The word “yacht” conjures up images of 747-sized sea vessels plying the Mediterranean along the Amalfi Coast or anchoring off a secluded Caribbean island. In actuality, a boat over forty feet or so in length, whether powered by motor or sails, can be called a yacht, assuming it has a bit of style. Surprisingly, as I learned after some research, there are no specific definitions of “yacht” but most of us would agree that we usually visualize a luxury vessel that might accommodate a dozen or so friends comfortably, with spacious decks, a crew to take care of all the technical details, and probably a chef and bartender.
Why not dream big? Big is the word when it comes to the newest yachts. Actually, the words are struggling to keep up with the size of the yachts, so now we have “superyachts” and “megayachts.” Some are equipped with helipads, elevators, hot tubs, pools, cinema rooms, and smaller boats called tenders. The fact is that for a day of pleasure on the water or even a week of cruising with stops for diving, swimming, or exploring a quiet beach, most of us don’t need a yacht that’s the size of a small cruise ship. And it’s also true that you don’t even have to own one. There are several ways to live the yachting lifestyle as much or as little as you want, whenever you want.
Similar to the model used by private aviation companies, individuals can purchase ownership of specific yachts in varying percentages, with a corresponding number of available weeks. The ownership shares can be sold, and if the entire yacht is sold after a period of time, the proceeds are divided among the owners.
For example, AvYachts, based in Fort Lauderdale, offers ownership in increments of 10% which buys three weeks of use per year. In addition to the initial purchase cost, obviously much less than the cost to buy a yacht outright, there are expenses for crew and maintenance which are divided among owners quarterly.
Yacht Quarters, a division of Princess Yachts based in Mallorca, offers an arrangement where shares are sold starting at one eighth, which includes 4 weeks of use per year. One-quarter share would include 8 weeks—two in summer, four in spring/fall, and two during the off-season. As an example, for a 63-foot yacht with four cabins, the cost of one-eighth share would be around $182,264 with annual costs for maintenance, crew, insurance, and berth around $24,000.
Seanet, based in Newport Beach, California, offers both regional and global programs. The regional option includes vessels ranging from 52 to 82 feet with quarter shares priced from $300,000 to $733,500 plus operating expenses. This entitles owners to 72 days per year onboard the vessel as well as opportunities to book another yacht in a different region.
If you’re not ready to own a yacht, even a fraction of one, you can explore the lifestyle by chartering a yacht for a specific period of time, usually in weeklong increments. With a charter, you can explore a variety of destinations, from the Caribbean to Europe and the South Pacific or Indian Ocean. It’s possible to charter yachts of all sizes, including sailing or motor yachts, with or without a crew.
Yacht charter brokers are typically used to make arrangements. They have access to a range of yachts around the world and know their accommodations, amenities, destinations, and crews. At no additional cost, brokers find the best fit for their clients and manage details like contracts, taxes, permits, and issues that might occur in connection with the charter. Fraser, a luxury yacht charter company in business for seventy years, represents yachts throughout the world, including motor yachts, racing yachts, classic sailing yachts, and superyachts.
Their website lists watercraft in a range of sizes, destinations, and price ranges. As an example, the Mini K, a new 87-foot yacht, accommodates eight guests in four staterooms with a crew of four. Summer in the Mediterranean Sea or winter in the Bahamas will cost around $62,000 for a week. The Moonlight II, at 299 feet, accommodates 36 guests in 18 staterooms, with a crew of 34 at a weekly rate of around $671,000. The yacht includes a spa, gym, cinema, and two Jacuzzis.
Dream Yacht Charters specializes in sailing yachts, both catamarans and monohulls, at locations around the world. They offer crewed or bareboat charters where you can be your own captain if you’re qualified, and even hire a skipper for a day to get you fully acquainted with the boat. If you don’t have the full complement of friends to charter an entire yacht, Dream Yachts offers “by the cabin” charters. A week in the Bahamas in your own cabin ranges from $1400 to $1700. With a crew of a skipper, chef, and hostess, Luna, a 2019 Lagoon 450 catamaran, offers three double cabins for six guests at a cost of around $15,000 for a week in the Caribbean during October or November.
These memberships are not equity shares in the boat, although in some plans, a specific boat is divided among members for use. Most charge an initial membership fee in addition to a monthly charge that covers maintenance, marina fees, insurance, and storage. The vessels in most of these plans are smaller recreational boats, most not quite making it into the yacht category based on size. Sailtime, of Annapolis, Maryland, offers fractional sailing memberships for an initial joining fee of $1500 which includes training and a competency checkout.
Members use the same boat every time for a monthly fee of $500 to $800, and they can make seven reservations per month plus unlimited use based on availability within 36 hours. David McQuillan, owner of the franchise operation with bases throughout the United States and overseas, says, “We try to create an ownership experience without the headaches of actually owning a boat.” With SailtimePlus, members can book boats at bases other than their own.
Freedom Boat Club, one of the oldest and largest, also charges a one-time entry fee and monthly dues for access to the club’s fleet without maintenance or other expenses. With individually franchised locations throughout the country, members can choose from a variety of membership options and home bases.
Carefree Boat Club members also pay an initiation fee and then a monthly fee for access to boats in all United States and Canada locations. Membership provides unlimited usage on a variety of watercrafts. Their website indicates that they sell only ten memberships per boat, improving availability, with booking through an online reservation system.
Yacht Clubs, often known as sailing clubs, range in size from 100 to 5,000 members and from upscale and formal to casual, member-run facilities. Members need not own a yacht to belong to some of the clubs, and many yacht clubs offer shared leasing where members can use any vessel in the club’s fleet. There are usually clubhouses with a bar, restaurant, or lounge, and some even have saunas, swimming pools, and tennis courts. What most clubs have in common are members who love being on the sea, whether it’s the ocean, lake, or river. The clubs are places to participate in events, talk about sailing, racing, or cruising, and learn more about the sport.
The Los Angeles Yacht Club in San Pedro, California provides various membership levels, and there is no requirement to own a boat. For boat owners, a benefit is access to slips, and for others, the social and educational aspects of the club are attractions. The Rock Hill Yacht Club on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland emphasizes their sense of community and informal, friendly atmosphere. Many other clubs are comparable to these, with specific attractions like racing, sailing, group cruising, or social events.
At the other end of the spectrum are prestigious clubs like St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco with sponsorship required for new members and initiation fees in the five figures. The New York Yacht Club, founded in 1844 and with multiple victories in the America’s Cup, is comparable in membership requirements and fees. The Yacht Club de Monaco requires formal dress at all times and final membership approval by Prince Albert II himself.
Your Yachting Future
If yachting is a new adventure or one that you want to continue, these options might get you started. Gather your family or a group of friends and head for warm weather in winter or exotic locales anytime, leaving the details to the crew while you relax on deck. Without investing in your own yacht, you can live the yachting life for a week, a month, or even longer before you dive into ownership.