Own a Lamborghini - part time (cont.)

By Jeff Garigliano, FSB Magazine

An hour's drive south from Collexium's clubhouse in Fort Lauderdale is Miami's Dinner Key Marina, where several yachts are moored for a boat-sharing company called Pinnacle Yachts (pinnacleyachts.com). Chicago-based Pinnacle was founded in 1998 by Gary Feracota and his wife, Patricia, both of whom previously worked for Deloitte.

The Feracotas owned a 36-foot sailboat in the late 1990s that they sailed around Lake Michigan, but they could use it only three or four times a month. They sold about 60 percent of it to friends and others, and the system worked so well that they turned it into a business.

Today Pinnacle Yachts has 30 boats in ten locations - three in Chicago and the remainder on the East Coast, from Boston to Miami. The company specializes in sailboats - nearly all 37- and 40-footers from Jeanneau (jeanneauamerica.com), a French company, costing anywhere from $170,000 to $300,000 - but last year it started offering powerboats as well, in the form of 34-foot Sea Ray Sundancers (searay.com).

As with Collexium, Pinnacle owns all equity in the boats, and a client pays dues for access to them. Pinnacle is different, however, in that each yacht has eight to ten specific members, and those sailors must use the same yacht every time.

The boats have day or overnight time slots, for which clients sign up at the beginning of the season. Dues range from $4,650 to $8,750 a year, depending on the boat and geography. (Clients in northern cities get only 30 sessions a year, while those in the South get 60.) The company uses proprietary software similar to that of the airline industry; each boat's users enter their preferred dates and weekends, and the system generates a group schedule. The clients are then free to trade sessions if they want. "What's really important is that the schedule be fair," says Gary, 46. The boats must be returned ready for the next customer and are professionally cleaned once a week.

While not comparable to a Ferrari, Pinnacle's Sundancer powerboats feature satellite radio systems and air conditioning. With bunks for as many as eight and twin 370-horsepower inboard engines, they're capable of 35 knots. In 2007 the company will add to its sailboat fleet with new 42-foot Jeanneau Deck Salon yachts, which sell for about $250,000 and offer features such as teak-inlaid floors and staterooms with private bathrooms.

Gary Feracota says the company has "multimillion-dollar revenue and is profitable." Of its more than 300 customers, he says, about one in five is a business owner. Larry McNabb, founder of Insulation Fabricators, in Hammond, Ind., which makes industrial pipe coverings, has been a Pinnacle member for three years and plans to sign up again this summer. He says that he gets about 75 percent of the dates he requests, and as a business owner, he likes the flexibility of the scheduling system.

"If all of a sudden next Tuesday I can't use the boat, I can trade that," he says. McNabb occasionally takes clients out with him, and he says a highlight of every summer is sailing during Chicago's Air & Water show, held each August on Lake Michigan. "They get the Blue Angels and some parachutists, and the planes just zoom down low right over the boats. We love it."

The best part? Once it's docked, he doesn't have to think about the boat until he wants to use it again.

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