Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Boat Sharing on the Rise

Even in these tough economic times, cash-strapped but dedicated boaters are still getting out on the water. They're just being more creative about it.

One of the obvious ways to cut down on the costs of boating is to share a boat with one or more people, and many variations of this concept have sprung up over the years. Among the many options is renting a boat (see: Renting a boat instead of trailering and Renting a boat just got easier), shared or fractional ownership (we will review in a future post), and fractional membership programs (this post.) We spoke with several experts in this growing industry to try to learn more about it and help you determine if one of these options might be right for you.

In general, fractional membership usually starts with one person purchasing a boat. Then, with the help of a reputable company such as WindPath or SailTime, up to seven additional people become fractional members – meaning that use of the boat is shared by eight people. As a member, you usually don’t have any long-term commitment and you don't own anything; you simply pay a monthly fee and get to use a boat within your allotted time.

Chris Tucker, owner of the SailTime Channel Islands franchise in Southern California, told us that the big benefit of membership programs over traditional ownership is “both cost and time. No slip fees, bank notes, insurance or maintenance costs.” And he points out that members get to use the boat much more than the average 2-3 times per month that most traditional boat owners actually do.

WindPath Fractional Yachting was founded in our home state of Connecticut and is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year with locations all over the US. Ian Treibick, founder and president of WindPath, told us "WindPath puts the cork into ‘the hole in the water into which you throw money’ and makes experiencing boating affordable, simple, and fun for the whole family." We couldn't agree more with this benefit of membership plans, especially when we realize how much our own boats actually get used each year.

Despite their breezy names, SailTime and WindPath are not just for sailors. Both companies also offer powerboat options to their members.

One additional benefit of membership plans is that they may be a type of "gateway drug" into traditional boat ownership. SailTime’s Tucker stated, "Across the country, 30% of members go on to buy their own boat in a year or two."

On the web: SailTime | WindPath | Renting a Boat | Fractional Ownership