Boat Owners Association of The United States, abbreviated to BoatUS, is an organization that is dedicated to helping protect the interests of private recreational boat owners. It is the largest organization of recreational boat owners in the United States, and boasts more than half a million members.
BoatUS has been around for more than 50 years, and in its time it has helped numerous important bills make their way through Capitol Hill, including repealing the “user fee” for recreational boaters and lobbying to force boat manufacturers to adhere to safety requirements for marine craft.
In addition to its presence on Capitol Hill, BoatUS offers its members a variety of services including boat insurance, discounts, and even a towing service which allows boaters who are not in an emergency to call for help with engine failure, fuel drops, soft groundings, dead batteries, and other problems. The company also operates a bi-monthly magazine with boating tips and information.
BoatUS was founded in 1966 by Richard Schwartz and Dick Ellison. Schwartz hatched the idea witnessing his friend, who had just purchased a brand new boat, be issued a ticket for a faulty engine compartment ventilation system by the US Coast Guard. Schwartz was shocked to discover that the boat manufacturers were not required to meet safety criteria when building boats, and that the boat owners were being fined for the issues.
It took several years of campaigning (and more than a few angry boat manufactures) before President Nixon signed the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, which allows the US Coast Guard to impose safety regulations on boat manufacturers. This landmark decision was the first of many bills that BoatUS helped lobby through Capitol Hill in order to help protect the rights of recreational boat owners.
In 1987, BoatUS began to offer water assistance to its members in reaction to the budget cuts facing the US Coast Guard Auxillary for non-emergency towing. With BoatUS’s new towing options, members could receive aid from BoatUS for non-emergency towing, fuel drop off, battery jumpstarts, and soft ungrounding services. This popular service grew over the years and today fields more than 70,000 water assistance requests annually.
In 2007, the Boat America Corporation, the stock company that provides the services to BoatUS, was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway’s National Indemnity Company. It was transferred to GEICO in 2015 in order to help expand growth, and the boating insurance option was added for members.
Since that time, the company has continued to grow and expand, offering its more than half a million members expansive boating insurance to help mitigate the cost of defects and wrecks. It also continues to provide towing services through the newly renamed TowBoatUS, which offers 24-hour water towing to members.