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Boats and Private Islands

“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.” – from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame


Islands and boats go hand in hand. So if you’re ‘messing about’ with an island, chances are, you’ll be messing about with boats too. Uninvited guests are rare on private islands because there are only a few ways to arrive. Visitors might arrive on their own steam and swim over, but that’s unlikely. You can travel to your private island by plane, helicopter and sometimes skidoo when a lake freezes over, but once you’ve got a private island, boats become a part of life.

Just like islands, boats require maintenance. Boat ownership comes with its own set of continuing costs like repairs, insurance and dockage. Spending 60% of your boating budget on the boat is a good rule of thumb. Leave the remainder to outfit the boat, maintain it and pay for the propeller that gets sheared off on the rocks and sinks, never to be seen again. Unforeseen expenditures are common with boats.

A boat that’s in the water constantly needs to be hauled out and painted every year to protect the hull and prevent the growth of barnacles. You might find yourself donning the scuba gear now and then to give the hull a good clean. The engine needs regular tune ups and oil changes. Sails need to be replaced every few years, depending on how much use they see. Maintenance on a boat all depends on the usage and the climate. As a boat owner, it’s likely you’ll be the person maintaining the boat for the most part. The easier that is to do, the better. Your private island boat needs to perform, year after year, bringing supplies, friends and family to the island.


Buy a boat that suits your island and your needs. See what the locals are using. They have more experience with the weather and the water. A little runabout will suffice for small sheltered bodies of water close to the mainland. In open waters, with bigger waves and rougher conditions, you’ll need an ocean going vessel that can stand up to the elements. In remote waters, sailboats are ideal. The sails back up the engine and vice-versa. If fuel is a rare commodity in your part of the world, sails are necessary. If you have a lot of development to do, you might need a working boat to haul supplies to your island. You might even need a barge for carrying building materials. (These can often be rented).

If you’re not an experienced boater, you have a few options. You can either fly in on a seaplane or get an island close enough to land that you can row over. Ideally, you can improve your seamanship by taking a safe boating course and getting some hands on practice before you leave land for good. In North America, the Power Squadron boating class is highly recommended. (Completion also gets you 10% off your boat insurance.) Even if you’re just travelling short distances in sheltered waters, it’s still a good idea to learn to read charts. If you’re lost in a remote area, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of nautical navigation. You can yell into the radio all you want, but it’s unlikely anybody will hear you. Adrift at sea, with no chance of rescue, is not a good way to start your private island adventure. Safety first!