In 2006, longtime friends and avid boaters Tim Barton and Doug Gray set out to bring the world of luxury sailing into the sharing economy.
With combined software, internet development, design and hospitality backgrounds, Gray and Barton wanted to adopt a Netflix-like model for the shipping industry and apply technology to an existing industry with a rich history. The goal was to offer an exclusive, membership-driven service tailored to people looking for the simple pleasure of day boating off shores like those of Nantucket, Massachusetts — where the company was founded — or Palm Beach, Florida , offers individual experiences.
Since then, the friends’ eponymous company, Barton & Gray Mariners Club, has grown to offer its members access to a fleet of more than 70 captained yachts, docked in over 30 ports and islands.
“It took us a while to figure out that we’re actually an entertainment company,” says Gray, 50, who is based in Massachusetts (the company’s headquarters are in Portsmouth, New Hampshire). “We provide entertainment for our members, which is a big part of the experience. We truly compete with people’s time, and especially with their most precious time – time with family and closest friends. So it’s really about creating a really special and fun product and platform.”
In the last 16 years, Gray says, the club has grown to nearly 1,000 members who join and then remain loyal through the years because boating “becomes part of their lives.”
“It’s really a diverse platform,” Gray adds of the club’s offerings. “You can go down to the Miami River with your buddies for a nice meal, or just spend the day half-naked on a sandbar with the kids looking for seashells.”
As the company’s popularity has increased, Gray adds that he and Barton have had to evolve.
While relying on its fleet of quality Hinckley boats, the company has also worked with Zurn Yacht Design on the Daychaser 48′, the company’s first-ever owned yacht, which put to sea in September.
Central to this expansion was the company’s commitment to sustainability, which Gray says is important to changing the tide of an industry that hasn’t always had the greatest impact on the environment.
According to Gray, it’s important that members who join the club have the best overall experience they can find when going to sea. Guests on Barton & Gray yachts are accompanied by an experienced captain to man the boat and enjoy refreshments and amenities. All amenities are taken care of without worrying about the pressure that can come from owning a private boat.
Introducing a Barton & Gray-specific yacht like the Daychaser 48′ wasn’t what the founders had in mind, but Gray says it’s made more sense over the years.
“We definitely built this company on the shoulders of the Hinckley brand, the Nantucket brand, the Palm Beach brand, that whole romance of luxury day boating has always existed in society. It’s got this very Mediterranean and very New English slang, aesthetic,” he says.
Gray says as the brand grew, as they began to bring sailing to people who were new to the experience and hadn’t grown up on the water and were unfamiliar with the word boating, the question kept popping up, “who does this boat do?”
They recognized that it was important for the brand to expand to have their own signature vessels that can offer a unique “Barton & Gray experience”.
Dachaser’s first 48-foot hulls were built in Charlestown, Massachusetts at Boston Boatworks, with the design staying very much in the New England DNA of the company’s founding.
According to Gray, annual membership ranges from $39,500 to $114,500 with an admission fee of $20,000.
The Daychaser 48′ is priced at $2.59 million, which includes maintenance, management and membership of the company’s Mariners Club.
WHAT IS THE GOOD?
Gray says, “There’s a grotesque amount of waste in the boating space.” As a result, he explains that he and Barton have always wanted to make sure that sustainability initiatives are “a hallmark of our company.”
For example, the average private yacht makes only seven to 10 trips a year, with some boats only “moored at docks 350 days a year.”
By comparison, Barton & Gray sees more than 13,000 trips a year from its members, which Gray adds comes to about 1,875 private yachts. This results in a significant reduction in waste, carbon and volatile organic compound emissions, as well as a reduced impact on the coastal areas on which the company depends.
“Our impact is far more sustainable from a shoreline perspective” than traditional yacht models, says Gray.
Additionally, Gray says how the constant development of marinas around the world is damaging coastlines. There are currently over 12,000 marinas and 1.1 million individual berths in North America. This has created 5,100 miles of docks. He says if all the boats were Barton & Gray and people relied on this membership subscription model, you’d only have 206 miles of docks.
Sustainability was key for the developer of the new Daychaser boats. These new vessels weigh less than a comparable yacht, creating an efficient propulsion system.
This reduces the consumption of diesel fuel. The design of the boats themselves also allows them to cut through the water more efficiently, which means less waste in the boat building process itself.
The company also plans to donate a percentage of admission fees to charities associated with Ocean Stewardship beginning in 2023. These include the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana and other non-profit organizations.
Gray says the goal is to donate more than $1 million each year for the next three to five years.
This year the company launched in the Bahamas and Gray is planning further global expansion.
“Geographically, we’re always looking for nicer waters to moor our boats in,” he says. “We’re also diversifying the products and services we offer.”