The ‘Airbnb of the sea?’ Boatbound is poised to make waves in the Pacific Northwest

A Seattle marina full of boats begging to get more use

A Seattle marina full of boats begging to get more use

On any given day in the Northwest, even one of those beautiful summer days, there are thousands of perfectly nice boats tied up to the dock. While at the same time, there are thousands of people who would love nothing more than to be out boating.

What if there were a way to get those boatless folks out on the water while helping put some dollars in the pockets of boat owners?

That was the simple concept behind Boatbound, a San Francisco-based company that is fast-becoming known as the “Airbnb of the sea.” Just like the popular company that allows homeowners to rent their place to guests, Boatbound is making it possible for private boat owners to safely charter their vessels to qualified and prescreened guests.

If you know someone eager to get out on the water, or if you are a boat owner looking for an easy way to offset some of the costs of boat ownership, Boatbound is worth a closer look.

The company launched two years ago and is now making a big push in the Pacific Northwest. The site features a wide variety of local boats for charter (bareboat or captained), ranging from small and mid-sized power and sailboats all the way up to 72-foot motor yachts.

Looking for a Jeanneau 37? A North Pacific 43-foot trawler? A 26-foot Nordic Tug? A Macgregor 26x? These are just sample of the boats listed on Boatbound right now in the Seattle area.

Like companies such as Uber and Airbnb that are using technology to spur the “sharing economy,” Boatbound aims to make the experience of finding and chartering a boat simple, reliable and enjoyable.

We introduced readers to this concept a year ago and recently caught up with a boat owner to see how it has been going for him.

Jay Nelson's Cobalt 262

Jay Nelson’s Cobalt 262

For Jay Nelson, the hardest part of listing his 26-foot Cobalt powerboat was just getting his head around the idea. “I was very skeptical,” he said. “I had never done a bareboat where someone took my boat.”

But after checking out Boatbound and talking it through with his wife, Nelson decided to give it a go. He was impressed with the up to $3 million in insurance the company provides to protect boat owners. But even more so, he liked the idea that he could decide whether a potential renter was right for his boat.

“You don’t have to charter to anyone,” he said. “It is entirely in your hands.”

So far, Nelson has mostly chartered the boat to families and professionals from the tech community in the Seattle area. And his boat — which is designed for use in nice weather — will be for rent again this boating season.

“I’ve had nothing but good people and wanted to do it again,” he said.

One of the keys to making both renters and owner comfortable is that each can provide reviews of the other. That helps make sure that those who take the boats out will treat them well, and for renters to know what kind of experience they can expect.

Boatbound offers half-day, full-day and weekly options for renting boats, and the owner can choose when to make the boat available.

So how much does a boat rent for? That depends on a lot of factors, but a rule of thumb is between $10 and $17 dollar per foot per day.

For Nelson, a longtime Northwest boater, Boatbound was a way for him to stretch his boating dollars while his daughters finished college. Now that they have their degrees, he has his eyes on getting back into a larger cabin cruiser.

“I’m like a lot of guys, I love boating and want to hang on to it but not eat the expense,” he said. “This is a great way to do it all.”

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