Boat show season and spring time bring out many potential first time boaters kicking the tires keels, in search of that perfect boat. Many of you have heard the old joke, “What are the two best days of a boat owner’s life? The day you buy the boat and the day you sell it.”
There are so many different kinds of boats it is hard to make the decision. Here’s a tip, try before you buy. Huh…what do you mean by that? Why not check out a potentially viable alternative by joining a Boat Club.
Think of everything that you have to do if you own a boat. There is dockage or you have to trailer the boat. Of course you need to learn the proper way to launch your boat from the trailer. There is maintenance and cleaning and you have to provide insurance.
What if you had access to various kinds of boats such as fishing boats, bow riders, ski boats, pontoon boats, cruisers, etc. without all the extra responsibilities of ownership? That’s where the boat club comes in. All you have to do is make a reservation, show up at the dock and enjoy the day. The Boat Club takes care of everything else.
No two boat clubs are exactly the same, but most do share a similar method by which they operate. Members are usually required to pay a one-time fee to join, then monthly dues, and membership often requires a one-year (or one season) commitment. Clubs also often offer different membership packages and sometimes have different levels within those packages.
Maine’s Port Harbor Boat Club has two packages. The “Family Membership” gives customers’ access to four boats (sizes range from 15- to 28-feet and styles include aluminum skiffs, cabin cruisers, ski boats and center console fishing boats), seven days a week, at each Port Harbor location, one on the ocean and the other on Sebago Lake, the second biggest lake in the state.
Port Harbor provides the boats, safety and basic navigation equipment as well as the slips, then has fishing and water sports packages available for rent and fuel, which members are responsible for, also on sale.
Another approach is that used by Minnesota’s Excel Boat Club, has three membership packages, based on the number of reservations you can make in a year and the days of the week that they are available.
Most boat clubs also have a certain ratio of members to boats. Carefree Boat Club, which has locations in six states and the District of Columbia, keeps a ratio of 10 customers per boat. Carefree members also have reciprocity between locations, allowing them to use boats at any of the Carefree facilities.
Freedom Boat Club is one of the largest in the country having fifty-seven locations ranging from New Hampshire to Florida and west across the Gulf of Mexico and as far west as Austin, Tx. Freedom also has three levels of membership. The Freedom Boating Plan provides unlimited usage at the home club as well as the opportunity to use each of their other locations up to four times per year. As a member you can book as many as four advance reservations at a time.
The Winter Seasonal Membership Plan is written to satisfy the needs of part time residents in certain markets. It provides the same benefits as the Freedom Boating Plan but is limited to a specified six month time period.
Freedom also has a Corporate Plan, a business membership plan that provides organizations an opportunity to entertain clients, friends and family. It includes four advance reservations but allows for multiple employees to be named as members.
(We are not endorsing any of the above, nor are we affiliated with any clubs, we are just reporting.)