Family afloat

NEW OWNER'S PERSPECTIVE

Getting afloat with a new boat is never cheap, except perhaps when sharing the burden with others, reports Di Pearson.

So many options are available to prospective yacht owners today: ticketed lessons, casual bareboat and skippered charter, corporate charter, purchase singularly or with mates, crew now purchase later and syndicate boat ownership. For northern beaches sailor Jon Michel and his family, equity chartering fit the bill nicely.

Jon Michel, his wife, Dawn, and their young children, Josh, 9, and Ella, 7, are in ‘seventh heaven’, having eight months ago signed on for a one-tenth equity share in a Hanse 40ft yacht.

‘It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,’ says Jon of his investment.

Extremely busy with his banking recruitment business and sporting commitments to his children, Jon’s family’s busy lifestyle and his syndicate share of the boat through Pittwater Yacht Charter & Sailing School are a perfect fit. The company also offers all the other options mentioned above.

Born and bred in the United Kingdom, Jon struck up a friendship with Englishwoman Mary Bickley while living there. The two have remained friends and both immigrated to Australia at around the same time. It was Mary, now the Sales Director for Hanse in NSW, who suggested the syndicate style equity ownership of a yacht to her friend.

‘We used to sail together before we both had families and we have continued the tradition since moving to Australia and starting a family,’ Jon says adding: ‘The financial burden isn’t huge ($35,000 for each of the 10 syndicate members, equating to one-tenth of the cost of the new yacht) and it is a three-year deal, so you are not locked into a loveless marriage.

‘At the end of three years, the boat is sold and each of the syndicate members receives equal shares of the retail sales price. It is worked out fairly; three separate quotes are arranged before the price is decided, so everyone is happy.’

Not a racing yachtsman in the true sense, Jon sailed dinghies in the UK and enjoyed bareboat charters in such places as Greece and Turkey. ‘I never skippered one, just went as a crew member,’ he confesses.

Moving to Australia some years ago, he continued sailing via twilight races. Jon then encouraged his wife and children to join him in the sport that has provided him so much pleasure.

‘We knew we all enjoyed sailing, but I didn’t particularly want to buy a tiny boat; we wanted a decent- sized boat that offered comfort, ease of sail. We also wanted something that was state-of-the-art, so what we have price-wise with the Hanse 40 is perfect.’

Each of the 10-member syndicate is allotted equal shares of weekends, holidays and weekdays and Jon and his family tend to use the yacht around one or two days per month, but could use it more.

‘My father-in-law is a keen sailor, and being retired, he uses the yacht mid-week and only has to pay a cleaning fee. When we take the yacht out, it is fully prepared and ready to go on our arrival ‘ it’s wonderful, easy.

‘We can sail the boat around Pittwater, or we can sail further, as long as we get it back in the allotted time, and when we return the yacht they have it professionally cleaned and ready for the next syndicate member to use,’ Jon explains.

Pittwater Yacht Charters
‘If anything breaks on the yacht, we leave a note and Pittwater Yacht Charters has it fixed. There is no burden of administration or cost. It’s great for people who want to see what it is like to own and run a boat without the pressure of immediately buying.

‘I know a couple of guys who purchased yachts and found their wives did not enjoy sailing. Now they are stuck with boats that don’t get used, so they sit on moorings and get into a state of disrepair,’ says the Pittwater resident.

In fact, Jon’s only out-of-pocket expenses come with mooring and cleaning fees and man-made breakages, for which the syndicate is invoiced regularly. Should something break through wear and tear, the problem is fixed without extra cost to the syndicate.

He is also enthusiastic about the back-up support he receives from the company. ‘They provide you with help, instruction and assistance.

‘We were shown over the boat in detail beforehand, taken for some lessons to experience and get used to the yacht. We had two afternoons of hands-on instruction, going through the workings of the boat bit-by-bit.

‘If we are on the water and experiencing problems, we put in a call to the company and they assist you straight away. They are very user-friendly and couldn’t be more helpful.

‘The one and only downside to the arrangement is that you have to book your time on the yacht 70 days in advance via the website, so you need to do a bit of planning and remembering. However, should you need to cancel after booking, there is no penalty.’

New friends
While Jon’s family do not know the other charterers in his syndicate, he says the option is there to meet the others. ‘For those whose lives revolves around sailing, or for those who are retired, it works well to meet the others, as you can swap ideas, share cruising stories and that type of thing.

‘We tend to cruise mainly around Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River, but we recently took the boat away overnight with Mary and her family. There were eight of us – and the yacht is big enough and configured in the right way to accommodate all of us comfortably,’ he explains.

The family could also race the yacht if they so desired, but as time is short, Jon says it is more practical, and suits the family better, to enjoy cruising days exploring their locale.

Jon says his family really enjoy the boat. ‘It’s a great boat, very roomy and you are not constricted by the layout below. You can change the configuration to suit your needs. Below decks is very roomy, light and airy. The yacht is incredibly easy to sail too; lots of it is electronically operated, winches etc., making it very simple for a family with young children ‘ it’s a lot of fun.’

Once the three-year charter is up, the yacht is sold and syndicate members have the option of buying the boat, resubscribing for another boat, or pulling out all together.

More sailing
‘Down the track, at a bare minimum, we would re-subscribe,’ says the father of two adding: ‘The other good thing is that you can buy more than a one-tenth share, which is great for people who would like to do more sailing and therefore need more than the allocated days of one share.’

The family man is also happy that son Josh started a sailing program two weeks ago as part of his curriculum at Loquat Valley Primary School in Bayview and is enjoying it. ‘Josh gets to sail both dinghies and yachts. He will learn a lot sailing a dinghy ‘ he’ll get a good all-round idea, having to learn about the wind, various conditions, trimming, steering; all those sorts of things that make a good sailor.’

Jon sees big advantages in his family’s venture into the yacht charter. ‘It’s great because we can do this as a family sport. In this day and age, families tend to be busy and not spend enough time together, but with sailing, the opportunity is there.

‘Even if the kids lost interest at some time, they can always come back later down the track and will know the basics.

‘Both my kids enjoy it equally, but Josh gets more involved in the sailing side of things. He particularly loves to steer, where Ella more enjoys having her friends aboard and playing cubby house and games down below with them.

‘It’s also a great way to get the kids away from today’s technology: computers and TV. Once they are out sailing, they forget about all that. I like the social aspect of sailing for my family ‘ it’s an excellent way to socialise your children and to meet people.’

‘I don’t like the kids to spend too much time inside with technology. There’s a nice balance between indoor and outdoor activities, and that is what Dawn and I aim for ‘ a healthy balanced lifestyle.’

Jon had heard about this type of equity ownership arrangement some years back, but believes the business today is increasingly more professional and competitive.

‘The old scheme, which in many cases was improperly used for a tax dodge, is gone. This is now the way to do it. While there are no tax benefits at all to this scheme, it does keep costs down.

‘This is better than a straight-out casual charter. You get used to the one boat, so you don’t have to bother with the rigmarole of chartering different boats each time and going through time-consuming rules and regulations each time you charter.’

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