18 Years of Boat Sharing - My Secrets to Making Sharing Work by David Canning.

by Rob Lee on 22nd February 2015

We met at the London Boat Show. David, a long standing member of the Little Ship Club and was spending a day on their stand to promote them. During a conversation, David explained how he had been involved in Boat Sharing for several years, quite successfully. He agreed to be interviewed for the Boat Share Finder blog about why it has worked for him for so long and why he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend boat sharing as a viable option to anyone interested in taking the steps to boat ownership.

Hi David - thanks for agreeing to talk to me about your Boat Sharing experience.

How long have you been involved in boating?

I never really got into boating as a child. In fact my wife was the one who introduced me to sailing. Through sailing with her father I got my first on the water experience. Initially this was on cruising boats, followed by a little bit of dinghy sailing and windsurfing. Although I believe strongly that you need to learn in dinghies, I never made much progress. And as I grew older I decided that I wanted to focus on the challenges of bigger boat sailing. I progressed to bigger boats while doing my training and chartered often with friends off the West Coast of Scotland.

I need to tip my hat to the Little Ship Club here. All my training was done through them. I know I may be biased, volunteering for them, but they really are first rate - I took their seamanship and safety courses and they really prepared me well. This training coincided with me buying into my first boat share, but the arrangement didn’t last.

So how did you then come to the decision that sharing was something that would suit you?

The opportunity arose to share with my brother in law in 1997. It was initially financially motivated, And we brought another friend of mine into the partnership whilst we looked for a boat. We decided that a Moody 336 would suit us and have shared the one which we bought (8 years old) ever since. We all chip in with the maintenance which has worked well.

My brother in law had to retire from sailing unfortunately due to the onset of Parkinson’s soon afterwards. But we had another friend who was of a like mind and interested so he became the third shareholder. It works out amazingly well for us.

Can you describe a little of how your boat share agreement/syndicate works?

If I were to go into a new boat share agreement I would definitely use the RYA share agreement as this covers everything you can think of. Our agreement was made up of friends and family members and I acknowledge it’s not as strong as the RYA one.

I got into sharing as it wasn’t the cost of buying a boat that initially put me off, it was the running costs. Anyone who runs a boat knows the running costs are the major factor and there’s no way I would have taken on a boat like the Moody by myself initially. So it’s a fantastic way of reducing costs.

None of our wives are interested in sailing and our grandchildren seem preoccupied with music and other endeavours, so it’s left to the shareholders to take the boat out. Luckily we enjoy sailing together. We go on an annual cruise and often take other friends out. Our trips have been to South Brittany, the West Country, the Channel Islands and the Hebrides - we try a new destination each year. But mainly it’s the three sharers. It’s never a problem to get time to go out - either we all go out together or the group amicably sorts out a schedule. It works really well.

We do all our own maintenance. We have 2 lists for improvement - a wish list and an essentials list. If an essential goes wrong, it’s invariably when two of us are on board, so we usually attend to it immediately and divvy up the costs. Planned replacements such as new sails are handled in the same way. Wish list items are things like a folding prop, which we’ve talked about for years but haven’t yet got around to. But having both lists keeps all of us focussed on keeping the boat in a good condition.

Were there any fears you had going into the agreement and how have those played out once you got into the syndicate?

No fears - maybe I’m a bit naive. I did the maths initially and it all made sense to me to share the running costs. We’re currently moored on an offshore pontoon which works out very well.. Ideally I’d like to be in a fully serviced marina, which we were until we all retired, but the additional cost is not really justified. The biggest concern is if someone has to leave the agreement but I suppose we’ve been so lucky so far with whom we’ve shared - - being all friends or family we’ve all been very much on each other’s wavelengths.

If you had to name one thing that makes your syndicate/agreement work for you, what would that be?

Mutual respect and reliability with the people I am sharing with. As I said I’ve been incredibly lucky as I’ve known them all a while. We sail together and are all engineers so quite happy to take on the maintenance ourselves.

The way we use the boat has changed since we retired. Now we all put effort into longer trips and focus our efforts on that rather than just going out for the day. Since our circumstances are all similar this works fantastically - if one person was more interested in day trips it might not be as successful

Lastly David, what advice would you have for anyone who has just started considering boat sharing but needs more information?

Three things:
Firstly spend time meeting the people you’ll be sharing with. I cannot overstate this point. You need to understand their objectives and ensue they have similar ideas. If one party is keen on racing and the other party more interested in cruising the focus of where to spend money on the boat will be different.

Secondly it’s important to have a budget of what the operating costs are likely to be. This is the real cost to focus on. Keeping an eye on this keeps a lot of harmony in the group.

Thirdly try to do some of the maintenance yourself, even if you’re not that experienced. You learn so much about the boat by doing this within the syndicate and building a team ethos together. For me, the effort you put in while doing this is the difference between owning shares in a financial asset and sharing a boat.

And lastly make sure you all get some training ashore and afloat. If in doubt try the Little Ship Club – good training, good people and a fantastic location for Londoners and visitors alike.