Make Rhode Island Your Boating Home

Photo by Billy Black
Photo by Billy Black

You may be one of the lucky ones. You and your boat may already live inside the borders of the Ocean State. You have access to stunning coastline; your boat is serviced by Rhode Island’s experienced marine-trades professionals; and to top it off, you’re residing in a state with a no-sales-tax policy on boats and boating services. But if you’re not already lucky enough to have a Rhode Island address for your boat, read on.

Approximately half of the 44,000 registered boaters in Rhode Island live in other states. These individuals understand—just like the locals do—why the Ocean State is the best place to spend your on-the-water hours. So if you are considering joining them, visiting the Providence Boat Show is a perfect first step.

Rhode Island is a state that is tailor-made for the boating industry, with its small geographic shape and 400 miles of coastline, a high concentration of marine-industry companies, strong workforce development programs to ensure industry excellence, and a tax-free policy on boats that make Rhode Island the envy of its neighboring states.

“When you look at the marine industry on a global scale, there are few places on Earth that have such a dense concentration of high-quality, diverse marine companies,” says Wendy Mackie, CEO of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA), the new owners of the Providence Boat Show.

And when it comes to being a boating mecca, many who know the Rhode Island coast refer to the state as the “British Virgin Islands of the North.” Sailors well know the BVI chain—with its wealth of good anchorages, excellent cruising grounds, and charter companies and service providers that dot nearly every island.

Head about 1400 nautical miles north-northwest and you’ll find another mecca in Rhode Island. Even if you only know Newport and Block Island, you may be surprised to learn that the Ocean State has 300 harbors and true diversity—from serene anchorages, to historic New England towns and villages, to bustling city waterfronts.

But don’t take our word for it. Use the boat show as a prime place to do your homework.

Build Your Local Knowledge
Marinas, service providers, boat brokers and manufacturers are all coming to the Providence Boat Show—so your research trip to the show is a one-stop affair.

Don’s Marine, Brewer Yacht Yards, Conanicut Marine Services in Jamestown, Bristol Marine, Pirate Cove Marine on the Sakonnet River, Striper Marina, and Ocean House Marina on Ninigret Pond are just some of the yards and marinas heading to the show.

If being green is of utmost important to you, visit the folks at Conanicut Marine and ask about their new solar photovoltaic system. The system—which was unveiled this fall—not only provides 100% solar power to the 10-acre yard; it also provides power to National Grid under the Rhode Island Distributed Generation Program, thereby saving a significant amount of fossil fuel over the years to come and making Conanicut Marine the largest renewable-energy facility to be developed in the state’s marine trades to date.

Talking to local boat brokers with strong local knowledge is another great way to find out about their inventory and the services and facilities they would recommend if you bought a boat through them. Coming to the boat show are local brokers Latitude Yacht Brokerage, with offices in Newport, and Fleet Yacht Sales in Bristol.

And don’t miss the Cruising Rhode Island seminar on Saturday afternoon with Captain Frank “Skip” Litterer of Boatwise Marine Training. Captain Skip will not only give you tips on cruise planning, but he will also give you inside knowledge about the Ocean State coast.

Testing the Waters
If you are just looking to test the waters, consider a fractional ownership arrangement, such as those offered by Freedom Boat Club and Narragansett Sailing. By joining Freedom Boat Club, with multiple locations in Rhode Island, you gain access to their fleet of sail and powerboats—so you get the joy of owning a boat, without doing the maintenance and paying all the bills.

Narragansett Sailing also offers instruction and charters, which are both great ways to spend more time in Rhode Island waters. Rhode Island also has two of the nation’s leading community-boating centers, which offer affordable access to the water, including the Community Boating Center of Providence and Sail Newport.

No Sales Tax on Boats
Rhode Island does not charge a sales tax on boats that are purchased and registered in the state, and the no-sales-tax also applies to boating services, such as refits, repairs, storage, mooring and berthing.

A lot more people in the nation got to know about the statewide policy when the story about Senator John Kerry berthing his 76-foot sloop in Rhode Island and saving roughly $500,000 in state taxes broke in the national news in 2010. But, as Wendy Mackie points out, this no-tax policy is not designed to benefit wealthy yacht owners.

The policy helps support the boating industry in Rhode Island—an industry that helps drive the state economy and creates a large number of jobs for Rhode Islanders. The latest quantitative tally of the marine industry in the state sized the Rhode Island boating business as paying over $260 million in income to Rhode Island workers.

The state legislature clearly sees the benefit of this no-tax policy on boats. Although RIMTA and the industry keep a full-press effort on to educate lawmakers and keep this policy in place, this benefit to the boating industry and to boaters has been in place since the Sales Tax Repeal of 1993.

But for people like Wendy Mackie, the no-tax policy is icing on the cake. She and many others know that when it comes to finding a boating home, no other place on the globe can compete with Rhode Island’s coastline—its beauty, its diversity and its vibrant hub of marine business.