Summer Fun

Floating Hot Tubs Offer Novel Way to Get Out on the Willamette River

Can I get a Yacht Tub!

By Sam Stites April 26, 2023

Yacht Tubs gives Portlanders a novel way to get out on the Willamette River without having to own a boat or get into the river itself. 

When Alex Reed was growing up, he remembers seeing images of celebrities hot-tubbing on the front of their megayachts in posh locations like off the southern coast of France.

“They look like they had no care in the world. It looked awesome,” he says. “But I was short about $100 million to afford one.”

As an adult, Reed thought about how he might replicate that same experience and sense of relaxation but bring it to the everyday person here in Portland. That led him to create Yacht Tubs—boats that have been converted into six-person hot tubs you can rent along Portland’s South Waterfront.

Reed says he enjoyed sailing on the Willamette River as a kid and noticed that options for the average person to get on the water are slim. He wanted to change that, but also infuse a bit of luxury.

His company, Yacht Tubs, builds its own boats right here in Portland. They look like small wake boats that sit super low in the water. Instead of regular seating, passengers soak in a jetted hot tub with plenty of space for six to stretch out. Their under-10-horsepower electric outboard motors are nearly silent, and they allow any guest age 21 and up to drive without needing a boater’s license. That means you can move up and down the Willamette to see the sights while relaxing and enjoying a snack or beverage. Instead of steering wheels, the boats have a joystick-like controller and throttle that are easy to use for those who haven’t driven a boat before.

They even have Bimini tops for shade from the sun or cover when it’s raining, as well as built-in stereos so guests can bump their own tunes.

“People have the biggest hurdle of getting over what it is. They understand a hot tub, they understand a boat, but the combination of the two, of being in water, on water, I think is kind of a new experience,” Reed says. “People have discovered us and just been absolutely amazed and astounded about why they have not seen this or done it earlier.”

The company started rentals in summer 2021 and currently operates two boats out of its “Yacht Club” storefront based on S Montgomery Street, just a couple of doors down from McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside restaurant. The club was recently renovated to include 1,500 square feet of nautical-themed space where customers can lounge, change into their swimsuits, rent towels, and purchase add-ons like Epsom salts and nonalcoholic drinks. Alcoholic drinks are allowed; just make sure your captain doesn’t drink any booze (that’s illegal), and don’t bring any glass containers.

Yacht Tubs is in the process of adding more boats as summer approaches and bookings fill up, particularly around holiday weekends and big events like the Rose Festival and the Waterfront Blues Fest.

Reed says the service is also gaining popularity in what might be considered boating’s offseason, especially for events like the Christmas Ships in December. Tub temps are adjustable, allowing guests to go warmer in the cold, or down to pool temperature in the summer when it’s hot. That said, for the full south-of-France yacht fantasy, setting sail on a sunny summer day is hard to beat.

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