The Skipperi membership program gives boaters access to 8 harbours across Lake Ontario and the GTA with a fleet of Starcraft boats, but without the hassles of ownership.
For many boaters, one of the biggest challenges to spending a day on the water is getting ready.
We all want more time on the water, but we often spend an equal, or greater, amount of time dealing with the realities of boat ownership. This includes getting the boat ready for transport, purchasing supplies, checking your equipment, fueling up, planning the route, rounding up friends and family, and so on. For many of us that's free time we simply don't have.
If you've got a busy work schedule, live far from the water, or don't have the space to store a boat, those barriers can be both overwhelming and disappointing. Thankfully, a smart alternative is emerging for urban boaters-- membership over ownership.
Enter Skipperi, a fast-growing membership service in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the leader of the movement. With eight locations across one of Canada's best boating playgrounds, Skipperi is becoming the go-to alternative to boat ownership. Instead of the devoting time, money, and effort towards the side quests that come with boat ownership, Skipperi allows members to bypass them altogether by becoming a 'member' rather than an 'owner.' That means more time on the water, and less time getting ready for it.
So, how does it work?
In a nutshell, Skipperi removes the hassles of boat ownership. Rather than buying a boat, you become a member and Skipperi handles everything outside of the on-water experience.
Members use a mobile app to make reservations for a time and a boat from any of Skipperi's eight harbours around the GTA. Users can choose from a fleet of new Starcraft boats in various sizes and styles, including deck boats and pontoons. The app tracks fuel usage, provides navigational maps, and ensures maintenance is up to date on the boat you're using. In other words, the company handles all the prep work -- all you have to do is explore. When you're done, gas it up and Skipperi will prepare it for the next user.
Don't worry if you're new to boating, either. Over 90% of members have never boated before joining Skipperi. Plus, everyone who signs up gets licensing guidance, a 90-minute video tutorial, and on-water training before heading out. New members can download the app from Google Play or the App Store. According to the company, members range in age from 21 to 82 and are 40% are women, which is a clear indication of Skipperi's broad appeal.
If you live within a stone's throw of Toronto, or if you're a visitor or seasonal resident, accessing the city by boat (or finding a place to store one) is challenging and expensive. That's where Skipperi's eight harbours become the perfect launch for an adventure. They have three locales around Toronto's Harbourfront -- a hub of entertainment on and off the water -- plus additional harbours at Toronto Island, Port Credit in Mississauga, Bluffer's Park in Scarborough, Harbour West in Hamilton, and Frenchman's Bay in Pickering. Combined, members can navigate the entire GTA coastline while enjoying everything from salmon fishing to watersports. Members can also mix it up their urban lifestyle by accessing Toronto's great entertainment by water, rather than land. That could mean cruising over to spend a day at the CN Tower, docking to catch a concert at Budweiser Stage, or grabbing takeout from one of the many restaurants at the Harbourfront for a sunset dinner at anchor.
For anyone weighing the dollars and sense, they'll be surprised at the breadth of options. With a 'Pay As You Go' plan, packages are as low as $49/month and the boating season runs from May to October. Members can also choose a package that suits their lifestyle (and their available free time) with handy options for retirees or seasonal visitors like the 'Weekday Morning Package' at a modest $249/month which provides unlimited access Mon-Fri during business hours. Additional packages like the 'Weekdays and Evenings' ($499/month) provide unlimited boating Mon-Fri regardless of the time. For the fully immersive experience, the 'Weekdays and Weekends' package ($749/month) gives access any day of the week. If you live in the city and have grown tired of commuting by train, subway, or streetcar, you might find that being a daily boat commuter in Toronto isn't as far fetched as you thought.
When you tally up the monthly costs of financing a boat purchase, plus the maintenance, cleaning, and upkeep that ownership requires, the average recreational boater saves both time and money with the 'membership over ownership' concept. No more trailering your boat through city traffic and struggling to find parking at a marina. No more spending your Sundays buffing the hull, changing the oil, and getting the boat prepped for next week's adventure. Members can book an experience at any Skipperi harbour in any available Starcraft SVX boat. If you're a globetrotter, membership also gives you access to Skipperi's harbours in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and New Zealand. There are also plans to expand across Canada by 2026.
The boat model options are varied, too, with a fleet of fully equipped Starcraft SVX 171, 190, 191, 211, 231, and EX 22 boats with Yamaha outboards. This is a perk as well, as members can choose a boat specific for their day's itinerary. Bringing friends and family out for a day of fun? Reserve a Starcraft EX pontoon. Looking to cover some distance and toss a line in the water? Choose one of the several Starcraft SVX deckboat options. You'll only be charged for the gas you use.
If you're a new boater or nervous about exploring a big body of water like Lake Ontario, Skipperi also helps you get your Pleasure Craft Operator's Card (if you intend to boat within Toronto Harbour, you'll also need your PVOP but they'll help with that, too). They also provide onboard training to new members to ensure that everyone heading out is qualified, prepared, and ready for adventure. Before setting out, members receive hands-on training from Skipperi’s accredited trainers. The training encompasses essential aspects like boat operation, safety equipment overview, rules of the water, boat maneuvering, and docking skills. Members only start paying for the membership once they feel safe and confident. They can take the boat handling skills training as often as they want and it’s completely free. Their customer service provides on-water support to members seven days a week, inside and outside of regular business hours, so that members can get assistance during peak reservation times.
Once you're all primed to go, the Skipperi app contains navigational maps. One of it's coolest, and most underrated, features is the Destinations tab. The tab allows users to mark the cool spots they've discovered on the map, upload pictures, or provide other helpful information for members to enjoy. That means you can find info about the best places to cruise, the quietest anchor spots, or where to catch the sunset. There's information about popular places to stop like Hanlan's Point Beach in Toronto, Eastport Canal with a view of Bull’s Point in Hamilton, and the coordinates for the coveted "sunrise spot" near the Scarborough Bluffs. If you get a PVOP and want to experience Toronto Harbour, there's plenty of helpful information on-hand. That'll get you true mariner access to experience things like the century-old Beaver Hat Ceremony.
For urban dwellers seeking an occasional escape to nature, or for those who live in the city but would like to explore beyond its concrete barriers, Skipperi is a great alternative to traditional boat ownership. Just ask Keven Dextradeur, Skipperi's general manager in Canada, who says "the feeling of 'cottaging' without being stuck in traffic is a unique urban luxury." Hard to argue with that.