Everyone has heard the maxim, “The next best thing to owning a boat is having a friend with a boat.” Imagine if one’s “friend with a boat” was actually a club that provided access to an array of boats from basic fishing vessels to luxury craft. That concept came to life more than 30 years ago, and is gaining popularity.
Freedom Boat Club, founded in 1989, in Sarasota, Fla., is the oldest and largest boat club in the nation. The idea behind the club is to deliver uncomplicated recreational boating experiences for its members.
Freedom Boat Club now has over 25,000 boaters nationwide as members of the club’s 242-plus locations in 31 states, with additional clubs in Canada and France.
Locally, Freedom Boat Club is owned by Lucy and Michael Bowie, who are also the owners of Dunbar Yachts, at Morningstar Marina, on St. Simons Island. As longstanding international boaters, and with Michael having more than 30,000 sea miles of experience, the dealership was keen to attract more locals to enjoy our unique waterways.
As Lucy explains, “Our community is blessed to live among one of the most diverse, vibrant and beautiful waterways in the world. Freedom Boat Club gives locals the opportunity to explore and experience our waters without the hassles of boat maintenance, cleaning, or dockage. It has been exciting to welcome members of the community who are new to boating, and value the support of free, unlimited training, plus experienced boaters who want to spend more time on the water and love the concept of simply docking the boat and heading out, without having to tow, store, clean or refuel the boat before their next adventure. It’s also fantastic to hear our members share their stories of boating all over the country at reciprocal locations, and knowing that this was all part of their membership. It truly provides a world of opportunity for everyone.”
Freedom Boat Club welcomes anyone who is interested in experiencing the water, from first-time boaters to seasoned salts, from young families to retired folks. According to the club’s website, “anyone who loves the water and water-related activities is embraced as a member of Freedom Boat Club.”
One reason membership in Freedom Boat Club is ideal for those at either end of the boating experience spectrum is because of its unlimited training which caters to those with no previous boating experience, and can provide offshore certification. It’s also handy for boaters who have been away from the water for a while, and may be unfamiliar with technology upgrades and other changes. All training is performed by U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Captains, and is included free of charge.
After training, members can access an online reservation system 24 hours a day to book a boat in the local fleet or any of the other more than 242 locations.
The membership includes insurance, maintenance, dockage, cleaning, and training. The St. Simons Island fleet includes a variety of new deck boats and center-console fishing vessels.