So while you may not feel those expenses for five or ten years, or two years for bottom paint, you still WILL eventually pay for the use of the boat, and you will pay by the hour and the mile for any use you put on it.
I strongly suspect that on most boats, the equipment deterioration is dominated simply by age and maintenance, not use (most boats don't leave the slip all that often). So I think in the general case, the marginal cost for that extra hour or mile on the water
is very near zero.
Anyways, to the topic at hand, I think sailing is very much viewed as elitist. For most people "elite" is synonymous with "rich" Anyone who doesn't know me thinks I'm rich because I have a 37' foot sailboat. Then I tell them I live on it. Then I tell them I paid less than $50k for it. Then I tell them my monthly living expenses are less than their rent. Then they get jealous, but they no longer think I'm elite.
Anyone can afford to sail, just as anyone can afford to have a snowmobile or a muscle car or any other toys. Perhaps you can't have all the toys you want, or the size/speed/age of toys you want, but on even the most modest salary if you dedicate all your spare change to your one hobby, you can make it happen. I see a surprising number of RVs and snowmobiles and seadoos and ATVs in "poor" rural homes driveways. They just for some reason see dedication to those things as "achievable" or "normal" and dedication to "sailing" as something for the rich.