As I scrolled down my emails, this one caught my eye and immediately intrigued me. It was an invitation to local reporters to come and check out one of the newest trends to hit the area waterways this summer — boat sharing.
“National Boating Week kicked off in June and we want you to come learn how to sail a luxury yacht — or at least take a ride on one! We want you to tell the story of boat sharing,” the invitation read. “Consumer Reports calls it the newest trend on the water. You’ve heard of sharing cars, bikes and even pets. Boat sharing is the new sharing economy at sea that allows local families the luxury of boat ownership without the cost and hassle that comes with owning a boat. More middle-class families here are living their dream to sail without going broke.”
Hmmm … I had never heard of this one before, but the idea seemed like a good one, or at least one that merited further investigation. I know as a former boat owner that it’s downright expensive to own a boat. There’s always repairs, general upkeep, storage, slip fees, insurance and the list goes on. And that’s not even counting the monthly payments, for those who took out a loan to acquire it. Owning a boat is truly a luxury, but sharing a boat? I re-read the email a few times, and before I knew it, there I was, life vest in hand, on my way to Philly’s Penn’s Landing Marina to check out the latest trend. After all, who can pass up an invitation to not only ride on a yacht but to learn how to sail one?
I met boat captain/SailTime base owner Cherie Kemper-Starner aboard the beautiful luxury yacht, Pappy’s Cabin, owned by Andy Kripp of Newtown, Bucks County. Cherie was prepping the 41-foot 2014 Beneteau Oceanis at the marina, getting her ready for sailing. The day was beautiful, perfect sailing weather. My only sailing experience was on a very small sailboat that my parents owned back in the day. After a few times of taking it out on Barnegat Bay (and this is at least two to three decades ago), I gave up on my short-lived dreams of sailing after getting knocked into the bay over and over by powerful sails and inexperienced handling.
As I climbed aboard Pappy’s Cabin and admired the boat’s beauty, I humorously thought, “The heck with that little itsy bitsy sailboat that my family fooled with. Now this is the way to sail!”
I immediately hit it off and had much to talk about with the very knowledgeable, extremely skillful Captain Cherie, who told me she was a former staff photographer at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a few Bucks County papers before her career switch to a SailTime base owner and boat captain.
A few years back, Cherie and her husband, Mike, Bucks County residents, were at a boat show in Annapolis when they first heard of SailTime and immediately began learning all that they could before opening a base here in the Philadelphia area. The couple offers share-a-boat options out of Penn’s Landing Marina and out of Ocean Gate Yacht Basin, where Toms River, N.J., meets the Barnegat Bay (speaking of!). SailTime also offers SailTime schooling out of both locations to people who want to become certified sailors and attain the confidence and skills that they need to take a sailboat out into the open waters.
SailTime works like this. Local SailTime families share the use of a professionally managed boat by scheduling their time through an online scheduling system that is available to them 24/7. A monthly membership fee covers the slip fees, maintenance, insurance and operating costs. No hassles or extra expenses are involved. Your boat is basically ready to sail when you are! To me, the whole setup sounds more like a boat time-share, but instead of sharing a vacation condo where people would schedule times, they instead would schedule boat sailing times.
Cherie told me that SailTime has 35 locations worldwide, with 115 boats total in some of the best harbors around the world. The company is partnered with the American Sail Association and Beneteau America.
When I first scanned the price list, I almost fell overboard. It’s not cheap. But then again, neither is boating, especially boating on a luxurious yacht that has a beautiful kitchen, bathroom and sleeping facilities downstairs and a sail so large that probably a dozen adults could wrap themselves in it. However, the rates would be a savings — and a lot less responsibility — to someone who realizes the cost involved in owning and maintaining a luxury boat. Cherie said the typical cost of personal boat ownership is upwards of $10,000 to $12,000 per year, and that is why SailTime is a more economical deal and a better option for many. In my opinion, SailTine membership would be a good idea for someone who is contemplating buying a luxury boat to try it out a season or two before taking their own leap.
People pay one membership fee, as if joining a timeshare, a country club, a swimming club, a gym or any recreational facility that you don’t own, but you use at your will. You then book the times and dates that you want to take out the luxury boat, alone or with your family, friends, business associates or any other guests. Cherie said her sailors have hosted bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, weddings, proposals and every kind of celebration in between. SailTime memberships are offered in two levels and vary by the number of monthly guaranteed reservations.
Cherie stated that each boat typically has about six or seven SailTime members sharing its usage each season. She also told me that because the yacht has a diesel engine that it takes about five to six weeks before it needs refueling.
Sailtime isn’t only for members who want to book times for a shared boat. Boaters who already own a good-looking yacht can make money by placing their sail or power boat in the SailTime program for other families to share. This option reminded me of those who own shore houses but rent them out a few weeks each season to meet expenses. Boaters can now do basically the same thing with the boats that they own.
As we cruised down the Delaware River on a beautiful sunny June day, sun warming our faces, wind in our hair, I thought, “Geez, I could easily get used to this!” Cherie pointed out the historical sites and the tourist attractions along the river, adding interesting tidbits and facts about each sight that we viewed. She expertly steered the wheel, hoisted the sail, wound the ropes and made the whole little river cruise seem effortless. Captain Cherie told me how SailTime members going out at Penn’s Landing have a front row seat for the Tall Ships Festival, as well as the fireworks, historic ships, popup floating beer gardens and all of the celebrations along the waterfront all summer long.
By the time we docked, I was sold, but unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money to sign on as a member, just as most average people wouldn’t. However, there are many who can afford it, and for those lucky ducks, I have two things to say.
One, SailTime is definitely a unique new option worth looking into for seasoned sailors, former boat owners and for those who want to learn and get their feet wet (no pun intended) in the world of sailing. You many not only find it saves money in the long run but also drastically cuts down on headaches and hassles.
Secondly, after all you lucky ducks are out there sailing away on one of those beautiful SailTime yachts in the picturesque river, can you send me another gracious invitation? Pretty please?