Partnering with someone else to buy a boat may be a good option for people with common interests. The partnering advantage comes from shared activities as well as shared economics. You don’t always have to use the boat together, but I’ve never seen a boat partnership work solely as a time-sharing agreement or as a way to save money.
I’ve known several sets of boat partners over the years who have made the compromise work with varying degrees of success. Before I describe them though, I have to say I don’t think I myself could make it work. I’m very particular about my boat; I want things, like the coiling of lines, to be done in a certain way; and I like being in charge. That said, if you have the flexibility, the will, and the right partner, let me describe the scenarios where boat-owning partnerships have worked.
1. Find someone who likes to do the same kind of waterborne activities you enjoy—fishing, for instance.
My buddy Charlie and his brother Bill own a small powerboat together. Yeah, they’re family, but what makes owning a boat together work for these guys is their love of fishing. They usually go out together and also share the maintenance and costs right down the middle. I mentioned them in my blog about installing a fishfinder thru-hull not so long ago.
2. Two professionals, an architect and an engineer, who love to race sailboats.
They both had the means to own a Beneteau First 42 sailboat individually, but they were short on free time. That made sharing a boat work for both of them. They raced together, alternating helm time from race to race, and then they divided up the remaining weekends and time on the boat according to their individual cruising needs. They also had complementary personalities: one DIY and the other who was happy to pay the expenses to let himself out of the maintenance side of the equation. They both got to race and recreate without feeling the need to be on the boat every weekend. I sailed with them for eight years before buying my own boat.
3. Boat partners who own their own cruising boats and buy a smaller sport boat to race together.
These friends have instant crew, but keep the family boats separate.
4. A group of five who share a single boat.
This group found themselves crewing together, became friends, and when the owner changed jobs and moved out of state, they decided to maintain their time together by collectively buying the boat and becoming partners.
As I said before, you have to have the right match of personalities and a common activity. And you also need to sit down and write out an understanding of how the partnership is going to work, from maintenance costs, to labor, to time-sharing. Who is responsible when one of you breaks something? Don’t forget to agree in writing on how to dissolve the partnership amiably, when the time comes for one or both of you to move on.
This last piece is a key component in a boat-owning partnership. Being able to sell your share when you want out without negatively impacting your partner or forcing an unwanted boat sale must be thought out and agreed to in advance.
Boat-owning partnerships are not for everyone. If you are simply trying to limit your financial exposure while having access to a boat, chartering may be a better option for you. However, if you want someone to share time, activity and the economics, consider finding a boat partner.