Sailing and surfing the shared economy

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It’s one of those timeless dreams: jumping on a sailboat with your friends or family, and sailing through tropical waters. Warm days, turquoise waters, diving, surfing.

It sounds great until reality sets in: the time, the money, the knowledge of actually sailing a large boat.

Still none of this deterred one young couple from Santa Barbara, who used the shared economy to turn the elite world of boating into an affordable adventure.

To learn more — and in need of a vacation — I jumped aboard the 42-foot trimaran, called, “Aldebaran.”

I met the boat on the west coast of Costa Rica, and was joined by three other novice sailors. We each wanted an ocean escape, which led us to 35-year-old Kristian Beadle.

In 2009, Beadle was able to purchase the Aldebaran at a heavily discounted price because of the Great Recession. Like other boat owners, he soon discovered all the other expenses of keeping up a boat, like maintenance and marina fees.

At the same time, he began taking trips out to Channel Islands on the weekends with friends. And from that, a financial plan started to emerge. “We started these two and three day trips around the [Channel] islands,” he said. “Everyone was just loving it and we all just started chipping into a pot going towards the boat, basically to subsidize the cost of maintenance.”

In other words, Beadle turned the boat into floating co-op. And with his girlfriend, Sabrina Littee, they dreamed of sailing to South America, and across the pacific.

Here’s how it works: Each co-op member pays a one-time fee of $200. Time on the boast is about $70/day. When you add in other expenses, 10-days will cost you around $1,000 — which is much cheaper than chartering a boat in the U.S. or in foreign countries.

Beadle thinks his model is perfectly in step with the shared economy. “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 transactions,” he said. Beadle cites everything from Craigslist to Lyft to Airbnb as a way for people to connect directly with others, which “often creates a more authentic experience, and perhaps a lower price, too.”

An authentic experience means being treated like crew, not a passenger. And that means helping out with cooking, cleaning and boat maintenance.

Sophie Littee, Sabrina’s cousin, describes the experience as a “work trip.” There’s always little things to help out with, which can cut into, say, trying to finish that novel you packed in your suitcase. “We have small moments of reading but man I’m hard pressed to get through the book I’m reading right now,” she said.

She pointed out another downside: you’re stuck on 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,” Sophie said. And escaping when you’re in the middle of the ocean is not exactly easy.

But all of this was a small price to pay for surfing pristine, warm, uncrowded waves in Costa Rica. And for the fact that there are no cell towers in the pacific ocean.

For some, it’s the perfect, affordable escape. As long as you’re willing to work for it.

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