and apps, some are firmly against these new types of business arrangements and many just don’t want it in their marina.

The boat based temporary rental market mirrors land based Airbnb and VRBO markets.  Both continue to pose challenges to governments, frustrate neighbors and provide opportunities and access to many.  As it is on land, some are firmly against renting a boat as a place to sleep while many are reaping the financial rewards of just such usage.  And as it goes on land, there are questions of legality, interpretations of regulations vary depending on which expert you ask, and the relative ease of finding short term rentals online.  The most common interpretation of a legal “boatel” requires the boat to be unable to operate away from the dock, but it takes very little searching to find other opinions.

Short term boat rentals are not just for sleeping and remaining in the slip.  One app,, lets you rent a wide selection of boats for short periods of time, and use them as boats, underway.  This is the closest app that I have found to Uber, Lyft or Turo on the water.  You can even get an insurance policy for the few hours of your rental.

Of course there are “legitimate” short term boat rentals, including Boat and Breakfasts, boat rentals, yacht charters and passenger vessels, available for the less daring or technically sophisticated.  These companies provide instruction, support, varieties of boats and convenience, albeit at a higher price.  All are gateways to enjoying the water onboard and all contribute to the recreational marine economy.

Social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, is also aboard.  I work with boat brokers who are prolific video posters.  There are tonnes (maritime allusion) of boating blogs.  The information available online regarding “how to” do something on a boat is readily available.  Like land based topics, our challenge is to sort through the BS and find the expert advice.  The sorting often takes longer than replacing the water pump’s impeller, once the right video is found.

Next up, following the theme of technological advancement: self-driving boats.