"Money can't buy you happiness. But it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it."--- Rock star David Lee Roth           

           My mother's favorite yachting story occurred in the early sixties, when John F. Kennedy was President. The Joanne III, a 60-foot pleasure yacht named after her, took a slip in a Hyannis marina while cruising the New England coast. Electric power was connected. A phone was plugged in.

            It started to ring.

            This mystified my mother. No one knew she was there. And whenever she picked up the phone, no one responded. It would ring and stop, ring and stop.

            Finally, an authoritative voice demanded, "Who is this?"

            "This is Joanne, aboard the Joanne III. And who, pray tell, is this?"

            There was a moment of silence.

            "This is the White House, ma'm. You're in the Presidents' slip." 

            People tend to roll their eyes when talk turns to owning boats. My brothers and I learned to watch the ups and downs of family circumstances by the size of the family boat.

 Everyone knows boating is expensive. As J.P. Morgan once said, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

            Morgan spoke the truth. I've owned a small fleet of boats over the last 40 years, sailboats that ranged from windsurfers and sunfish to a 32 foot Herreshoff ketch. I sold the ketch when I realized I had neither the time nor the money to maintain the boat in the manner it deserved. Since then, I've chartered my boats--- a 42 foot Catalina in Puerto Vallarta, a 29 foot Hunter in Florida, a 31 foot Beneteau on Lake Travis, etc.

So I slake my thirst for water. But something is missing. Filled with guilty desires, I buy copies of Cruising World and Sail magazine while traveling, but don't bring them home. I keep wondering if there is some middle ground between the cruel indenture of ownership and the anomie of charters.

            There is. Some call it leasing. Others call it fractional ownership. Basically, it's an intermediate position between bearing all the expenses (including depreciation and investment opportunity cost) of ownership and the high cost of one-shot charters.

            The basic premise is simple. You commit to a monthly payment in exchange for a certain number of days on ‘your' boat per quarter. The monthly payment will be less than the cost of renting a slip and insurance. You avoid the expense of depreciation, maintenance, and repairs.

            At the Texas Sailing Academy on Lake Travis, for instance, members can charter by the day or week. They can also lease. Check their website (see URLs below) and you'll see a lease position available for a Beneteau First 31. For $435 a month, you'll have 5 days a month--- that's 60 days a year--- on the boat. You'll have no other expenses and the boat will be clean and ready when you take it out. Well equipped, this boat is worth about $75,000. It may lose about half its value in 7 to 10 years, unless a stiff inflation rate returns.

            As one lessee/sailor told me, "I get everything except picking the boat's name."

            There is evidence this idea is taking off. Visit www.sailtime.com and you'll see the same offers being made by another company--- and a growing list of locations.




Sailtime: www.sailtime.com


Texas Sailing Academy: www.texassailing.com