The Winnipesaukee Sailboat Share

Story by Barbara Neville Wilson

Photo by Joshua Spaulding-Salmon Press

Many people come to the Lakes Region looking for retreat from civilization. There’s something soothing when you let your hair dry naturally after a swim, when you are involuntarily unplugged from the Internet, or when supper is an indulgent double-scooped, twice-churned ice cream in a cone. Also, there is something quaint in the enjoyment of community band concerts in town parks, holidays celebrated with homegrown parades, and the family boat build under a tent.

It’s always fun, too, to see the Lakes Region’s twist on urban trends, trends like the sharing economy.

You’ve heard of Air BnB and Lyft, maybe even Outdoorsy, where ordinary folks rent out underused RVs. But have you heard about the Wolfeboro Sailboat Share?

The Wolfeboro Sailboat Share is a collaboration between the New Hampshire Boat Museum, Brewster Academy and Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation. Through it, sailors own a time-share in a 24-foot keelboat for the sailing season. This year, the season runs June 10 to September 24.

For $400 (or $600 for non-residents of Wolfeboro), plus a refundable security deposit of $100, sailors have access to a boat with paid-for mooring, maintenance and insurance. They are guaranteed four reserved weekend and six weekday four-hour time slots, and an unlimited number of spontaneous slots in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The program avoids the disappointment of double booking by always requiring advance reservations.

The program is the obvious extension of the successful adult Learn-to-Sail courses offered through Wolfeboro Parks & Recreation. Says director Christine Collins, “The Share program gives people who can’t afford a boat, a chance to get out on the lake.”

Of course, before taking the boat out, members of the Sailboat Share are required to meet safety criteria. They must pass swim and sailing tests administered by the Parks and Rec sailing staff. If they have not already taken a sailing course, they are advised to take the “Adults Learn to Sail: Keelboat” course for those age 16 and offered during six sessions this summer. Over 10 days, the courses meet four times in three-hour sessions. Courses start June 6, July 11 and August 1, with afternoon and evening sessions available. Reasonably priced at $85 for residents and $128 for non-residents, the course teaches boat handling and knots, in addition to the basics of sailing. Like the Sailboat Share, the course is made possible by the collaboration of Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation with long-time Lakes Region businesses and non-profits: Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht Club, Irwin Marine and the New Hampshire Boat Museum.

Interested in sailing but not sure you can commit to a Sailboat Share? You are invited to enjoy a 2 ½ hour introductory cruise with the program’s U.S. Sail-certified instructors on May 30, June 1, 20, 22, 29, or July 6. For just $20 each, you and a handful of friends can enjoy the beauty of Winnipesaukee. In their registration materials, Parks and Recreation candidly encourages, “Meant to satisfy any curiosity about what is involved in managing a keelboat, this may be of special interest to anyone considering the Sailboat Share program or adult sailing classes…This is also just a really good deal for anyone who wants to spend a couple of hours on our beautiful lake on a really nice boat.”

Like so many traditions in the Lakes Region, the Sailboat Share was started by one man’s donation, another man’s brainstorm, and a slew of volunteers giving their hours and talents. On the Wolfeboro town website, Parks and Recreation describes the program’s birth this way, “The innovative program was started in 2012 when a boat was donated to the New Hampshire Boat Museum by Tuftonboro resident Bill Stockman. While the staff and volunteers of the Museum were considering the best use of the boat, Wolfeboro resident Bob Lemaire came forward with the idea of a sailboat-sharing program, which he pitched to the Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Department and the New Hampshire Boat Museum.

The basic concept of the program is that community members and visitors can buy a ‘membership’ or ‘share’ of the boat for a season (which was set at a low flat fee of $400), and then use the boat throughout the season without the hassle of ownership, registration, maintenance and repairs, moorings, trailering, insurance, etc.…The program effectively lowered the cost of boating so that a diverse array of community members can get out and enjoy sailing on Lake Winnipesaukee without having to cover the full expense of ownership on their own.

“Both the Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Department and the New Hampshire Boat Museum enthusiastically endorsed the innovative idea from Lemaire. Ethan Hipple, Former Director of Parks and Recreation for Wolfeboro, said, ‘Think about the typical boat on the lake—it sits vacant for probably 95% of the time and gets used only occasionally after work or on the weekends. And then think of all of the people who sit on shore wishing they could afford to get out on the water. Well, this innovative concept solved both of these problems simultaneously.’”

In 2014, the Wolfeboro Sailboat Share received a “Best of NH” award from NH Magazine.

If you would like to learn more about the Sailboat Share, go to the Sailboat Sharing page on



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