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What Is Yacht Sharing?

By Theresa Miles
Updated May 17, 2024
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Yacht sharing is a system of group ownership or use of a boat or fleet of boats. The system is based on the vacation property timeshare model that has achieved popularity with consumers and stability as an industry since the concept was introduced in the 1980s. Boat sharing companies began to proliferate in the mid-2000s, and though the timesharing concept is familiar, the implementation sometimes differs from the vacation property model.

Owning a yacht is an expensive endeavor. Not only does the owner absorb the cost of the boat, which can easily be as expensive as buying a house, he has to contend with significant ongoing expenses. The boating industry identified a trend where a person would buy a boat only to sell it within three years as he realized the costs to maintain it far outstripped actual use. To combat this, the industry developed new modes of boat ownership that maximized enjoyment and minimized carrying costs.

There are two popular types of yacht sharing models. In one model, a group of people buy memberships in a boat company and share use of the company's fleet. Members are entitled to a certain number of days per year using any of the company's boats. The company typically has locations in multiple places and various boat models for the member to choose from.

Members make reservations to use allotted days in advance and in any convenient grouping. For example, if a member has an allotment of 28 days a year, he might reserve any available boat at a particular location in three day increments. The cost of the membership covers a proportional share of boat acquisition and maintenance for one flat fee that is renewable annually. In this yacht sharing model, the member has usage rights rather than an ownership interest in a boat.

In the second yacht sharing model, a group of individuals set up a company to buy a boat. Each individual is allocated a percentage ownership interest in the company. The cost to buy into the company is the individual's proportional share of the initial purchase price of the boat plus maintenance and crew costs. Use of the boat is governed by an ownership agreement that typically allocates a certain number of weeks to each owner.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this type of yacht sharing model. The owner only has one boat to choose from, unlike the membership model. There is also a greater potential for problems with such a small group of owners. The owner has an actual equity interest in the boat in the single-boat model, however. Typically, the company is designed to sell the boat and dissolve the partnership after five years, recouping some of the initial investment and freeing the owners to upgrade into a different yacht sharing agreement with a new boat.

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