I stumbled upon an article that I wrote for Latitude 38 a long time ago. Here it is:
What if I told you that you could own a 30 foot sailboat on the San Francisco Bay for as little as $3 per day or $100 per month (after the initial purchase price)? Well you can and I do! If you thought owning a sailboat was too expensive, then you should read on. Partnerships are a way to meet great folks, sail economically and have a boat of your own. And you can do it for just a few dollars a day!
The first step is to find your partners and pool your resources. Your partners could be close friends or even other family members. They could be coworkers or folks you meet through the classified ads on Latitude 38. Choosing the right partners is a very important aspect of building a successful partnership. You want to make sure they have the resources, have a steady job and they are not likely to be leaving the area for a while. Another plus would be to have a sailing background or be willing to take some sailing courses. Also, they should have similar goals as far as sailing goes. If you want to cruise with all the toys and your partners are serious racers who want to "strip" the boat, you could have problems. Whoever you choose, make sure that you are like minded and you get along with them. Be forewarned that compromise will play a big part in building your partnership.
How many partners do you need? You could do this with two folks and it would work great. We started with three, went to four and now have five (update: we currently have six). Four works well as you can each have one week a month when the boat is "yours". The nice thing about our partnership is we all get to sail as much or as little as we want. We assign one week to each partner starting on Thursday. This way if someone wants to take the boat for a long weekend, you don't have to worry about trading days with the other partners. If one of the other partners wants to go sailing they just email the partner who's week it is and work out the details. When it's "your" week you can just head out. With a partnership, you also have a built in crew who want to go sailing with you. Just let them know and off you go for a day sail or what ever.
Setting a budget. Figure out what your needs are and set a budget. Are you looking for a racer/cruiser, a day sailor or maybe a coastal cruiser. We wanted a safe day sailor that could do weekend trips on the bay and week long trips up to the delta. We needed a boat that could sleep 5-6 and had a legal private head along with a galley. Our partners were keen on a used 30 foot boat in the $15k range. That meant about $5000 a piece as an initial investment. In the April edition of Latitude you could have your pick of a Hunter 30, a Pearson 31, a Catalina 30 or a Islander 30 in that price range. And you can certainly negotiate with these folks and get a better price. We started the hunt and after looking through the Classy Classifides in Latitude, we found a few to look at. The third boat we looked at turned out to be a great one. A Gary Mull designed Newport 30 from 1981. We met with the owners and coincidentally it was three partners about our age who showed us the boat. They had had it for six years and we moving on. We had a surveyor come out and look at her. His conclusion was " Buy this boat!".
We did some sea trials and the boat sailed great. We signed on the dotted line, paid the negotiated price and we had ourselves a beauty.
The Financial Side. Once we had done the deed, we still had some work to do. We needed to go to the DMV and transfer the title and pay the sales tax. Even though the sales tax had been paid by the original owners when they bought the boat, our local government wants us to pay it again. Then we needed insurance. We found it through Boat US at a very reasonable price. Lastly, we needed a place to put the boat. We decided to stay put in Alameda and just rented the slip that it was in. This worked out well as we could practice in the estuary and not get into too much trouble.
We each pay $100 a month and that covers all our expenses and leaves us enough to cover little things that come up. Insurance, property taxes, bottom cleaning, canvas work, etc. We split all the costs evenly. Once every 2 years, we have the boat hauled out and have the bottom painted and do some minor repairs. Some of this is covered by the kitty, but most is paid out of pocket. Usually between $300 and $350 per person.
In order to tie all this together, we put together a simple contract that each partner signed. It stated the purchase price and who the partners are. It also listed the basics of the partnership. When the week starts and ends, keeping the boat clean for others, if something breaks during your sail, you need to make repairs in a timely fashion, minimum one year participation (you don't want partners coming and going every few months), and that sailing is a dangerous sport and no one will sue the other partners unless there is gross negligence.
If a partner decides to leave, it is on them to place the ad and do the sea trials. Then each of the current partners meets the prospective partner and determines if this person is a fit. If for whatever reason they don't feel comfortable with this person, they can revoke this person and the process starts again. This has never happened to us but it could come in handy if the person is questionable to any of the other partners. If you would like to see a sample of our contract, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have had a wonderful experience with partnerships over the last six years (update: we are now in our 16th year of the partnership). If you do your homework and pick the right people to get involved, you can make it work. Having a great boat that can keep you safe on the water helps too. Take your time and make sure you manage all the details along the way and you too can be sailing the bay for just a few dollars a day!