These days it’s not hard to Uber your car or Airbnb your apartment. But what exactly do you do with a sailboat?
One young couple from Santa Barbara, California is using the shared economy to turn the elite world of boating into an affordable adventure.
I was lucky enough to learn about this firsthand when I jumped on their 42-foot boat, and sailed down the west coast of Costa Rica with three other crew members.
How I got there begins with the boat’s captain, Kristian Beadle. He and his girlfriend, Sabrina Littee, always dreamed of owning a boat and sailing it around the world with friends and family. But it was way too expensive, and the entire model of owning a boat didn’t even make much sense.
“What we observe is that people take their boats out two or three times a year,” Beadle said. “And it seems like such a great resource, these boats...it’s sad that they’re just sitting there in the harbor.”
In 2009, they were able to buy a boat dirt cheap because of the Great Recession, but they were hit with $25,000 a year in operating costs.
So, inspired by the shared economy, they turned the boat into a co-op.
Here’s how it works: Each person pays a one-time fee of $200. Time on the boat is about $70 per day. Add in food or surfboard rental, and 10 days will cost you around $1,000.
Not bad, considering it would normally cost nearly four times that.
The result is what Beadle calls a “community sailing” experience. And with no cell towers in the Pacific Ocean, the trip allows people to really unplug and be present in the experience.
Beadle has also partnered with multiple nonprofits with the intention of creating a socially responsible trip. For example, crew members have helped take water samples for researchers in the U.S., and delivered solar reading lamps to villages in Central America.
Beadle thinks his concept is perfectly in step with the times.
“Our ability to own this boat wouldn’t have been possible, I feel, 10 years ago, where people wouldn’t have been open to these kinds of transactions where you’re like, 'Let’s all chip in and be a part of this,'" he said.
Chipping in also means cooking for the group, scrubbing dishes, and helping to fix the boat – or engine – when needed.
In other words, don’t expect a full day of reading mystery novels in your swimsuit.
“We have small moments of reading, but man, I’m hard pressed to get through the book I’m reading right now!” Sophie Littee, Sabrina’s cousin from Alaska, laughed.
She pointed out another downside: You’re stuck on a boat with a bunch of people you may not know.
“Any kinds of issues that come up, and little pet peeves, they kind of become magnified,” Littee said. And escaping when you’re in the middle of the ocean is not exactly….easy.
But I have to admit: It was a small price to pay for surfing pristine, warm, uncrowded waves in Costa Rica.