What is this Club all about?
The Chesapeake Schooner Club is a not for profit, cost-sharing, cooperative-structured corporation designed to allow the average sailor to be an owner of large elegant schooner yachts reminiscent of the grand yachts and America’s Cup racers of the late-1800’s. Our intent is to build and operate three matched schooners in the 80-90 foot range that follow the Spirit of Tradition class, melding modern materials and capabilities with timeless craftsmanship and design. This Club is utterly unique in America as nobody else offers large sailing vessels, much less yachts of this caliber! Our goal is to create boats that both stir the soul and are fast, safe, and comfortable sailing vessels; all while remaining within the reach of the average sailor. The Club’s schooners and smaller boats will be used by the Club for day sailing, racing and cruising principally on the Chesapeake Bay from Mid-April to Mid-November. The boats will primarily be used by groups of Club members and occasionally for private sails.
Why become a member?
Basically, because it is a LOT cheaper and a whole lot less work than owning your own boat! Ask anyone who owns a boat about what the true costs of ownership are. Even a cheap 34’ sailboat will cost more per year to own and keep up than a membership in the Club does. Even if you have a bottomless pocketbook and pay others to do all the work of maintenance and repair, keeping up a boat is a chore that eats up lots of time. With the Club, someone else is responsible for the details, you get to enjoy your time boating. Besides, the Club is more FUN than owning your own boat. With the Chesapeake Schooner Club you get to meet and sail with a lot of other people that share your passion for classical elegance and sailing! What could be better? Naturally, you can always opt to take the boats out for your own use.
Who can become a Club member?
There are only 528 planned membership slots available in the Club. Membership is open to anyone who can demonstrate a competency in sailing keelboats. Proof of competency can come in the form of a referenceable sailing resume or in the form of certification from one of the nationally recognized sailing organizations that offer certification (ASA, J/World, US Sailing, etc.) If you would like to join but don’t feel you have enough sailing experience, the Club has negotiated training opportunities with a sail training operation in Annapolis to get you up to speed! Acceptance into the Club will also be dependent on being nominated by an existing member and being accepted by the Club’s insurance carrier for addition to the Club’s policy. All members will be required to affirm that they are qualified to assess the suitability of the Club vessels to sail safely.
What vessels will the Club have?
The primary vessels of the Club will be three 88’ schooners; Nymph, Dryad & Selkie. These vessels will be designed in the style of the early America’s Cup racers and the great sailing yachts of the turn of last century, though with modern materials, controls and safety features. The vessels are custom designed and built to meet the international standards set forth in the Det Norsk Veritas – Germanischer Lloyd Rules for Classification and Construction for yachts over 24m. In addition, the Club also has plans to own several Nonsuch keelboats in the 30-36 foot range as well as a number of small sailing skiffs for when members want to go out with just their own family and friends or sail on a smaller boat.
Who will crew the schooners?
The crew of the boats will consist completely of the members of the Club. Since all Club members will be verified experienced sailors, they will need to take a familiarization course on the Club schooners to bring them up to speed on the equipment and procedures used on the Club vessels. There is always something more to learn about boats and sailing, and we can all always improve our skills! In addition to the familiarization course, the Club will host numerous learning opportunities to develop your skills as a sailor. These courses will be organized on a regular basis and run by senior Club members under the guidance of a US Coast Guard licensed captain.
Can I captain the vessel?
Anyone in the Club is eligible to be captain of the schooners, and we honestly believe that if you have the will to learn, you can learn to captain these boats! To captain the schooners, members must first pass both a written and a practical exam to prove that they are competent to handle the vessels. The intent is to use the USCG 100T Captain’s license exam as the written portion, and to develop a practical exam using the Club vessels to provide the practical seamanship section. To be clear, the Club will not be certifying to USCG standards, or require such, but the USCG written exam is a good one. After passing the written and practical tests, a Club member can volunteer to be the captain on any sailing of the vessel. Captains get to set the schedule of when the boats go out and the itinerary for sail!
How many people are required to sail the schooners?
While the schooners will easily accommodate 30 people for day sailing and have berths for 12, it does not take that many people to actually handle the boat. The configuration and layout of the controls of the schooners will make it possibly to sail with minimal crew. Ideal crew numbers depend on exactly what is being done with the boat. Theoretically, just 2 people could sail under plain sail (no topsails, no light air sails) and anchor or pick up a mooring just fine, but it is not recommended. Normal sail handling and docking maneuvers are best performed with at least 6 people including the helmsman, though during racing it would probably be advisable to have 10 aboard. Therefore, the normal boat complement would be somewhere between 6 and 30 depending on the activity.
Will the schooners be used to race?
While the vessels will primarily be used for day sailing and the occasional short cruises in the waters around Annapolis, the boats will also be actively raced. The plan is for two boats to take part in the regularly scheduled Wednesday Night Racing in the Annapolis area. The Club also plans to enter one or two boats in big races on the Bay like the Governor’s Cup, the Screwpile, the Elf Classic, the Solomon’s Island Race or any others that are appropriate. Finally, all three schooners will participate in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race in October. In addition to races, the Club will organize a few fun cruises each year to various locations and events on the Bay, and as we all know if two boats are sailing in generally the same direction… it’s a race! Wednesday night racing is a few hours long. Most major races are 1 or 2 day events, and cruises will typically be 1 to 3 days.
How often will I get to use the boats?
That depends. There are no set number of times or limits on how often a Club member can go out on the boats. Rather, every Club member has a number of points that they can use to bid on a slot on the boat when it is going out. Depending on how many people want to go out, and how many points they are willing to bid, determines how many points a member will need to use to secure a slot on the vessel for that time. The Club’s scheduling software awards slots on an auction basis. The only caveat is, you only wind up using as many points as the lowest winning bid is. If there are fewer people that want to go out on the boat than it will carry, as may happen mid-week, then zero point sis the winning bid and no points are needed to go out on the boat! Thus, a member may go out only a few times a year or many dozen times. Usage modelling suggests that Bronze-level members will have the opportunity to get 20+ days of use out of the boats each year.
Can the schooner be reserved for a private function?
The schooners can be reserved for the exclusive use of a Club member and their guests. However, the vessels are expected to be in Club-wide use ~70% of the time. To sail the vessel there must be a Club member with a captain’s rating aboard and at least 6 people aboard who have completed the vessel familiarization course through the Club. The Club assesses a fixed points charge for the exclusive use of the vessel. Monday to Friday, a full day exclusive use will run 5 points, and on the weekend 10 points. Mid-week a 3-day, 4-night exclusive will run 20 points, and over the weekend a 2-day, 1-night exclusive will run 20 points. These point assessment may be changed at the discretion of the Club, and no more than one schooner may be reserved for private use at any time Club racing or a Club cruise is scheduled.
What about the smaller Club vessels?
The smaller vessels that the Club will own, the Nonsuch 30’s, 33’s and 36’s and the Goat Island Skiffs, are perfect for when you feel like sailing a smaller, simpler boat or are looking to go out with just your family and friends. Unlike the schooners, when you reserve one of these boats through the online points system you can specify if you want to use the boat exclusively, or are willing to share it with others. Most of the time people will probably choose to use one of these boats exclusively, but there are scenarios where sharing it makes sense. During times when the boats are in high demand, sharing it combines the bid points of those going out, improving the odds of getting the boat. You can reserve the boat by 8 hour blocks, midnight-8am, 8am-4pm, and 4pm-midnight. Thus, you can use the boat for day sailing, an evening’s sunset cruise, or by booking back to back slots, all-day or short multi-day cruises. As with the schooners, if the number of vessels exceeds the number of members wishing to use them, then no points are required to take them out for that block.
What other facilities does the Club have?
The Club also intends to establish an elegant mansion as the Club’s Clubhouse, located on the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis with deep water access . The exact location and details will depend on the timing of when the Club reaches the level of membership needed to make the Clubhouse financially feasible (~450 members), however current plans are that the Clubhouse would become available at approximately the same time as the schooners. The intent is to build a dedicated building with large common areas, a gourmet kitchen, an elegant dining room, porches and verandas, a bar area, fireplaces in the great room, and multiple bedrooms that members can reserve if they wish to stay over at the Club. Other facilities that are planned are a pool, a spa-like bathhouse, docks, and support buildings for the boats and other Club equipment. All these facilities would be freely available to Club members and used to host Club activities and parties unless reserved for a private function. In the event that sufficient members cannot be found to support the Clubhouse development, the schooners will be kept at a commercial marina in the Annapolis area.
What are the Club dues?
There are no “dues” per se, rather this is a cost sharing cooperative structure where all the Club members are owners of the boats and will share proportionally in the costs to own and run them. That said, the Club will attempt to smooth the variable costs of operations and maintenance and keep the payment fairly level from one year to the next. Every effort will be made to ensure that the Club fees are within 10% of last year’s fees, and deviations from this would be voted on by the Club membership. The Club will have different levels of membership, effectively different numbers of the ~1000 “shares” in the non-stock membership corporation, to allow members to choose a level of ownership commensurate with how much they foresee using the boats and Club facilities. Bronze-level membership, one “share”, is planned to run less than $5,000/yr. If you can plan your usage of the schooners and other vessels for mid-week and other low demand periods, this level of membership should provide enough points to be sufficient for 30+ afternoon sails a year.
Who will maintain the boats?
Since the Club members are the owners of the boats, they are expected to show an owner’s interest in the care and maintenance of the boats. Club members will be expected to average 1-2 hours per month performing routine vessel maintenance and cleaning. Some of this will be a natural result of using the boats. When a member goes out on the boat and returns it to the slip, everyone who was on the boat for that trip will assist in “putting the boat to bed”; furling the sails and putting on the sail covers, washing the deck and cockpit, sweeping the cabin sole and wiping down all tables and surfaces, etc. Basically leaving the boat clean and neat for the next Club members to use, which will typically take about 30 minutes each time the boat is used. The Club will contract professional cleaning twice a week to help keep the boats “Bristol fashion” for the Club members’ use, but the day-to-day tasks of keeping things neat and clean are the responsibility of all members.
Similarly, routine maintenance will be done by Club members under guidance from the Club managers; checking and changing oil on the engines, inspecting the rigging for chafe or other issues, scrubbing the waterline and the hull, polishing metal fittings and much more. Minor repairs will be performed at the Club docks, and members will be encouraged to assist in these as well, however major repairs like engine overhauls and large maintenance items like painting and varnishing will be taken to a professional yard to be completed.
How safe is all this?
Self-responsibility is a major tenet of the Club. It is something we stand for and wish to instill in all our members. The sea is not a place for those who rely on others to take care of them, but rewards those that take responsibility for themselves and look out for their shipmates as well. The Club will reinforce this concept and all members must sign a waiver that they agree to be responsible for their own safety and actions and to hold the Club, its management and its other members harmless. Likewise, all guests must sign said waiver. That said, we all watch out for each other, and care will naturally be taken to make the vessels and their operation reasonably safe and simple to operate. Our captaincy program is based on the USCG 100t licensing program, and our training programs are developed by licensed mariners. Sailing is a fairly safe sport, but it is not without its risks and everyone that steps aboard the vessels must accept that risk. The Club is a 501 (c) (7) corporation and will carry insurance, but the intent is for all to assume personal responsibility for their own risk.
Where will the funds come from to start all this?
Good question! The short answer is sponsors. The Platinum-level of the Club is made up of the good folks who have banded together and formed an LLC to lend money to the Club so that it can afford to buy the boats and maintain them while the Club gets up and running. Being a new Club we have no real credit standing with the banks, so can’t very well walk in and ask for a $14M loan. The sponsors have kindly made their money available at favorable rates so that the Club may exist. In exchange, they are offered Platinum-level membership in the Club.
We are still seeking additional platinum-level members, so if you are interested, here is the deal: The ask is $350,000 which will be paid back over a 20 year period and should achieve a 4% IRR. Further, it takes 12 such sponsors to make each schooner possible, and we will set aside 85% of the loan in escrow until such time as we get twelve sponsors and order a boat. While some may argue that 4% is perhaps not a stellar return on investment, your funds are the very thing that will make this Club possible. We are seeking those with a will to make this Club a reality! No sponsors, no Club! It is also a lot cheaper than buying a boat (Click here for several current examples of boat purchase/ownership costs) and has at least a small return as opposed to the pure depreciation of owning a boat yourself. In exchange, you are offered the highest level of membership in the Club with commensurately more points, recognition and benefits! If being a Platinum-level member sounds like something you would like to do, please contact us for more details.
Tell me more about the points system? How do I use it?
The points system at first seems complex, but in fact is pretty easy to understand. Really it is just a method to deal with a resource scarcity. The Club members are all owners of the vessels, but the schooners only fit 30 people at a time, so not everyone can go out on the boats simultaneously! There needs to be a way to allocate who gets to use the vessels when, and it needs to take into account that some times are more desirable to members than others. Thus, the points system: For every level of Club membership, Junior, Bronze, Silver, Gold & Platinum, you get a number of points to use in reserving the Club vessels and other amenities. If you want to join the boat for the Wednesday evening race, then you log into the Club’s online scheduling system and use your points to indicate how important it is to you to go out on the boat for that trip. If it is super important to you, then you might bid in 5 points; not so important, maybe 1 point; if you would like to go if there is room but don’t want to use a point, bid zero points! At midnight on Monday the system will clear the “market” for the Wednesday evening boat, starting with the highest point bids in the order received. Slots on the boat are awarded, moving down the bid tree until the boat is full. Whatever point amount the last person to get a slot on the boat bid, becomes the point value for that trip. If the last person on was a zero point bid, then everyone going out on the boat uses zero points! If the last person to get a slot was a two point bid, then everyone uses just two points regardless of how high their initial bid was. Pretty easy really. Points expire after two years, so members can carry extra points from one year to another. Points are also used to reserve the schooners and other boats for private usage, and can also be used to reserve a room at the Clubhouse to stay overnight or to reserve the entire facility for a wedding or other event. Again, the point system is just a way to equitably share the jointly owned resources of the Club.
The complete draft Club Rules Handbook can be downloaded here: Member Rules & Policies Handbook