Charcuterie and cheese aboard a YACHTSY boat
Charcuterie and cheese aboard a YACHTSY boat Credit: Mynor

The pandemic has given you plenty of picnicking practice. Now that you’ve mastered how to keep drinks cold and food both pretty and portable, level up by taking your spread out on the water. Float DC, Potomac Paddle Club, and YACHTSY offer private floating picnic boats departing from The Wharf or the Georgetown waterfront. Each experience has its own perks and quirks.

Float DC photo by Laura Hayes

Float DC—Departs from The Wharf

Identify a companion with patience and a steady hand before booking Float DC’s electric-powered, Scandinavian-designed picnic boats. Someone has to steer the vessel that seats up to eight people as you cruise away from The Wharf’s Market Pier and into the calm waters of the Washington Channel.

 You’ll plod along at a pace of five miles per hour, but note that a little turn of the wheel goes a long way. You can watch the planes take off from National Airport or cyclists whizzing around Hains Point as you catch some sun. 

The Black-owned business from entrepreneur Lavert Phillips requires drivers have a valid driver’s license and be 21 years of age or older. While you don’t need a boater’s license, you do need to take a safety quiz to demonstrate you know simple things like which end is the bow and which is the stern. Phillips first experienced the picnic boats on a trip to Scandinavia.

Float DC’s boats have a Bluetooth sound system so you can play DJ as you nosh on the food and drinks you brought along. Alcohol is permitted, with the exception of red wine. (These boats run $35,000 each so a Cabernet Sauvignon stain wouldn’t go over well.) The company says the driver should remain sober as the Coast Guard can board the boats at any time to monitor safety. 

Consider stocking up on picnic supplies at Yellow in Navy Yard, seafood from the Maine Avenue Fish Market, or sandwiches and snacks from Colada Shop‘s Wharf location. Customers can book one-hour ($150), two-hour ($300), or three-hour ($400) floats Mondays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. People of all ages are welcome; furry friends are not. Make reservations here

Potomac Paddle Club photo courtesy of Potomac Paddle Club

Potomac Paddle Club—Departs from the Georgetown waterfront

If you’re not afraid of a little sweat, reserve one of Potomac Paddle Club’s pontoon boats. The 90-minute adventures from co-founders Jack Maher and Jack Walten depart from the Georgetown waterfront and can accommodate eight to 16 people.

Paddlers have to bring their own food and drink, but a nearby restaurant has a tempting offer. Susheria sells to-go-only sushi boats serving 10 to 16 people that you can pick up before boarding. One includes eight specialty rolls, eight traditional maki rolls, 12 gyoza, and edamame for $240. 

Ten people have the opportunity to work off their sushi rolls by pedaling until everyone needs a break. That’s when the Potomac Paddle Club captain piloting the trip can simply switch on the motor. After departing the Georgetown waterfront, the route winds down the river passing the Watergate Hotel, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Jefferson Memorial before heading to Columbia Island Marina next to the Pentagon for a bathroom break.

Beer, wine, and soft drinks are permitted on board. Bring your own cooler and ice. During the pandemic, groups must rent out the whole boat—no individual tickets are sold. Book Mondays through Thursdays for $45 per person or Fridays through Sundays for $55 per person. Departure times run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Party animals of all ages are able to join. Pets are not. Make reservations here

YACHTSY photo by Mynor

YACHTSY—Departs from The Wharf

If you have a need for speed and have experience on the water, consider YACHTSY. Since their boats are powered vessels with motors, renting one is a little more complicated. Drivers must have had a boater’s safety card for a minimum of a year, be at least 25 years old, and have a valid driver’s license.

But there’s a way around it if you don’t mind someone crashing the party. A qualified operator can accompany the ride for an additional $25 per hour. This individual does not count towards the boat’s maximum capacity of eight people.

Co-founder Gressy Cuadra says her Hispanic- and Black-owned company from a trio of avid boaters launched last year. She points out that the boats have plusses like a canopy for shade, a Bluetooth sound system, and a cooler. Dogs are welcome but if they weigh more than 25 pounds, they count as a passenger.

There are no restrictions on what kind of alcohol you’re allowed to bring. If you don’t want to forage for your own picnic supplies, Cuadra says YACHTSY has partnerships with local cheese and charcuterie purveyors and can put together a platter upon request. 

Two-hour cruises depart from The Wharf and cost $280 Mondays through Thursdays and $380 Fridays through Sundays. If you want to book for longer, you can make a special request. Cuadra says one party reserved a YACHTSY boat for eight hours. The operating hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Make reservations here