Fractionals: Second homes: Three options for staying at sea

Fractionals: Second homes: Three options for staying at sea Having a second home afloat is nothing new. But some recent developments at sea can alleviate the traditional concerns of maintenance and storage, as well as the challenge of open-boat living for people who have little or no sailing expertise. The most revolutionary floating option is The World, the first and only condo cruise ship, where second-home owners visit dozens of destinations from Anchorage to Acapulco, San Francisco to Sydney, Vancouver to Vladivostok. The ship launched in 2002, and by 2006 all 165 apartments had been sold, buyers lured by the mantra "Travel the World Without Leaving Home." Almost as simple for owners are European canal barges, which traverse waterways in France, Holland, Germany and the British Isles. Many owners employ their own crew, and even do-it-yourselfers find barges easy to operate, since they travel in a straight line, require no navigation, are roomy and comfortable compared with other small boats, and are free from tides, waves and even seasickness. Most U.S. buyers purchase barges as business propositions, because there is a large rental market. "I have American owners who use their barges a couple of weeks each year, or let friends use it, then rent it the rest of the time," says American canal barge agent Ellen Sack (bargeladycruises.com). "There are a lot of boats for sale at any time, and they can be very reasonable, but whether you're on board or it's rented or it's tied up, the crew gets paid, so you don't want it sitting empty." Just as destination clubs have popularized owning parts of homes, the yacht industry has embraced fractional ownership. "There are lots of people who own and maintain yachts as second homes," says Patricia Born, a maritime journalist and consultant. But because many people use the boat a few weeks a year, fractional ownership, where you pay for only time spent on the boat, is appealing, she says. A look at three second-home options on the water •The World: After the success of this all-condo cruise ship, several competitors announced plans to do the same thing, but no one has. Apartments are usually available on the secondary market, and owners can rent their units through the ship's manager, ResidenSea (residensea.com). The ship closes one month a year for maintenance, and it is similar to upscale cruise ships except it stays longer in each port. Besides restaurants, bars, spa, gym and entertainment, the ship has a grocery store and chapel. Current resale prices range from $1.4 million to $7.7 million. (aboardtheworld.com) •European barges: The most extensive canal system is in France, which has more barges than the other countries combined, agent Ellen Sack says. French canals are mostly in Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire and Champagne. Canals are open from April to October, and barges winter in marinas. French barge broker H20 estimates the annual ownership cost of a $145,000 barge, including canal fees, maintenance, taxes, insurance and docking, at $6,550. •Fractional yacht ownership: "For something reasonable as a second home, like a 50-foot ship, a share might start at $80,000," says journalist Patricia Born. "Many individual boat makers, like Nautor's Swan, will help put buyers together. A company called Seanet organizes opportunities in a particular boat, bringing buyers together … and providing management." (seanetco.com)

ON THE MARKET

The worldThe World

High price: $2,700,000 * A luxury liner, The World is the only all-condo cruise ship. Units are designed to look and feel more like traditional apartments or homes than ships' cabins. *Bedrooms: 2 *Bathrooms:2 *Size: 1,106 square feet * Features: Floor to ceiling glass doors and outside verandah, furnished  and decorated, kitchen, large living room and dining room area.

h2o franceH2O France

Low price: $325,000 * The Stephanie W is a century-old canal barge renovated in 2001. More than 80 feet long, it is built of steel and is moored at a marina in France. * Bedrooms: 3 * Bathrooms: 2 1/2 * Features: Two double and one single cabins, fully heated, enclosed wheelhouse, large salon, dining room, small office, kitchen, washer/dryer, large deck with dinghy. By Larry Olmsted, Special for USA TODAY [usatoday.com]
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