Note: The following plan was accepted by a sailing couple back in 2000. The partnership worked beautifully until May 1, 2004. The boat kept getting in better and better condition each year due to its being operated by "fresh" new crew every six months. Unfortunately, our "summer partners" became involved in a costly and time-consuming custody battle with one of the partner's ex-spouse forcing them to ask to get out of the arrangement. It is now available to another potential member(s) beginning May 1 2005.

The Plan:

My wife and I live in Minnesota and like to sail for only six months during the winter, say Nov 1 to April 30. With our previous boat, a 1989 Jeanneau 41, we simply put it up on the hard for six months every summer. But we can't bring ourselves to do that to a ~$600,000 cat. Plus, we know there are a lot of people who like to do most of their sailing in the summer (kids are out of school, climate is pleasant, etc.).

What we're looking for is a partner who would want to cruise the East Coast, for example, for 5-7 months every summer. We hear it's just beautiful in the Chesapeake and New England in the summer, all the way up to Maine, Nova Scotia, or even Newfoundland. We would bring the boat north from the Caribbean to, perhaps, N or S Carolina (or possibly Bermuda) every spring from which our partner would then cruise north. Or south, for that matter, because actually, the Florida Keys, Bahamas and Caribbean are beautiful too in the summer. The water is warm enough to take full advantage of the exceptional clarity for snorkeling or scuba diving, and the winds are much more settled than they are in the winter without the cold fronts marching through twice a week. Of course one has to be alert to the possibility of hurricanes. (The exceptional speed of this boat, however, would facilitate getting out of the way of approaching tropical weather.) And in the fall, we would reverse the process.

Why pay $600,000 for a new cruising catamaran? You can have exactly the same thing for only $300,000! Plus, come fall, you will not have to pay to have the boat hauled and then stored for six months, (nor will we every spring). Then, come spring when it’s time to launch, you will not have to fix all the things that broke by themselves during the winter! I don’t know about you but after six years of putting our former boat up on the hard each summer, I came to dread returning in the fall to find a half dozen items inoperable that were working fine in the spring. One year, we could not get the diesel to start and my guests who traveled to Honduras expecting to crew with me to Belize, had to fly home with no sea shells in their luggage.

Why not buy new boat and then put it into charter for the time you won't be using it?

The Summer Partner plan would have a big advantage, in my view, over charter systems which tout the benefits of yacht ownership combined with the income from charters. It is common knowledge that ex-charter boats are literally beat to h_ll. There are at least three reasons for this: 1) Bareboat captains take 3-4 weeks to really get used to a boat but, unfortunately, they usually only charter for 1-2 weeks! Hence, each time the boat goes out with a new captain, there is a week or two of getting up to speed with the many systems during which time the boat suffers. 2) The charterers just don't take care of the boat like an owner would. 3) Similarly, the people maintaining the boat do not have the TLC that an actual owner would.
In our case, after the keys are turned over at the end of one season and the start of another, we will spend a few days getting back in the groove and then feel comfortable with the boat for the next six months. Hence “"dock rash"” and other abuses would be greatly minimized or eliminated.

I can remember chartering a boat one time on Lake Superior. I was very anxious to get out on the lake and the man checking me out on the boat systems must have felt the same because I really was in no way qualified to take out that boat (a Tartan 37) that day. I remember seeing a sign that said we should run the diesel for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to keep the batteries charged. I couldn’t see the reason for that so, instead, I ran the diesel once a day, just long enough to get the anchor up and get the boat safely out of the anchorage. I knew nothing about the theory of discharging batteries to no less than 50% charge and then charging them back up to no more than 85% unless underway (because the charging efficiency decreases the closer you get to full). Hence I slowly discharged the batteries until they were nearly dead. Such insidious abuse went totally unpunished and the boat suffered in silence.

The Partnership Agreement

We would necessarily have a comprehensive partnership agreement.

Insurance would cover any serious damage. Minor repairs and/or replacements of, say, up to $1,000 would be handled out-of-pocket by each partner. A fund would be maintained in the amount of, say, $20,000 to handle anything above $1,000 and would require mutual consent to authorize the repairs. Improvements would be made to the boat at the improving partner's expense unless both partners mutually agree to the improvements. Mutual approval would also be required for any improvements that necessitated the drilling of holes in the boat such as for through-hulls.

Click here to see the actual "Stockholder's Agreement" that served our partnership so well over the past three years: