Yacht Sharing - the new trend among young boaters

An article in BoatUS magazine outlined rather nicely why Millennials participate in boating at similar rates to their parents, yet they're far less likely to actually own a boat. They are finding creative ways to get out on the water without breaking the bank. It seems to be the result of a larger societal shift in thinking away from ownership and toward minimalism. This could explain the rapid growth of boat sharing entities. Regardless of the reasons, it poses a challenge for all the clubs vying for a shrinking population of "boat owners." It calls for a change in thinking of who our members can be. If it's boating enthusiasts regardless of ownership, then all we have to do is change where we look for them and add a few basic benefits to the membership offerings.

Fractional boat ownership can take many different forms. There are many private partnerships and syndicates so it is difficult to estimate how many sailors take part. Older sailors are living longer and staying active into their twilight years; because things get harder to do with age, some are taking on young crew to assist. I know several young couples who have sailed around the world on OPBs (other people's boats). Young sailors with active careers are sharing boats with friends so they have less guilt about not always being able to get out. Other young professionals are living on their boats in cities where they can't afford housing, then take periodic sabbaticals to sail. It's all much more flexible these days. Then there are established services that put people together with yachts in different ways.

For example, Yacht Fractions has on offer a 1/12 share in a Sigma 33 permanently in the Ionian costs only £1800 plus £40/mo ongoing maintenance. That's less than a charter would cost you and you get 2 weeks' use bare boat. Not bad. On the other hand, you can buy into a 1/6th share of a 68 foot Oyster that will be spending this year in the Mediterranean and next winter in the Caribbean. It has a professional skipper who is also a chef. He delivers the vessel to the destination you wish to sail. A 1/6 share on this one costs £60,000. Occasional charters pay for all costs and upkeep. Yacht Fractions does not manage the yacht they only broker it. The owners manage it.

SmartYacht has a completely different set up. Co-owners of motor yachts (>45 feet) either fly solo (no permanent crew, captain on demand) or with a permanent crew (at least a captain) on board. Moreover, co-owners can choose to release part of their usage time in order to reduce the annual costs. The yacht is then chartered through the Smart Yacht Vacation Membership program. They operate in the Med, Dubai or Seychelles and offer full service provisioning prior to your arrival. Choose your location, your yacht, step aboard and go.  It's a pricey option but gets you access to luxury yachting in spectacular locations. And they handle everything from locating and purchasing the yacht to securing insurance and berthing.

SmartYacht Vacation Members get 6 weeks per year in a 3 year membership. Reservations are made online. Choose the desired location and the category which best corresponds to your needs. A Top 100 World Membership acquires a three-years usage right of the entire fleet for €99,000; you can spend up to 6 weeks per year with family and friends in your preferred yacht and location. You have access to all their yachts around the world, exclusive concierge service and access to top 100 events.

BoatShareFinder is a service that puts owners of yachts together with prospective buyers. It focuses mostly on the UK but also offers yachts outside the UK. A 1/2 share in a Beneteau First 36.7 presently in Sardinia costs £25,000.  A 1/4 share in a Beneteau Oceanis 361 located in Turkey costs £7000 plus £1000 per share per annum for upkeep. How else could you spend 6 weeks per year sailing in the Med for £1000?

The Freedom Boat Club positions itself as "The Affordable Alternative to Boat Ownership" and claims to be the nation's oldest and largest boat club. It's a franchise operations with 16,000+ Members in 29+ American States and Canada and a fleet of more than 1600 boats. It has 145+ franchise and corporate club locations that offer reciprocal plans with access to boats nationwide. They claim that multiple affordable membership plans are available but finding out how much they cost is not possible without signing up and calling them first. They claim that membership rates are tied to regional costs and so they vary with each location. Club members enjoy unlimited access to their home fleet subject to availability. Reservations are made using an online reservation system. Year ‘round club members enjoy privileges at every Freedom Boat Club in the USA. Freedom Boat Club has been in business since 1989 and is the oldest and largest boat club in the world, with more than 15,000 members and a 93% annual retention rate.

Any number of other outfits offer yacht sharing, including the big yacht charter companies like the Moorings and sister company Sunsail. They offer sail and power plans in some of the world's most desirable yachting destinations. You own the boat, they take care of it at no cost to you. You receive guaranteed monthly revenue and sail at 20 worldwide destinations for up to twelve weeks a year. Not a bad deal.

And then there's UberYacht. But we'll leave that for another day.


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