by Jeni Bone
Putting aside the price of fuel, interest rate rises, mortgage pressure and a CPI that’s creeping ever upwards, owning a boat is a dream for most Australians. Now there are more options than ever before to suit consumers’ budgets, lifestyles, interests and importantly, busy schedules.
Most people dream of owning a boat, but the realities of maintenance and the time commitment are seen as deterrents.
'Owning a boat is a lifestyle choice,' explains Greg Anderton at Abel Point Yacht Sales. 'More and more people are discovering there are ways to get into boating that take in to account an individual’s circumstances.'
Some ‘empty nesters’ are buying a boat and spending a year or 18 months traveling the east coast, lapping up adventure and the blue yonder.
'One of our recent clients is taking a 65ft catamaran from Perth to the Whitsundays,' continues Anderton. 'You can live on the larger boats and unlike a house, you can move wherever and whenever you like.'
There are myriad options for people keen to get onboard – syndication, membership, boat share or fractional sales, balloon or residual lease, or buying then chartering your vessel.
Anderton recommends seeking the advice of both your accountant and a reputable broker for a full examination of terms, conditions, liabilities and realities of each.
But it is true to say that with just a couple of thousand dollars, you can become a part owner or member in a slice of luxury afloat.
Long a tool of investors in real estate, corporate aircraft and racehorses, the concept is not even new to boating.
Co-ownership schemes, where mates go 'halves' or a private boat owner advertises shares in the classified, have been popular for decades. Most boat owners find they don’t have the time to use their boat as often as they would like, let alone maintain it and their hard earned dollars are better spent on other pursuits.
Too many luxury yachts are only used for a total of a few weeks a year, while costs are ongoing. Marina fees, registration, insurance, cleaning, maintenance, organizing slipways, sail repair, painting and engine checks are required, and of course the capital tied up in the yacht.
Getting together as a conglomerate of friends, relatives or complete strangers, shared boat ownership gives people more for their money, while sharing the costs of marina bills, maintenance and depreciation.
Riviera Syndication is positioned as 'a total boating lifestyle and maintenance program for busy boating enthusiasts'. With more than 30 years experience in the marine industry, John Russell and his wife, Sharon, are at the helm.
The concept uses Riviera 4700 and 3600 Sport Yachts, a Riviera 37 Flybridge cruiser from Sanctuary Cove and a Riviera 33 Flybridge in Brisbane, along with other models as required, and most recently, a syndication program at Hamilton Island with a new three-cabin Riviera 45 Flybridge with its distinctive moulded staircase linking the cockpit and flybridge.
As CEO of the venture, Russell says: 'Riviera cruisers with the additional benefits of full service, optional valet services, professional tuition and shared cost.
John and Sharon Russell oversee Riviera's syndication program.
'It’s a perfect program for people who have time to go boating only occasionally and prefer to have their boat professionally maintained and serviced by Riviera experts. They can arrive at the marina with family and friends and simply step on board knowing the boat is sparkling clean and ready to go.'
Riviera Syndication offers all of the benefits Riviera owners are accustomed to, including participation in owner events, access to the Riviera Card discount program, subscription to The Riviera Magazine and Riviera’s 24 /7 on-water assist program.
An equity share in the Riviera 45 Flybridge will be offered for about $ 90,000 plus a share of running costs. Each of 12 owners will be allocated four weeks a year on board via an online booking system with the option of catering, skipper and additional services.
The pioneer of shared boat ownership, The Cruising Club, is gradually expanding its network, from the Whitsundays, Brisbane, NSW Central Coast, Sydney, New Zealand and Fiji to eventually offer members global opportunities. It is another hassle free walk-on, walk-off boating option. Cost of membership is dependant on the number of shares purchased in each boat and the size and quality of the boat.
Neil Mann, owner of Whitsunday Marine Brokerage and the region’s Cruising Club manager, describes the concept as 'equity boat ownership', meaning you buy in to the vessel and after a period of time, in most cases five years, you split the profit from the sale of the boat with your co-owners, from two to 14 people.
'It depends on the structure, but a number of owners have purchased single shares in The Cruising Club for as little as $13,000,' adds Mann.
'They then have the right to a minimum of three weeks use per year, plus access to 70 days standby available to all in the syndicate. There are management fees, but it’s a really great way to get the most out of your boat ownership. After the five year deal, the boat is sold and owners get a share in that. Boats usually retain around 40-60% of their value.'
According to Mann, feedback from Cruising Club owners shows people use their shared boats more than they did when they owned private boats. 'People are just too busy these days to maintain, refuel, clean and spend time dedicated to a boat,' he explains.
'In the case of The Cruising Club, you get a roster and then you can book and plan your calendar.'
The Cruising Club members have access to around 20 boats, ranging from a 50ft Mustang flybridge model with a buy-in of $226,000 for five years with three months access per year, to the most popular 28ft sports cruiser.
The beauty of the program is that the boat can be taken anywhere along the coast and owners simply arrive and take off, says Mann, adding that owners all receive training from a qualified skipper, can book preferred holiday periods online and leave all the berthing, cleaning, maintenance, service and management of the boat to The Cruising Club.
There are also membership structures, which operate by providing credit points for members and are more like a timeshare program.
Phil Pitt, general manager at Pacific Boating likens the program to 'golf club or gym membership'.
'You use our facility, walk-on, walk-off access to a fleet of 15 SeaRay Sundancers – from 28' to 44' – for around $895 per month. It’s simple and it suits everybody from old hands to people new to boating.'
The appeal is broad ranging, flexible and attracts a diverse membership, from young professionals, CEOs and executives, young families and groups of friends or a couple of brothers, perhaps sharing a membership.
'Some people have owned boats before and now, don't have time to maintain and run one, but they still want to be able to go our regularly. Some people just want to try before they buy,' explains Pitt. 'And once they try, they never buy!'
Members, now numbering more than 200 from three locations in NSW – The Quays Marina, Pittwater, D’Albora Marina at Cabarita and Fergusons Marina at The Spit – are entitled to 300 credit points per membership, which they draw down on during the year and allow them as many as 30 days per annum.
'Weekdays are worth 10 credits, weekends are worth 15 credits and evenings are 5,' says Pitt, adding that A Class membership gives people access to the entire fleet.
With three locations since opening in February 2006, Pacific Boating is now entering a consolidation phase, according to Pitt. The company owns all its own boats, which Pitt admits 'was an expensive exercise'.
'We are the fastest growing membership program and this rapid expansion has been mostly through steady marketing and word of mouth,' reports Pitt, attending his 3rd SIBS and exhibiting inside with a team of sales people as well as on the mar