■ A several-hundred dollar (returnable) deposit is usually
required, and your deductible may be higher than with the
insurance policy on your own boat.
■ If a group pools money for a charter, and elects someone in
the party to be “skipper,” that person may take on the legal
responsibilities and obligations of a paid captain.
Boat clubs have been around for about 25 years and were born
out of the realization that most boats spend the vast majority
of their time sitting unused at a dock. With a boat club, you
buy a membership into the club (paying somewhere between
$1,000 to $5,000) and pay monthly fees of $150 to $500 to buy
“unlimited” use in blocks of time for several kinds of boats, such
as pontoons, fishing boats, or runabouts. The blocks are usually
for four or eight hours at a time and can sometimes be combined in multiples of two, but overnights are often restricted.
The fees cover nearly everything: the purchase of the boat, slip
fees, insurance, repairs, maintenance. Members simply pay for
gas and any deductible that applies if the boat is damaged. Most
clubs have a ratio of 10 to 12 members per boat, and in theory,
you can use the boats all you want, subject to prior reservations.
The Good News:
■ Boats are replaced with new ones regularly.
■ Insurance and towing coverage is usually included.
■ Some clubs have multiple locations where boats can be
reserved across the country.
■ Some clubs allow you to book an available boat on the same
day, and not count it toward your contracted number of
uses in that period.
Keep In Mind:
■ Reservations often have to be made weeks in advance and
may not be available for popular weekends.
■ Boats may not be allowed out in potentially foul weather and
■ Four-hour time-block reservations may be restrictive and are
usually limited to four reservations at a time. Ask about the
company’s flexibility on this.
■ Memberships are usually not transferable, and deposits may not be refundable.
■ Some clubs are franchises, so there
can be complications with existing
contracts if the club is sold to a
Fractional ownership is more like boating without owning the whole boat.
The idea has been around ever since
some friends at a dinner table decided
it would be easier to have a nice boat if
they all bought it together. Two or more
people purchase a boat, split such costs
as maintenance, moorage, and insurance,
then schedule its use between the parties. Often, a limited-liability corporation is set up, and each person owns a fraction
(say, for example, a quarter) of the boat. Owners may agree that
they can sell their shares if they want out. Some companies
will, for a fee, buy, manage, and maintain the boat and schedule
its use for the owners. There are some hybrid programs, too,
that work like a combination of fractional ownership and a
boat club. Members enter into a yearly contract and pay only
a monthly fee (around $900 for a new 38-foot sailboat) and
get several days per month of use, though they have no equity
in the boat. In these programs, all expenses, sometimes even
fuel, are covered.
The Good News:
■ Because there are typically only four or five owners, scheduling is flexible, and owners are more likely to get the share of
days they want each season.
■ Each individual has equity in the boat (except under the
hybrid plans), which can be sold if a person no longer wants
■ Major repair costs, such as a new engine, are split among
Keep In Mind:
■ In places where the boating season is short, there may not be
enough days to go around.
■ Make sure your partners understand how much annual boat
maintenance and repairs can cost, and that they’re financially
able to handle that.
■ A limited-liability company should be set up by an attorney
with experience in fractional ownership.
The newest entry in the field is renting other people’s boats.
P2P companies such as Airbnb, which allow people to rent
out unused rooms on a daily basis, have been around for a few
years, and the concept has now migrated to boats. Companies,
like BoatBound.co and Cruzin.com, have websites that allow
prospective boat renters to connect with boat owners across the
country. Potential renters browse boats of all types and sizes,
24 | BoatU.S. Magazine DECEMBER 2015
So What’s Missing?
BoatU.S. members who have tried these types of programs say that while it’s a
great way to get to use a boat, in comparison with boat ownership, there are a few
things you lose:
■ It’s harder to be spontaneous if you don’t have your own boat available any time.
■ You can’t leave your personal possessions aboard.
■ You lose the pride of ownership.
■ The ability to suddenly change plans and stay an extra day or two is usually not
■ The freedom to take a long summer cruise or go offshore is lacking.
■ Some members say that owning a boat and using one of the programs occasionally
is the best of both worlds.