Boat sharing allows more Southern New Englanders to set sail

BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Carlton Tucker’s sailboat has earned her name: Chillaxin’.

“The minute you get on it, you forget about the rest of the world and you’re just out there, you and the wind and the water,” Tucker said.

But Tucker isn’t the only captain. Chillaxin’ is part of SailTime, a fractional ownership program.

“One person owns a boat and they share it with half a dozen other folks,” SailTime Rhode Island owner, Rob Lawnsby explained. “You come, you use the boat a certain allotted time, and then you go home and everything is taken care of. It’s no hassle boating.”

In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the annual economic impact of recreational boating tops $2.6 billion, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The NMMA also puts the total U.S. spending on boats, engines, maintenance and related costs at $35.4 billion.

Tucker said boat sharing made ownership a reality.

“It’s been able to help pay for the boat,” he said.

Mark Piemonte, of Barrington, said sharing also works for his budget and schedule.

“You’re not paying any of the fees that a regular boat owner pays, and then it’s a fair scheduling system so everybody get s a chance to get different weekends,” Piemonte said.

Piemonte said he feels a sense of responsibility as a member of a boat-sharing program.

“You have to make sure you do everything right,” Piemonte added.

Boat sharing isn’t a new concept but it is becoming more popular. There are several websites, including Boatbound and Boatsetter, that facilitate peer-to-peer boat sharing. There are also traditional boat clubs, like Freedom Boat Club, where the company owns a fleet of vessels members can use.

A quick online search of Southern New England yielded dozens of options; everything from luxury yachts to small sailboats.

“I’d say it’s one of the fastest-growing segments of boating,” Lawnsby said.

There are 137,302 registered recreational boats in Massachusetts and 37,860 registered recreational boats in Rhode Island. It’s unclear how many are part of boat sharing services.

There are minimal requirements to operate recreational boats in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.