(BPT) - Many Americans felt the effects of a long winter but now it’s finally time to start planning for summer fun. So what can you do to make the most of the summer months? Flipping through a celebrity magazine, it's easy to spot stars on exotic getaways, enjoying the water aboard a mega yacht. But, boating isn't just for the rich and famous - you don't have to be a millionaire to get out on the water. Climbing aboard a boat is easier than you may think and it is one of the best ways to make every weekend feel like a vacation.
Boating is a popular American pastime, with an estimated 88.5 million Americans getting on the water each year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. What’s more, boating is close to home with 90 percent of Americans living within an hour’s drive of a lake, river or ocean perfect for boating.
"The reality is there's a boat for every budget and for boaters, being on the water creates priceless experiences - whether it’s fishing, watersports, sailing, personal watercraft or cruising, spending time on the water with family and friends creates memories for a lifetime," says Carl Blackwell, president of Discover Boating. "Being an avid boater, I know how accessible it can be and how important it is to do your research to figure out what kind of boat fits your budget and lifestyle. One of the best kept secrets is how to get on the water without owning a boat - consider it research since it gets you on your way to becoming a boater before you own one."
DiscoverBoating.com has four budget-friendly ways to get your feet wet this summer:
* Join the club: Boat clubs are one of the best ways to experience the boating lifestyle. There are thousands of boating clubs and organizations across the U.S. that offer everything from sailing to powerboating and watersports. Members receive access to a fleet of boats for use, plus clubs usually provide maintenance, storage and boating education. Find a club near you using the boat club finder.
* Get schooled: Boating schools and courses are a great way to take the helm and learn the rules of the water. Hone your sailing or powerboating skills by learning the basics in boat operation and have fun in the process. Check out a list of courses and find one that floats your boat close to home.
* Test the waters: Rental options have come a long way with hourly or daily rentals to peer-to-peer options making boating even more accessible. Boat renters can now rent directly through boat owners, creating an affordable way to use privately-owned boats equipped with amenities from insurance to boating education. Another popular option is fractional ownership, similar to lodging timeshares, where members can pre-schedule use of the boat online, and week-long charters that let you fully experience the boating lifestyle.
Climb aboard: Looking to captain your own vessel? There’s a boat out there for every budget, interest and body of water. Use the Discover Boating boat selector tool to narrow down the search for everything from price to number of passengers to boating activities and more. The tool matches you with boats that fit your needs, so you can do your homework and have a head start on shopping.
This spring and summer, don’t get left on the dock and take advantage of the warmer weather aboard a boat. Whether curious about boating or looking into ownership, explore opportunities to get your feet wet and experience the fun of life on the water.