At the Helm: Taking action to grow boating

For years, the boating industry has been talking about the need to reach new audiences beyond the core customers of white male baby boomers.

The good news is that now there is finally some action to go beyond the talk. Some recent moves that caught my eye illustrate that trend.

A new task force focused on improving diversity is taking its first steps toward actually addressing this issue. With some of our industry’s most vocal advocates leading the way in Wanda Kenton Smith and Lou Sandoval, I’ve got no doubt they’re going to make real progress on diversity. You can read more about their efforts by clicking here.

Lack of ethnic diversity is only part of the problem, though. As we’ve covered frequently in these pages, the age of the average boater is increasing at an alarming rate. For myriad reasons, younger folks are not buying into the boating lifestyle, but one of the biggest problems is affordability. We can argue about whether that’s perception or reality, but in the end all that matters is people think they can’t afford to boat.

The biggest player in the marine market is attacking that problem head on. Brunswick Corp., owner of some of the top brands in the industry, recently announced a partnership with Boatbound, a peer-to-peer rental service. (We’ll have more on this in the June issue and at

The idea behind Boatbound is simple: Most boats sit unused most of the year, so why not rent them out to other users? The Boatbound service allows both dealers and boat owners to list their boats for rent. Renters are pre-screened and qualified by Boatbound. Boatbound provides insurance, towing protection and other protections as part of the package.

Brunswick CEO Dusty McCoy said that the deal will not only attract more people to boating, it will help make it more affordable for those who already own boats by creating a new source of income.

“The long-term health of our industry requires us to make boating even more accessible and affordable, especially among younger, aspiring boaters,” he said in announcing the partnership.

I’ll be the first to admit I see some potential problems with peer-to-peer rental services like Boatbound, and I’m not sure I’d want to make my boat available as part of the service. That said, to see one of the biggest names in our industry embrace creative ways to get more people on the water is a great sign.

Will it work? Who knows, but what we do know is that refusing to change isn’t going to get us anywhere.



  1. Great article Jonathan. I agree with you that the peer to peer industry is solving some problems, but like you say I wouldn’t rent out my boat either. If I could charter on the weekends to off-set my expenses now that would be ideal, but as BoatBound operates now you need a Captains licence.

    My friends and I started a meetup group for the above “charter” purpose and the turnout has been amazing. Nearly 80+ members in 1 month and over 20 events. I am having fun and meeting new people who pay me for it. We already have members buying boats and using our group with their boat to meet people and get paid.

    I want to give this opportunity to all boat owners which is why we have partnered with a similar operation to BoatBound called JustBoat. JustBoat is a Ride-Share- Community.

    Why Ride-Sharing Works:

    Thanks to technology, younger generations are now used to ON DEMAND, which is why peer-to-peer businesses are taking off like Uber, Airbnb, and Boatbound. They do not feel the need to live the old American Dream of ownership. Whether it is a house, car, or boat, they prefer to pay only when they use it and always want it at their disposal. If they see the purchase as a business opportunity then we can help grow the sport.

  2. Great article the leadership of the boating summit are working to improve our industry, we need to help them succeed!
    Jeff Erdmann
    Florida Yacht Brokers Association – FYBA

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