In 2006, longtime friends and avid boaters Tim Barton and Doug Gray set out to bring the world of luxury yachting to the sharing economy.
With combined backgrounds that spanned the software, internet development, design, and hospitality worlds, Gray says he and Barton wanted to adopt a Netflix-type model to the marine industry—applying technology to an existing industry with a rich history. The goal was to provide an exclusive membership-driven service, bringing tailored, individual experiences to people looking for the simple pleasure of day boating off the coasts like those of Nantucket, Mass.—where the company launched—or Palm Beach, Fla.
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 located in over 30 harbors and islands.
“What took us a while to figure out is that we are actually an entertainment company,” says Gray, 50, who is based in Massachusetts (the company’s headquarters is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire). “We provide entertainment for our members, which is a huge part of the experience. We really are competing with people’s time and, specifically, for their most valuable time—time with family and closest friends. So, it really is about creating a truly special and enjoyable product and platform.”
Over the past 16 years, Gray says the club has grown close to 1,000 members, who join and then stay on loyally 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 be going to the Miami River for a beautiful meal dressed to the nines with your buddies, or be spending the day just on a sandbar, half naked with the kids, and finding seashells.”
As the business’s popularity has grown, Gray adds that he and Barton have had to evolve.
While the company relies on its fleet of quality Hinckley boats, it has also worked with Zurn Yacht Design on the Daychaser 48′, the company’s own first-ever proprietary yacht, which set sail in September.
Central to this expansion has been the company’s dedication to sustainability, which Gray says is important in changing the tides of an industry that hasn’t always made the most environmental impact.
Gray says it is important that members who join the club have the best overall experience they can find when heading out to sea. Guests on Barton & Gray’s yachts are joined by an experienced captain manning the boat and enjoy refreshments and amenities. All comforts are all taken care of without having to worry about the pressures that can come from owning a private boat.
Introducing a Barton & Gray-specific yachts like the Daychaser 48′ wasn’t what the founders had in mind, but Gray says increasingly made more sense as the years went on.
“We definitely built this company on the shoulders of the Hinckley brand, the Nantucket Brand, the Palm Beach brand, this whole romance of luxury day boating has always existed in society. It has this very Mediterranean and very New England vernacular, aesthetic to it,” he says.
Gray says that as the brand grew, as they began to introduce yachting to people who were new to the experience and did not grow up on the water and weren’t familiar with the word of boating, the question kept coming up of “who makes this boat?”
They realized that it was important for the brand to expand to have their own signature vessels that can provide a uniquely “Barton & Gray experience.”
The first Dachaser 48′ hulls were built in Charlestown, Mass., at Boston Boatworks, keeping the design very much in the New England DNA of the company’s founding.
Gray says a yearly membership ranges from US$39,500 to US$114,500 with a US$20,000 initiation fee.
The Daychaser 48′ costs US$2.59 million, including maintenance, management, and membership with the company’s Mariners Club.
WHAT’S THE GOOD?
Gray says “there’s a grotesque amount of waste in the boating space.” As a result, he explains that he and Barton always wanted to ensure that sustainability initiatives stood as “hallmarks of our company.”
For instance, the average private yacht operates a mere seven to 10 outings annually, with some boats just “tied to docks 350 days a year.”
By comparison, Barton & Gray sees more than 13,000 outings per year from its members, which Gray adds comes out to about the number of outings as 1,875 private yachts. What this results in is a significant reduction in waste, carbon, and volatile organic compound emissions, as well as less impact on the coastal areas the company relies on.
“Our impact, from the coastline standpoint, is far more sustainable” than traditional yachting models, Gray says.
Additionally, Gray says how the continual development of marinas around the world are damaging to the shoreline. Currently, there are over 12,000 marinas and 1.1 million individual slips in North America. This has created 5,100 miles of docks. He says if all boats were from Barton & Gray, with people relying on this membership-subscription model, you would be left with a mere 206 miles of docks.
Sustainability was crucial to the developer of the new Daychaser boats. These new vessels come out to weighing less than a comparable yacht, which creates an efficient propulsion system.
This cuts down on the use of diesel fuel. The design of the boats themselves also make them slice through the water with greater efficiency, which means less waste in the boat construction process itself.
Also, starting in 2023, the company plans on donating a percentage of initiation fees to nonprofit organizations tied to “ocean stewardship.” This includes the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, among other nonprofits.
Gray says the objective is to donate more than US$1 million each year in the next three to five years.
This year the company launched in the Bahamas, and Gray envisions continued global expansion.
“From a geographic standpoint, we are always looking for more beautiful waters to put our boats in,” he says. “We are also diversifying the products and services we provide.”