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How to Enjoy Boating in Ontario Without Owning a Boat

What exactly is our fascination with water? Is it because we spent nine gestational months in fluid? Or is it because water is so alluring and mysterious? Whatever one’s fascination, water activities rank among the most popular recreational activities, be it boating, cruising, water-skiing, white-water rafting, swimming with dolphins, snorkelling on a tropical reef, or fishing with a loved one. 

In this beautiful province of Ontario, with its countless lakes and rivers, we have the best opportunity to enjoy the exhilaration of boating (given that you have your sea legs and won’t get seasick). A Google search will show over 91 boating clubs/associations in Ontario, with over 27 just in Toronto. 

Here are three easy ways to get started enjoying the open waters in Ontario, even if you don’t own a boat. 

Join a Boating Club and Rent a Boat

Most clubs are membership-based, with flexible options relating to the type of craft you want to rent. Instructions are offered on how to become proficient in the management, control, and handling of a boat. Some clubs offer memberships that extend to different locations nationally and internationally, making it easy to enjoy boating in many countries. You will learn how to apply for a boating licence, work on your navigational skills, and even purchase your own boat if you ever decide to buy. Many clubs are not-for-profit and offer reasonable rates and a host of activities on location or in surrounding areas, guaranteeing value and fun. 

Hire a Skipper 

Many boating clubs have options where you can hire a fully staffed vessel, relieving you of all operational responsibility. Be it a yacht for a family outing or company retreat, hiring a skipper allows you to focus on the business of having maximum fun. If you are an experienced boatswain, you can also apply for a “bareboat charter” that allows you to operate the vessel yourself. Transport Canada requires all motorized, recreational watercraft operators to complete an accredited three-hour course and an online exam to show proof of competency. 

Fractional Boating 

Timeshare may not be the most popular option for resort ownership. Still, pooling resources to invest in the ownership and maintenance of a boat is growing in popularity in Ontario — the same as fractional real estate. You are eligible to use the same boat during specified periods of the season, allowing you more boat time and familiarization with the boat’s operation. Though not the same as renting a Zip car or using Uber, it is a viable option if you don’t want to spend the big bucks yourself, especially on a seasonal sport. 

As we acclimatize to the pandemic, economists cite the availability of disposable income as a key benefit. As Ontarians begin to emerge from endless quarantines and restrictions, they are exploring new jobs and recreational experiences. Aided by government mandates and vaccine passports, they are looking for better work-life choices, and boating will become even more popular. 

Janet Bennett-Cox | Contributing Writer

Spring 2024

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