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Boat-Sharing Company Wants Locals To Avoid Bills, Headaches

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- South Florida is the boating capital of the world.  Yet ask anyone who has ever owned a boat and they'll tell you it doesn't come cheap and if you want to rent one, usually your options are extremely limited.

A new solution is coming about - boat sharing. It's all the benefits of renting or owning a boat without all the hassle.

They say the happiest day of boat owners life is the day they buy a boat and the day they sell it.  Boat owner Gary Jefferies may be the exception to the phrase.

"I'm ecstatic. That's a question for my wife. Is she happy? She loves it," he said.

A year ago, overwhelmed by storage fees, insurance cost, and maintenance, he was faced with selling his cabin cruiser.

"It makes it really hard for a working guy to maintain a boat," Jefferies admits.  Then he found something called Boatsetter.

"It's paying for itself.  I have a great boat.  Don't have to pay for anything," said Jefferies.

Who's paying for it? Renters.  People like you and me who want to go boating for a day but don't want boat payments and boat headaches.

Jaquelin Baumgarten is the CEO & Co-founder of Boatsetter.

"You can think of Boatsetter as the Airbnb of the sea or Uber for boats,"  Baumgarten said.

She says she came up with the concept in 2012. The slick online site/app connects renters, boat owners, and captains.

Boatsetter can be considered a place where you can find a nice boat and a qualified captain and book it at bargain prices.

Baumgarten explains, "I think there is a natural desire to get out on of the water. And what we do is make boating more affordable and accessible."

The startup is not in Silicon Valley - rather it operates out of an Aventura marina.  The walls are lined with projects and plans. Day and night web geeks, design gurus and dreamers pour over computers building what could be the future of boating. This May marks one year since they launched.  A year in, CBS4's David Sutta asked how it is going.

Baumgarten smiled and said, "Phenomenal. We are seeing huge growth quarter over quarter and the demand is so high that we are in need of more boats, and we need more boat owners to list their boats on the site."

Online you can find everything from 20-foot fishing boats to 100+ foot super yachts.  They attribute much of their success to boats that are un-affordable to the average person.  They point to a high-end boat docked in the marina.  It would cost you $400,000 to buy it.  They quickly point out you could rent it for an afternoon for $1200.

"My math isn't great but I think I'll take the $1200," Alex Warner joked.

Warner, who operates two boat clubs including Gulfstream Boat Club, was one of the first to enroll his boats in the site. He said profits have increased 20% for him.

"This is the next evolution of boating.  I think it gives everybody the opportunity to get out on the water, regardless of your boating experience."  said Warner.

When you rent on the site, owners have the choice of renting the boat or renting the boat with a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain.  It's piece of mind for owners like Gary that his boat is in good hands.

"It took all the worry away from me," Jeffries said.

But what happens should something go wrong on the water?

"Is Boatsetter legal," asked Sutta.

"Absolutely. That's one thing that we take a lot of pride in," Baumgarten said.

Boatsetter managed to create something called peer-to-peer insurance. According to them, should something go wrong, you are covered.

Baumgarten explains, "Our insurance protects the boat, the boat owner, the captain and the renter during every Boatsetter excursion."

As the taxi industry took issue with ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft, the marine industry has been somewhat resistant to Boatsetter. Most of it has to do with money, such as marinas want a commission on rentals and boat clubs don't like the competition. Still, as this startup navigates the waters, there appears to be a lot of promise.

"We are gateway to the boating lifestyle and experience. You can take a beautiful boat like this - A 34-foot formula and split it with your friends.  It's $60 per day per person. Where can you have that kind of experience on a quality boat like this, other than Boatsetter," Baumgarten said.

This boat may just float.

"Not often do you get to own a boat and have the expenses paid for. Boatsetter provided that for me," Jeffries said.

Legally, this is all new.  Miami-Dade County is intrigued though.  The county said they are considering allowing Boatsetter to use a county marina for a pilot program.  Right now, it's only in the discussion phase but could become a reality later this year. This summer Boatsetter plans to launch in New England and Chicago. Next year, the plan is to hit the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

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