At times it's better to rent than to buy, as I was reminded recently on a Lake Chelan vacation marred by our leaky boat. But the "shared economy" saved us.
Our long-anticipated Chelan trip marked my wife's and my 40th wedding anniversary. After we enjoyed a few days alone at Kelly's Resort, our kids and grandkids joined us for fun family time. Plans included playing in Kelly's pool, browsing around Chelan's quaint downtown, and boating on the lake.
I had spent much of August prepping our boat, which had been parked for four years. Though nearly 30 years old, our 1988 Bayliner Capri has just 120 total hours of use. I tuned it up, replaced the impeller assembly, installed a new bilge pump, changed the oil and three filters, and did other minor repairs that generally made everything shipshape. Altogether I spent $330, which included relicensing the boat and trailer and adding insurance. Not bad, as boats go.
A half-hour test run on Lake Sammamish confirmed the boat ran flawlessly, and the next day we drove to Chelan for our great escape, with the boat in tow.
We launched it at the state park and started the motor. But while doing my routine inspection before leaving the dock, I spotted water trickling down the inside of the stern from a metal plate connected to the outdrive.
Long story short, after texting photos of the problem to RJ's Marine in Chelan, I learned it could simply be a broken water-pump hose. Or it could be a riskier problem, like a broken bellows that could degrade into a large leak. Either way, fixing it required pulling the outdrive – a costly and prolonged repair that's beyond my means.
Disheartened, I pulled the boat out of the lake and drove it to Kelly's, where I parked it for the week.
Resort owner Jeff Kelly had a solution: rent a boat from a colleague who charges by the hour, and only for the time the motor is running, plus gas.
We ended up renting a 20-foot Sea Ray from Kelly's colleague. We moored it for two days, including overnight, and used it only when it fit our schedule – in the morning, in the early evening when fishing was best, and not during midday when the grandkids took naps. Altogether, about five hours.
The shared-economy business model worked great in our case. Boats are a costly asset, and since the Sea Ray was unused part of the time, its owner benefited by sharing his ownership costs with me, the renter.
And I salvaged our family time on the water for what I think is a very reasonable cost.
In hindsight, I could have chosen this route 30 years ago had I known what I know now. We bought our Bayliner new in 1988, for $9,800. (That's $20,159 in 2017 dollars.) Over the years I've paid for maintenance, repairs, licensing, a carport to protect the boat, and more. We used our boat several times the first few years, and after that primarily just for one week each July at Chelan. That's why it has only 120 hours of use.
If I'd rented during that time instead of owned, I would have paid $7,200 (at $60/hour), plus gas.
Boaters in Seattle and elsewhere are
taking advantage of boat sharing, as shown in this 2016 KING-5 news story on Seattle-based Boatbound.
"Every boat owner knows that their boat sits unused almost 95 percent of the year," said Boatbound's founder. "So being able to monetize it, like they do a vacation home, is important."
Yes, I know how much my boat goes unused. I think it's time to sell it.