Meet 3 boat owners who make a living by renting out or chartering their vessels to customers stir-crazy from the pandemic — sometimes raking in as much as $200,000 a month

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  • Insider spoke with 3 boat owners who earn money by renting out or chartering their vessels.
  • Some say business grew in the pandemic as people eager to head out saw boats as a safe way to do so.
  • One boat owner told Insider he handles 75 charters a week on average, grossing $200,000 per month.

With summer underway, people are looking to head out on the water in greater numbers.

The pandemic has only sparked even more interest, as people looking for a break from lockdowns turned to boating. Last year, there was a 35% jump in the number of boat purchases made by first-time buyers, according to the industry publication Trade Only Today.

Insider spoke with three boat owners who derive at least part of their income from renting out or chartering these vessels.

Nijole Adler’s boat charter business was set in motion in 2012, when she and her husband, Rimas, bought a 36-foot sailboat for roughly $10,000.

The boat needed significant repairs, but after fixing it up to make it operational, the Chicago couple chartered it part-time while Nijole held her job in hospitality and Rimas worked as a mechanic.

“This really developed without us thinking about it,” Nijole told Insider. “We just started sailing and inviting friends. Then they started inviting their friends and asking us if we could take them out maybe for a birthday or if they had guests in town. They started offering us money, and they started asking us to go out on their time. Then we decided to make a charge.”

Five years ago, the Adlers decided to take the business full-time during sailing seasons.

In the off-seasons, Nijole and Rimas still work their hospitality and mechanic jobs.

They list their services on the online boat rental marketplace GetMyBoat, doing charter trips about 10 times per week on average. Their typical yearly costs include $1,600 for insurance and around $2,500 for maintenance. They also shell out $3,000 per season to moor their boat in the marina and $2,500 in the winter for storage. Other expenses include fees for their website, advertisements, and necessary licenses, among other things.

Because they’re present on every charter trip, they don’t sail on their own as much as they did before.

“In the season, we sail so much with charters that we don’t go out just us,” she said. “After sailing eight hours per day, we don’t just go out for a couple more hours.”

In 2020, the Adlers made the most they have ever made by chartering their boat.

They owe part of this success to an uptick in business from people feeling stir-crazy because of the pandemic.

“People were getting cabin fever; there was no place to go, nowhere to travel, and everybody wanted to go somewhere, so they just came locally to sail with us,” she said. “Instead of going to the Caribbean, they came to Lake Michigan,” she joked.

In Miami, boat captain Marcel Perdomo earns his living by doing bareboat charters, where no crew or provisions are included.

He owns two boats and brokers rentals for 34 other vessels owned by other captains.

Perdomo got his start in the business around four years ago, when he bought a used jet boat for $7,000.

He listed it for rentals on Craigslist and made around $650 a week offering up the boat for use.

“All of a sudden, people started calling; every weekend, people called, and then it was easy money,” Perdomo said. “I was doing everything on my own. I didn’t know anybody in the business.”

Some time later, Perdomo stumbled across GetMyBoat and moved his listings there. He sold the jet boat and bought a new vessel to list on the platform.

As business took off, Perdomo quit his job selling traffic safety equipment in late 2019 to focus on the charters full-time.

He had been making $70,000 a year in that role before leaving.

“It was pretty scary,” he said. “It was a big risk.”

When the pandemic struck a few months later, his usually steady list of bookings disappeared.

“The business went down to zero,” he said. “All the reservations were getting cancelled.”

It wasn’t long, though, before reservations started coming in again.

Perdomo chalks this up to restlessness from being stuck at home due to COVID-19.

“Residents were tired of isolation,” he said. “They couldn’t go to parks, they couldn’t go to beaches. So they started Googling boat rentals.”

Florida’s sometimes-lax approach to handling COVID-19 was another key factor in getting business booming again.

“Having very few restrictions on COVID was the biggest thing,” Perdomo said.

Even so, he says boats provided a way to have fun outdoors while safely keeping distance from other people.

“Boats can’t be that close to each other,” he said. “So it was a natural way of being apart.”

Requests multiplied quickly, which prompted Perdomo to start brokering charters for other boat captains.

Today, he handles roughly 300 charters each month, raking in between $50,000 and $60,000 in gross sales per week. The vessels range in size from 21 to 92 feet, with the cheapest yacht going for about $120 an hour and the priciest running a tab of $1,200 per hour.

The two Yamaha jet boats Perdomo owns generate roughly $30,000 combined each month.

For each of the two boats, monthly costs include $1,500 for fuel, $6,000 for captains’ salaries, $800 for marina slips, and $1,500 for maintenance. Insurance for his two boats runs him about $4,000 per year.

Perdomo estimates he’ll gross around $2 million from charters this year. Business from GetMyBoat makes up roughly 70% of his income today, supplemented by bookings on his website and word-of-mouth referrals.

As Perdomo’s operation grew, so too did his staff.

He now employs a handful of people in the Philippines who handle his web traffic, contracts, cancellations, and customer service. He also has a couple of salespeople working with him locally in Miami.

“It’s big business right now,” he said. “Going out boating is sort of like a lifestyle. When you go to Las Vegas, you go to a casino. A lot of tourists come here knowing that they’re going to get on a boat.”

In the UK, Poole resident Adam Dolman makes money renting out his 20-foot yacht named Skate, although he primarily works as a teacher.

Dolman and his wife bought the boat for around £8,500 (about $11,800) three years ago and have been renting it ever since.

“A lot of the yachting has gone luxury, but there’s still a lot of people who still just want to go sailing; they don’t want it to cost a fortune, and they want to enjoy it,” Dolman said. “We thought to ourselves, ‘There has to be a market for that.'”

Since mid-April, the couple has rented out the boat roughly five or six times per month, charging $175 per day.

They mainly advertise rentals on the online marketplace Borrow A Boat. Costs related to their yacht run the Dolmans about $3,500 per year. Last year, they broke even after business took a hit during the pandemic.

Before buying this yacht, Dolman owned a boat for the better part of two decades.

This, combined with his background as a yacht skipper and a stint as a sailing instructor, means it is particularly meaningful for him to see clients find the same happiness in sailing that he has long felt.

“It’s actually quite enjoyable to be able to set that up,” Dolman said, noting that he loves interacting with clients and helping them see “a different side to things” out on the water.

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