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BoatSetter launches at Miami International Boat Show

With a group of marine executives at the helm, the first Miami-based peer-to-peer boat rental service announced Thursday it is hitting the water this week.

Sturner at wheel_high resBoatSetter.com, which connects boat owners with consumers who want to enjoy a day on the water, said it is the first rental marketplace that offers a robust network of captains to would-be renters. BoatSetter is rolling out the service first in South Florida and plans to launch in other areas of the country in late spring and summer as their boating seasons get underway, said  Andrew Sturner (pictured), president and CEO of  Collaborative Boating, BoatSetter’s parent company. He introduced the company at the Miami International Boat Show on Thursday; the website will be unveiled during a launch party on a yacht Saturday night.

To be sure, the new boat-sharing industry is attracting attention. Nationwide, there are more than a dozen companies that have launched such services, including Boatbound and Cruzin, which launched services in South Florida last year. It’s all part of “the sharing economy” that surged after the depths of the most recent recession: A slew of technology companies connect owners of underused assets, like extra rooms, household items, cars and bikes, with others willing to pay to use them.

Like many of the other players in the peer-to-peer boat rental industry, boat owners fill out a profile and list their boat for rent, including pictures and details on features and amenities.  Once would-be boaters find what they are looking for, the system handles the transaction from start to finish. Included in the cost of the rental is insurance -- $1 million in primary liability protection and up to $2 million in hull coverage -- on-water support and BoatSetter's 20 percent commission. A couple of the boat rentals listed on BoatSetter.com include a 25-foot Hurricane for $350 for a half day (4 hour rental) and $500 for a full day and a 32-foot Intrepid for $550/$850.

But central to the collaborative consumption model is trust, and BoatSetter’s business model tackles this by offering the ability for renters to hire licensed captains, said Sturner, founder of Aqua Marine Partners, which owns six marinas from South Florida to New York. “You make the boat owner very, very comfortable allowing someone else to drive their boat because there is a captain on board.”

The availability of captains -- which will be an optional service -- opens up the service to almost any tourist, a huge market. Sturner said the captains set their own rates, but on average it will cost a couple hundred dollars a day to have a captain, in addition to the boat rental. Nearly 1,000 captains have already signed up on BoatSetter's portal, captainswanted.com, he said.

“You are exposing  boating to a much larger, broader audience. Now anyone who wants to go out and enjoy a day on the water can –- regardless of their experience boating,”  said Sturner, who has also invested in and headed up other technology businesses. “We’re democratizing the yacht charter business. We are allowing any boat to be chartered and not just a very, very expensive boat.”

BoatSetter also is setting up a network of marinas nationwide working to help promote and deliver the service, including offering optional concierge services to check in and check out renters for the owners.  The company currently has more than 100 marinas in the program with more signing up daily. In the South Florida pilot program, there are 13 marinas participating, Sturner said. "We want to make it a turnkey experience for the owner and renter."