All you need to know before renting a boat

Posted Jun 24 2021 in Boating tips

Renting a boat is the ultimate way to go on a sailing adventure when you don’t own a private vessel. Indeed, even if buying a boat is not on your to-do list at all, that does not mean you have to stay anchored to the shore for eternity. If a journey on the water sounds like your type of experience, then it’s about time you book the boat of your dreams.

There are a few things you need to be aware of prior to renting a boat though. No matter if you have boating experience or not, it’s better to be prepared for any onboard situation. 

Check out the ultimate sail.me guide to renting a boat:

Things you need to know when renting a boat...

Advance planning

For a higher chance to book the perfect boat, start planning your trip as far ahead of time as possible. Note that the best offers and the most amazing boats and yachts are often booked weeks and even months in advance. Especially when you are visiting a seasonal location or resort. 

Boat availability is limited and hard to predict. Therefore advanced vacation planning surely helps to secure your favorite craft for the dates of your trips. Even if the last-minute rental strategy worked for you, note that these types of bookings tend to be severely overpriced. On the other hand, an early reservation will save you a lot of time, money, and headache.

Early arrival

Arrive early on the day of your boating trip. That way you get to start your journey on time, instead of dealing with the required paperwork and safety instructions after your reservation time. Early arrival will guarantee you use all the boating time you paid for on the water, not in the marina. The best time to be by the boat is considered 30 - 45 minutes prior to departure.

Inspect the boat 

When you are sailing off without a captain or crew on board, your first priority must be inspecting the boat. Officially, it’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the watercraft, however, a double check on your side is always a good precaution. 

Never head to open waters until you confirm the vessel is in excellent condition. In the case of something not looking right or working properly, bring the issue up with the boat management. If you are in a group of inexperienced sailors and find it hard to identify weak spots, better consider getting a captain on board.

Aesthetic issues, damaged surfaces, and amenities problems should also be discussed and brought up to the owner or agency before you head on your journey. Ask them to evaluate and write down the boat’s rent-out condition. Doing that will assure you won’t get unfairly charged damage fee afterward.

Be weather cautious

sailme safety while travel on a rented boat
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and always have an emergency plan

When you book a boat in advance, it’s hard to predict weather conditions ahead of time. To avoid unfortunate situations, follow the weather forecast and be prepared for any sudden climate changes.

The biggest thing you got to be weather cautious about is whether waters are safe for sailing. Another reason to stay tuned on the forecast is to decide what to wear onboard. In any case - bring a jacket and a layer of clothing if it gets cold.

Set up an emergency plan

Being prepared for emergencies is super important when it comes to sailing. Accidents happen, weather changes, technical difficulties occur. There is never a 100% safety guarantee everything will go smoothly when you are on a boat. A  well-structured plan for any unfortunate events on the water is literally a lifesaver. 

A properly structured plan includes:

  • Have contact info of the marina
  • Have contact info of the boat owner/agency
  • Know the hours you intend to spend on the boat
  • Get a waterproof device that allows you to tell time and send out an SOS signal
  • Let someone know the agenda of your trip and have a way to contact them in case of a change of plans

A huge reason to update someone on the land about your plan is to ensure someone is waiting for your return. That someone back on the shore should always know your boating schedule, so in case of mishappenings and losing contact - they can send out a rescue team your way. 

Read the documents you are signing

In most cases, you get to sign a waiver with the boating organization. Whenever you are required to sign papers, stay cautious about the terms you are agreeing to. Ensure to read the whole document before putting your signature on it. 

Waivers are regularly standard and include an inventory list, craft condition evaluation, as well as boat and passenger liability. You are required to sign it so that the owner or boating agency can be sure you won’t damage their property and will follow safety and onboard rules.

Boating license and requirements

Staying compliant with local regulations and boating requirements is utterly vital. Every state and country enforce their own restrictions in regards to age and licensing. 

Following the rules will save you some trouble. Fines are not something you want to deal with on your days off. Therefore before you book a boat, do online research and make sure you are not breaking any laws. 

Consider hiring a captain

rent-a-boat captain sailme
Consider hiring a captain using the “Crew” filter on Sailme

Renting a boat with a captain is a great idea if you want to enjoy a boating life without the responsibility of operating the boat. After all, if you are new to the sailing experience, you probably have some doubts about whether you are skilled enough to run a boat by yourself. In that case, hiring a captain (as an add-on service or independent operator) is a viable solution that will save you the trouble.

Consider Insurance

Signing a waiver when you rent a boat makes you accountable for any boat damage or guest injury that happens on your watch. With that in mind, you should consider getting insurance. You can pay for temporary coverage for the time you intend to spend on your boat rental. 

Rent-a-boat budget

Set a budget and stick to it. Try to include any possible extra costs into your calculation before renting a boat. An essential part of rental budgeting is to know the market costs and have an overview of the average pricing for each type of boat and its add-on services and features.

Rental costs

Knowing the total rental cost for the boating experience will most definitely help you strategize your budgeting. The overall prices for boat rentals depend on the location, rental period, dates of reservation, availability, and of course - the size, condition, and type of vessel you want to book. 

If you want to charter a boat, the price definitely goes up. Charter yachts are usually neat and luxurious and come with a captain and crew on board, so of course, they cost more than a regular boat rental.

Be ready to leave a deposit

A common practice in the boat rental field is for companies to request cash deposit payments before you take the boat offshore. If there is no deposit info on the listing or booking confirmation, check with the owner or agency prior to arrival. 

Don’t forget to prepare the full amount in advance. And of course, after the trip is over and you safely return the boat to the marina without any damage, you will get your deposit funds back. 

Saving money on boat rental

Are you looking for ways to have an amazing boating experience and save some money on boat rental, along the way? 

Then our next few tips and tricks might help: 

  • Use the sail.me platform to browse and compare vessel features and booking rates
  • Avoid renting a boat on weekends and public holidays, prices are higher
  • Renting a craft for a whole day is usually cheaper than renting for a few hours
  • Book a boat for more than a day and you might get a huge discount
  • Split the boat rental bill with the other passengers

Packing essentials

sailme boat rental guide
Packing the essentials is very important for a pleasant boat trip.

No matter if it’s your first time on a boat or you have some sailing experience, packing properly is super important. Not only the weather could change in an instant, but also it’s super easy to forget a fundamental boating item.

To make the boat trip packing task easier, sail.me prepared a detailed list of the packing essentials:

  • Warm clothes
  • Cover-ups
  • Bathing suit
  • Towels
  • Blankets
  • Bathroom essentials
  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • Snacks & food
  • Cooler

Pack wisely and avoid overpacking. Depending on what type of on-the-water activity you go after, you might need to bring additional gear. Feel free to bring your personal equipment and supplies for fishing, water sports, snorkeling, or scuba diving, if it’s not already provided by the boating company.

When it comes to safety essentials, it’s always good to have a waterproof device or smartwatch on you. Bringing a GPS tracker, warmers and emergency kit is also not a bad idea.

Check-in tips

Want to make the check-in as smooth as possible? Start by reading all the details in the boat listing and booking confirmation. By doing that, you get to know exactly what is expected from you as a boat guest. 

Arriving prepared for the boat pick-up saves you time. It also allows you to adjust to the routine check-in procedures easily. 

All vital information, deposit amount, restrictions, documents, and waivers for signage are usually stated in the confirmation letter. As well as the on-board gear available to the passengers. 

Get your boat booking info printed out and stored on your mobile devices in offline mode. That way you can react fast and always have your confirmation with you, no matter if your phone is off or data service is not available.

Have fun on your boat rental adventure!

Last but not least - have fun! Renting a boat is a great opportunity to spend quality time by yourself or with family and friends, away from the troubles of everyday life. So whether you go for an adventurous holiday on the water or a relaxing getaway trip - one thing is for sure, boating experiences create unforgettable memories.

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