In Sarasota without a boat, no worries

Variety of boat charter, membership or rental options discussed

Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota
Marina Jack - The harbor pier companies offer plenty of charter, membership or rental opportunities.

When you live near the water as we do in Sarasota you may love boating and fishing, or fishing and boating. Either way it’s recreational boating at its best on the bay, intracoastal and Gulf of Mexico. You may own your own boat or you may decide to captain a boat through other means. Renting, timeshare or charter services are plentiful in the area but are typically restricted from dusk-to-dawn boating. You have many options.

An average boat rental may start with a 17-foot center console for a few hours to a full-day or multi-day program on a 24-foot deck boat. The maximum number of guests range with the size too, from four to 12. Cannons Marina on Longboat Key has a good selection of pleasure or fishing boats. Near Siesta Key, check out Siesta Key Marina at 1265 Old Stickney Point Rd. Nearby is CB’s Saltwater Outfitters. Bradenton Boat Rental near Whitfield Estates has a selection of boats for rental by the day.

Looking for a pontoon boat to accommodate more guests? You have a number of choices such as Sarasota Boat Rentals has two locations for pontoon rentals in the Marina Jack harbor and another at south Siesta Key, 8865 Midnight Pass Road. Pontoons are also available for rent at H2O Watersports just south of the Seafood Shack in Cortez.

Personal Watercraft (PWC) are available at some of the same locations as above, including H2O Watersports and Siesta Key Jet Ski at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters. Cortez Watersports, also near the Seafood Shack also has a good number of jet skis for rent. Island Jet Ski in Englewood and Osprey rent jet skis and pontoon boats.

The boat rental companies want experienced boaters and each has their own set of rules. Compliance with Florida law is a requirement of all rental companies, the first of which states that persons born on or after January 1, 1988 (21 this year), are required to complete a NASBLA-approved boater education course prior to operating a vessel powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or more. The regulations and a list of exemptions can be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Online courses qualify for licensing. Most of the local rental companies will ensure the boat is properly equipped with the correct number of life jackets and safety equipment.

Personal Watercraft are restricted to those over 14 years of age and no one under the age of 21 may rent a PWC. In most cases the rentals of boats are restricted to those over the age 21. You may also need to demonstrate that you have the skills in boat operation and safety if you are over the age of 21.

Captains are available upon advanced request, typically at $25 per hour plus tips and a four-hour minimum. Tax and fuel usage are additional charges. There are varying degrees of cancellation fees, be sure to ask. They may also cancel your trip if there is a small craft advisory associated with stormy weather or high winds.

Enjoy your day on the water with a charter

The Flying Fish Fleet in Sarasota
The Flying Fish Fleet in Sarasota by Marina Jack is one of a few companies that has a variety of charters.

Another option to enjoyable boating is to charter a boat with a number of options in Sarasota. Fishing charters are a wonderful way to get where the fish are. Knowledgeable captains give great advise on proper techniques and will know the legal restrictions for fishing Florida waters. They can get you set up with the right licenses whether you are fishing shoreline, in freshwater or saltwater. Florida residents can get a free shoreline fishing license. Discounted freshwater or saltwater licenses are available to Florida residents. Free licenses are also distributed to seniors over 65 years of age.

Charters are a great way to get on the water with sailboats as well since they require a little more knowledge and skills than power boats. There are a number of sailing companies that offer a day on the water with the breeze as your power. Sarasota Sail & Power Boat, Flying Fish Fleet, Key Sailing, Latitude Sailing and Captain Jacks offer a sailing experience. Kathleen D. Sailing in the Marina Jack harbor and Connelly Yacht Charters in Whitfield Estates have a number of large catamarans.

A dinner cruise is a form of charter, it just may not be exclusive to your small group. But large groups such as weddings are exclusive to you aboard the Marina Jack II. Their captains are certified notaries so a wedding on the water is official. The 96-foot cruise boat is a great way for a sunset dinner on the water. LeBarge Tropical Cruises in the Marina Jack Plaza are more casual with sightseeing tours and tropical sunset cruises. It has a full bar, light food menu and is an ideal location to watch the 4th of July Fireworks or Sarasota Christmas Boat Parade. LeBarge is also available for private charters. As with all charters, a personal recommendation may a go a long way and Yelp.com is useful for suggestions. Then just sit back and enjoy yourself.

Maintenance-free boat memberships, like timeshares on the water

Freedom Boat Club
Freedom Boat Club - Membership in one the local clubs is a maintenance-free way to be on the water.

There are two organizations that have good locations in the Sarasota area, that once registered with the club you only pay a low monthly fee and fuel that you use. The Freedom Boat Club has franchise throughout the United States and the Waves Boat and Social Club has five locations from Englewood to Cortez.

The number of locations for the Freedom Boat Club is unique, most of the good waterfront cities in over 175 cities of the United States and Canada will have a franchise open to its members. Beyond that, they have locations in places you may not expect such as Navajo Lake State Park in New Mexico or Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

There are different levels of memberships at Freedom to fit your needs. Seasonal memberships in the southern states, family and single memberships are offered. Pay attention, they often run specials so that you can save on memberships. Once enrolled, your monthly fee covers maintenance of the boats, insurance and staff. All you pay for is fuel that you use. There may be restrictions if you join in Michigan but want all of the extended offerings in Florida.

Reservations are recommended and made online, so you may not have access to a favorite deck boat on a busy day without a reservation. The same system is used whether booking in Sarasota or at a location in Ohio on Lake Erie. The club is also increasing its fleet of sailboats at each location. Once you sit through a three-hour indoctrination on boating safety after joining, sailboat captains also attend a skills demonstration on the water.

The Waves Boat and Social Club has been around for over 22 years with its five locations in the Sarasota area. Deck, pontoon, fishing and even kayaks are in their fleet of boats at each location. Very similar to the Freedom Boat Club with its membership fee, followed by seasonal and full-time monthly fees of $189 to $289, this club may be right for you if you limit yourself to the western intracoastal, west shores of the Gulf and Sarasota Bay.

Throughout the week different days are staggered at each location as a day off for employees. For instance, the Boatyard Villages location on Stickney Point Road are closed on Tuesdays. On Mondays the location by the Seafood Shack in Cortez is closed but you can call the office and arrange for a boat. The Fisherman’s Wharf is closed on Thursdays, Phillippi Harbor Club is closed on Wednesdays and Stump Pass Marina in Englewood is closed on Thursdays. During the peak season months all locations may be open seven days a week, dusk to dawn.

Waves has its social club aspect as well. Members are invited to the beach parties, tours and sunset cruises. The concierge may also point out the best restaurants to enjoy special occasions along the waterways. And if you like the area well enough to join the club, think of home ownership as well. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.