Marine News from the Great Lakes

5 Alternative Ways to go Boating without Breaking the Bank

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018
By: Zuzana Prochazka

No yacht? No problem. You can still have a blast this summer with alternative boating, which means getting out on the water with only a minimal dent made to your wallet. Here’s just a sample of how you can enjoy the sun, wind, and waves all season long.

Personal Watercraft

When is a PWC not a PWC? When it’s a boat. Personal watercraft have evolved, making the awkward, barebones single-rider water bikes of yesteryear look almost comical by comparison. Take for example Sea-Doo’s GTX 300 Limited that’s the hottest thing on the water. This stable beast is like a Cadillac. With a choice of Rotax engines, a 600-pound carrying capacity (up to three people), and a 16-gallon fuel tank, this is a real cruiser. With a top speed of 65 mph, the intelligent GTX 300 has a breaking system, a progressive acceleration feature, ergonomic seating, and a waterproof stereo.

The stowage compartment in the bow area has enough room for a 5-gallon dry bag, a waterproof and shockproof pocket for car keys or a phone, and an integrated USB charging port. The add-on extras are where the real fun starts. Sea-Doo introduced their LinQ cargo system with snap-on accessories that attach at the aft end. Bring along an optional 4-gallon fuel caddy for a greater range, a 16-quart cooler, or a dry bag that’s perfect for a towel or a change of clothes. Some of these accessories can be stacked (like the bag on top of the external fuel tank) and the cooler can be moved and used as a small table between the split seats for an on-the-water picnic area. There’s even a quick release ski pylon for towing so whether you want to explore farther, pull a wakeboarder, or run to your favorite beach bar for lunch, you can.


Now, if cruising sounds boring, consider a trick riding PWC like Sea-Doo’s TRIXX. This acrobatic machine stood the riding game on-end — literally. Tail-stands, power slides, hops and freestyle tricks are all possible on the 422-pound TRIXX. Younger riders are bound to take notice and you can probably find one under $8,000.


Hobie Mirage Eclipse SUP

Hobie has been shaping the watersports culture for nearly seven decades and the company is no stranger to out-of-the box thinking. With the Eclipse, they really tapped into the standup paddle board (SUP) market. This stair-stepper SUP is an epoxy board with a sharp bow, handlebars, pedals, and a rudder.

The MirageDrive pedal propulsion system that Hobie developed several years ago for their kayaks was modified to allow vertical installation so instead of sitting, you now stand to activate it. The underwater fins let you power along with the strong muscles of the legs so you can go farther, faster, and with much less fatigue than paddling with your arms. The drive snaps into the board below the foam-topped pedals and can be removed — even under way — in case you get the optional paddle and switch to working your upper body. The snap-in aluminum alloy handlebars are height adjustable (36-43 inches to accommodate riders of various sizes) and they provide a leaning post.

There are two sizes of board: One rated for 275 pounds of capacity and the other for 225 pounds. The smaller board is shorter, two inches narrower and five pounds lighter but still quite stable. Rudder control is via two handles. Squeeze right, go right, etc. The faster you step, the wider the arc of the turn so to turn more sharply, pedal just fast enough to have water flowing over the rudder.

For transport, everything is removable. Just unclip the drive and the handlebars, take off the rudder, and store everything flat in a garage or on top of a car. It may take two people to lift the board onto a car roof rack but that will most likely be your biggest challenge of the day. It takes only minutes to master and soon you’ll be stepping your way around the bay — maybe even with your dog aboard.


Now, here’s something for sailors. You don’t need an ocean-going yacht to have fun under sail. Modern daysailers will get the job done without the need for long slips or massive maintenance budgets. For example, if you’re looking for value and performance in an easy-to-manage sailboat, check out the Catalina 275 that was created by designer Gerry Douglas to sail around the buoys or cruise sweetly on relaxing weekend overnights.

This entry-level model includes a hand-laid fiberglass hull, a one-piece resin-infused deck, and an optional trailer so you can tow it to your favorite cruising grounds. The gear is small and easy to manage, so the boat inspires confidence for newbies and old salts alike.

The cockpit dominates the length of the boat and the transom is open for easy boarding from dock, dinghy, or water. The cabin below includes a compact galley with a sink and one-burner butane stove. A removable cooler tucks into a large drawer and an enclosed head has a manual toilet and sink. There are two long berths that double as seats that flank a drop-down table so you can weekend on this boat as well.

For the ultimate kick in the pants, you can’t get much better in a compact package than the prolific Harbor 20. Responsive and steady, it’s the best sailing teacher you’ll ever have and even if you sail one poorly, you’ll still get to where you’re going.

The rig is deceptively simple, with a traditional mainsail from which you can eke out good sail shape and a self-tacking roller-furler jib on a Hoyt boom. With tiller steering and all lines led to the forward bulkhead, there are no winches to tend so it’s all about easy shorthanded sailing although up to four can enjoy sundowners comfortably in the spacious cockpit.

Electric propulsion includes a motor that lifts and swivels out of the transom compartment and tucks away when under sail. It’s hardly needed however, since it only takes about five knots of breeze to get a Harbor 20 moving. That means you’ll be out on the water more often even if just for a quick afternoon respite after work, enjoying the simple joy of sailing as it was meant to be.

For something completely different, try a multihull daysailer with ripping speeds up to 20 knots. The Corsair Sprint 750 MK II trimaran is a slippery 24-footer that weighs just 1,800 pounds and folds so it can be trailered (or stored) anywhere. Expanded and ready for sail, the beam is over 17 feet but folded, the boat is only 8’ 2”.

Tiller steering provides good feedback from the rudder and two Harken winches with four clutches manage most of the lines aboard. Although the Sprint 750 can be sailed singlehanded, it’s really the kind of boat you want to rev up with a couple of friends who like the thrill of speed. And since it will fly a hull, the extra weight of a couple of chums may come in handy.


Whether you want to sail as a boat owner, a member of a club, or even as a helping hand on other people’s boats, there are affordable opportunities all around. Google boating clubs, yacht clubs, and even brokerages in your area and start developing a network in the community.

Fractional ownership defrays costs without the hassle of finding several like-minded friends. Consider the benefits of a club like SailTime. You can join as a member or an owner. Costs vary with the size of boat you want, the length of time you want it, and the location of the base. Benefits include access to new, well-cared-for boats, instruction/training, and access to others who want to enjoy sailing. For powerboaters, Freedom Boat Club is a fast-growing organization that currently offers mostly powerboats under 35 feet but that may be changing soon.

You may be able to join a yacht club without owning a vessel and your kids will have access to junior sailing programs. Meanwhile, you enjoy the benefits of a social club that boats, has parties, and is often involved with community projects. Also, check out yacht club bulletin boards for people looking for crew and you won’t even need to join. Additionally, sailing schools through the American Sailing Association are another way to get on the water for less.


Finally, let’s not forget about what is likely the largest segment of boating — fishing. You can fish from a jetty, bridge, or boat but the biggest trend of the past decade is kayak fishing. Sit-on-top kayaks are inexpensive compared to powered fishing boats and are very stable even for large anglers. They will float in just a few inches so you can get into skinny waters and they can carry up to 500 pounds of fisherman and gear. Kayaks are easy to handle and store, can be transported on a roof rack, and don’t need a boat ramp to launch.

A barebones kayak will do. Just grab your rods, a PFD, and some lunch and off you go. Of course, you can personalize your adventure with specifically designed fishing yaks like the Old Town Predator 13 Angler with a comfort seat, Humminbird transducer scupper, dual tackle and rod holders, and colors including camo that will take you up into rivers and estuaries where you’ll blend in, invisible as a ghost.

Hobie’s 12-foot Mirage Compass offers options like their patented pedal system and even transducer mounts so you can benefit from onboard electronics like Lowrance sonar. The fish won’t stand a chance and you won’t be in debt since both of the models above start under $1,500.

Plenty of Ideas

There are dozens of ways to enjoy the water during the upcoming hot months so just decide what will rock your water world this summer and get started. The sky’s the limit in everything but the expenses.

About The Author:

Zuzana is a freelance writer and photographer with regular contributions to over 18 sailing and power boating publications. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana is the founder of a flotilla charter company called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations around the world.

Zuzana serves as an international presenter on charter destinations, safety issues, and technical topics, and she's the Chair of the New Product Awards committee for innovative boats and new gear. She is a member of the American Society of Authors and Journalists and a board member of Boating Writers International.

This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Canoes & Kayaks, Fractional Boat Ownership, Paddleboards, Personal Watercraft, Sailing, Water Toys

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