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Time-share cruising in a new powerboat

SailTime now offers shared use of Mainship 34 Pilots, as well as Hunter sailboats

SailTime now offers shared use of Mainship 34 Pilots, as well as Hunter sailboats

SailTime, the “fractional” sailing company, is adding a power cruiser to its fleet so powerboaters also can share the use of a new boat, an arrangement it says is more attractive to some who might shy away from boating because of the time and cost involved in full boat ownership.

SailTime, which has been putting Hunter sailboats into fractional sailing programs for three years, is offering shared use of Mainship 34 Pilots under a new division, SailTime Power.

“It’s a natural evolution,” says George Bonelli, a co-founder of the Austin, Texas-based company. The sailing and power/trawler markets are very similar, and many trawler people are ex-sailors. (Mainship and Hunter also are sister companies, both part of the Luhrs Marine Group.)

By expanding into power, SailTime taps into a potential market 10 times larger than its sail market, says vice president Jonathan Duffy. The company expects to put 10 Mainships into service in the first year.

In fractional boating — both sail and power — eight members share one boat. Each member is guaranteed, but not restricted to, two weekend and five weekday or night boat times each month. Members keep their own boating calendar using SailTime’s Scheduler, a proprietary online, real-time scheduling system. Members can make reservations for immediate use or reserve time up to a year in advance, as well as swap times with other members. If members don’t use all of their boating time in one month, they can carry it over to the next month, according to the company, and time can be borrowed from future months. Also, each member is entitled to unlimited “as-available” use of the boat on 24-hour notice at no extra cost.

There are two groups of SailTime customers: members and member-owners. Members pay a monthly fee to use the boat — often less than a full day’s charter rate or monthly slip charges. They show up at their scheduled time, use the boat, clean it up when finished and leave. Owner-members buy a new boat, then lease it back to SailTime for a minimum of five years. SailTime pays all marina fees, insurance and maintenance costs, and sends the owner a guaranteed monthly check, which usually more than pays the monthly bank note. Owner-members use the boat like regular members but typically get to use it for free for five years, according to the company.

SailTime’s E-ttendant system manages maintenance with an on-board wireless PDA that members use to tick off a checklist of the boat’s condition and inventory when they get on and off. The system automatically e-mails members and/or the base manager about maintenance or inventory issues.

SailTime also offers a “Novice to Captain” program of education and training so new boaters can acquire requisite skills.

Bonelli says in its first three years the fractional sailing program has grown to 27 bases in North America (two in Canada) and four in Europe for a total of 60-plus sailboats. Most are Hunter 33s, a few are 36s, and 38- and 41-footers are on order, he says.

“We’re trying to make boating easy and low-cost, and take a lot of the fear out of getting into it,” says Bonelli. “This is a way that you can dip your toe in the water.”

He says some SailTime members decide they don’t like boating and get out of it. Others like it very much, buy their own boat and move on; still others stay in the SailTime program.

Mainship expects SailTime Power to bring more people into boating and to Mainship in particular, says Jim Krieger, the builder’s marketing director. “It’s a great thing for us and for our dealers and for growing boating.”

For more information, contact SailTime at (512) 314-5600.