August 2008

Live the Yachting Life for a Fraction

Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: Jason Altice and Morgan O'Banion

Q. What could be better than owning your own yacht?
A. Owning your own yacht with four or five other people.

“Let me give you some numbers,” Captain Chris Parker said. “Ninety percent of all boats leave the harbor 10 times a year. Five percent never leave. It’s a shame. But they’re about the most expensive thing you can have, next to an airplane.”

Parker, the owner of Bottomline Yacht Company, located at Palmetto Bay Marina, has an answer to that expense: share it. While his company also does charters, leases and yacht management, he and wife, Laura, are focused on fractional ownership. In some respects, it is like a partnership but without the pressure.

“For a long time, I’ve been aware of the difficulties in partnerships in boats. It never works. It always causes fights, even if you do it with friends. It ruins friendships. Even if you’re not friends, then you’re constantly battling back and forth on who’s using it too much, who’s not taking care of it,” Parker said.

The way Bottomline Yacht Company has set up fractional ownership, that won’t happen. “When we set up a fractional ownership, we take over everything. We like to say, ‘We take the pain and leave you with the pleasure,’” Laura Parker said. As part of the ownership agreement, Bottomline retains management rights. And they manage everything for a monthly fee.

“We take care of insurance, the dockage, haul outs, cleaning the glass, polishing the chrome, waxing the boat, vacuuming the carpets, changing the oil filters, getting the bottom cleaned, making repairs. We take all of the questions away. All you have to do is come down to the boat. We’re waiting; the boat’s clean, engine’s running and you have a drink in your hand. When you get done with it, we’re there to help you dock it, and you get off the boat. You can leave the engines running if you want to. We’ll take care of it from there,” Parker explained.

If you want to drive your boat, Bottomline will even give you lessons. Training is included in the monthly fee along with a captain for the first five local day trips. However, if you would rather be chauffeured around the waters of the Lowcountry, the company supplies a captain at a nominal fee.

Parker said that boat maintenance is one of the biggest problems—and pains—in boat ownership. Maintenance is always deferred. He should know. Parker also owns Yacht Services, a very well-known boat maintenance company. After working there for seven years, when the owner decided to retire, Parker bought the company. That was six years ago. So fractional ownership with Bottomline has a full-time maintenance company built right in.

Another plus to fractional ownership is cost. “(Owners) like it because it’s less expensive and it’s simple. And it makes it fun instead of stressful to own a boat. The way the economy is, and fuel prices, people are going to have to share a little bit more,” said Laura. As an example of the cost of individual ownership she cited a 44-foot Sea Ray. “It would cost about $40,000 a year. And that’s before you take it away from the dock,” she said.

Unlike other fractional ownership companies that have sprung up recently on both coasts of the U.S., Parker said that each agreement is customized. “It depends on the people, what type of boat they want, how many partners they want, how much money they want to spend,” he explained.

“For example, if you came to us and you decided you wanted to buy fractional ownership and you had two friends who also wanted to buy into a particular kind of boat, but to make it economical, you needed two more guys. We’ll go find the other two guys to make the group,” Parker said.

He also stated that he prefers not to buy new boats, because used boat prices are more reasonable and he knows the market. He also said a well-maintained, used boat is a better investment. “New boats are like new cars, except when you drive a car off the lot you lose $10,000 or $20,000. When you drive a boat off the lot, you lose $100,000 or $200,000,” he said.

“Fractional ownership is the future of yachting. Individual ownership is just becoming extremely difficult to afford,” Laura said. And, as a gesture to “green” yachting, she added, “As we share boats, we take more boats off the water.”

The Yacht Vacation
The chef serves you your favorite seafood dish. You treat your spouse to a professional massage. As you get ready for bed, you notice the chocolate mint on your bunk.

Bunk?

For a slightly different anniversary present, why not charter a yacht? “Why not stay on a yacht overnight, have champagne, roses, chocolates on the pillow, the works. We’ll make it very special for that occasion,” said Laura Parker.

“That’s why we do overnights and full weeks on our charter boats. Instead of a hotel, you can stay on a boat. Instead of overlooking the water, you’re on the water. You don’t have to go out cruising if you don’t want to. You could stay five nights, go out cruising for one day, then play golf, go shopping, go to the beach, whatever you want to do,” said Captain Chris Parker.

Of course, there’s the envy factor. “Think about sitting on a boat in Harbour Town on a Saturday night, up against the wall. You’re not the one walking. You’re the one sitting in the harbor. That’s fun. It’s a feeling most people don’t get. The average person can’t afford a boat like that. But the average person can afford to stay on a boat like that,” said Laura.

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