Can a charter boat really help the environment? Yes, absolutely!
The fact is, a small number of charter boats can be enjoyed by a large number of people. Chartering a boat is not only more affordable and practical than owning a boat, but there is also a correlated positive environmental benefit to chartering. When we rent a boat rather have our own boat, we’re reducing the overall number of boats on the water.
Share My Yacht
Long before the term “sharing economy” came in vogue with companies like AirBnB or Uber, charter boats have been a popular way to get on the water and “share” a yacht. Rather than owning your own personal boat, chartering a boat has been an innovative and affordable alternative to enjoy sailing without buying a boat.
Boat owners have loved chartering because they can make income when they’re not using their boats. And charterers love chartering because they only pay for the time they’re on the water, forgoing the baggage associated with boat ownership, namely maintenance, cost, and storage. It’s a win-win.
A secret of the boating world is that many boats often sit idly in the marinas, seldom used. So charter boats truly are the most active boats on the water. Latitude 38 magazine estimated there are roughly 250 charter boats on SF Bay, and about 50 of those are Club Nautique boats. So Club Nautique really represents a huge proportion of the active boats on SF Bay. I’ve often been impressed to see many boats on the Bay flying the Club Nautique burgee, sometimes I’ve seen more club boats on the water than non-club boats! This means that hundreds or thousands more people are enjoying the yachting lifestyle without owning individual boats.
“They’re Not Making Any More of It.”
Finding a place to dock your boat in the Bay Area is no easy feat. Just as the real estate boom has impacted homeowners and renters, so too have boaters felt squeezed out of the precious few marinas in the Bay Area. And don’t hold your breath for many more marinas to be built in the coming years. With a decreasing supply of slips and an increasing number of boats, many Bay Area marinas have notoriously long waitlists for new tenants, some are years-long, and others no longer even bother to offer waitlists! Some marinas even charge fees to remain on their waitlist, even before the first month of rent has ever been paid!
So chartering a boat that already has a slip is a very practical way to jump into the yachting lifestyle without scouring for a slip to park your new boat.
Training & Seamanship
Sailing schools and clubs set a standard for boaters. I’ll venture to say that Club Nautique members, in particular, have a far higher standard of seamanship and training than most recreational boaters on the Bay. The charter club model just wouldn’t work if people aren’t taking care of the boats. Club members take the time to learn how to do things right, they know how to operate a boat, they don’t make obvious mistakes like dump oil or waste in the water, and they clean up after themselves. And that’s another positive benefit for the environment.
What To Do With an Old Boat?
Almost anyone would love to have a new boat, and a new boat fresh from the factory will certainly turn heads in any marina. But what happens to old boats?
In the 70s and 80s there was a surge in new boat sales, and factories were churning out new fiberglass hulls at a rapid rate. Enough so that boating became much more accessible and affordable for many families. But those older boats don’t just disappear, and there was a glut, and many older boats were even abandoned. Abandoned boats are certainly a mess that no one wants to clean up, and even government agencies have balked at towing or impounding abandoned boats. Just take a look at Richardson Bay in Sausalito to see the fate of unwanted boats.
So chartering and sharing boat is inherently less wasteful than buying a new individual boat. And as a charter skipper, you can still enjoy sailing a new boat without the cost of buying new.
Improving Bay Beauty:
We are fortunate to have a beautiful Bay and Delta to sail in and enjoy here in the San Francisco area. The environment here is actually much cleaner than it has been in years past, and despite the urbanization of Bay Area, we still have greatly protected coastlines, shores, and national parks with unspoiled natural beauty.
A few key nonprofits have played a substantial role in cleaning up Bay pollution since the 60s and 70s. Save the Bay and Baykeeper, in particular, have been a visible presence in safeguarding the Bay for future generations to enjoy.
If you’d like to learn more about ways to be a conscientious boater and keep the Bay healthy, check out this great guide from Sailors for the Sea:
Now go have fun! The wind is blowing and the water is looking fine! Let’s sail.