Psst! Hey Buddy, Wanna Get a Yacht for 20% Off Retail?

Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

If you are shopping for a boat, chances are you’ll start by visiting one of the dozens of Orange County yacht brokers in Newport Beach or Dana Point. But if you are looking for a bargain, you might want to stop first at UC Irvine.

That’s right: UCI--where you can buy a large oceangoing yacht for at least 20% less than retail price.

Each year about a dozen boats, worth an estimated $400,000, are donated to the UCI Marine Development Program. Although some of them go into the university’s sailing program, many are discounted and then sold to raise money for scholarships, fellowships and other educational programs.

Since the program began in 1976, more than 300 boats have been donated. The university currently owns about 30 boats, ranging from small powerboats to a 46-foot cutter-rigged sailboat. Most of the boats are donated to UCI by wealthy people who need the maximum tax breaks for charitable contributions.


“This is the busiest time of year for us,” says Jo Anne Cech, director of UCI’s Marine Development Program. “It’s near the end of the year and people are thinking about income taxes. About 80% of our donations come in during the last half of the year.”

Much of the program’s success, Cech says, comes from the ability to quickly accept and process gifts during the tax season. “We can handle a donation in 3 days,” she says.

Some of the better-known donors have included singer Jermaine Jackson, who donated a 60-foot motor yacht worth $700,000; oil analyst Dan Lundberg, who donated a fishing boat and mooring worth about $60,000, and comedian George Schlatter, who donated a $60,000 motor yacht.

In addition to wealthy donors looking for tax breaks, Cech says the program gets its share of “truly philanthropic people” as well. “Many of our donors aren’t concerned with the tax benefits,” she says.


And in addition to selling the donated boats, the university also runs a charter business, according to Cech, a licensed yacht broker with more than 20 years in the boat business.

“We put many of the boats on 2-year charter, and at the end of that period if the charterer decides to buy the boat, all fees are applicable to the purchase price,” she says. “Right now, we have two boats available for charter and expect to have more soon.”

The charters do not come cheap, however. Average monthly cost to charter a $100,000 boat runs about $1,000, Cech says.

The UCI fleet even has its own skipper--Scott Culver, a local sailor who has spent the past 2 years as captain of the Marine Development Program. Culver supervises maintenance and repairs and serves as part-time instructor for the UCI sailing program.

UCI has assisted UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis in setting up similar Marine Development Programs, Cech says.

“It is really a great program,” she says. “Everybody gains. The purchaser gets a good buy. The donor gets a good tax write-off. And the university makes money.”

For further information on the program, phone (714) 856-7381.

In Orange County, two other similar programs are run by Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and the Explorer Sea Scouts in Newport Beach.


“We like to get at least two large boats a year in the $50,000-plus range,” says Douglas Bennett, director of Institutional Advancement for Orange Coast College.

The college currently does not have any boats for sale but is using three large, donated boats in its marine program.

The boats include the Alaska Eagle, a 68-foot powerboat; Saudade, a 47-foot sailboat, and Marda, a 50-foot powerboat.

“The college offers an extensive sailing program so, instead of selling the boats, we use most of our donated boats in the program,” Bennett says. “But if it does not fit into the program, we sell it.” For further information, phone (714) 432-5880.

The Sea Scouts have a half-dozen donated boats for sale, ranging from a 16-foot Laser sailboat to a 30-year-old, 37-foot powerboat. Money raised from the sale of the boats goes to support the Scout program, according to Mickey Hunter, director of the Sea Base in Newport Beach.

The Sea Scouts are currently in need of “a couple of sailboats in the 35- to 45-foot range,” Hunter says. “And we are looking to replace the old, wooden boat we use for scuba diving.”

The boats are used by the approximately 250 Sea Scouts in various marine and sailing programs in Newport Beach and Dana Point.

“Fall is an ideal time for owners to donate boats for tax benefits--rather than letting boats sit all winter with expensive slip fees,” Hunter says. For information, phone (714) 642-5031.


Bird-watching: A leisurely walk to view the bird life of Dana Point Harbor will be conducted by Barbara Clark, member of the Audubon Society, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. today near the Dana Point Harbor Youth and Group Facility, 34451 Ensenada Place.

Walks are preceded by a slide-lecture program. For information, phone (714) 661-7122.

Autumn Rowing Festival: About 300 participants are expected to turn out for the festival from 7 to 9 a.m. Sunday at the Newport Aquatic Center, 1 Whitecliffs Drive, Newport Beach. Races are open to all competitors.

Competition will take place along a 3-mile course beginning at the Aquatic Center and finishing in front of the Orange Coast College Sailing and Rowing Base, 1801 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach. For information, phone (714) 641-3829.