What is a Boat Club? (Your Best Option to Try Before You Buy)
2020 brought us all a new way of looking at the world. From shutdowns to lots of time at home, everyone experienced a change to their lifestyle, and for many that meant getting outside. Boating was no exception and thousands took to the water for the first time.
According to statistics by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, recreational boat sales were up 13% from 2019. That’s a huge jump in just one year, and as a pontoon boat manufacturer, the Barletta crew was astonished by how many new boaters entered the industry.
If you were one of the many that turned to the boating lifestyle as an outlet for getting out of your home and enjoying some sort of normal, you’re not alone. However, if you’re interested in getting on the water but are still unsure about owning your own boat, there’s a great solution.
Boat clubs are rapidly gaining popularity for this exact reason. These clubs offer all the joys of owning a boat with none of the hassle. Don’t know what a boat club is? I’m going to explain what being a member is like and why it could be a great choice for you.
What is a Boat Club?
The concept of a boat club has been around for a while. In more recent years, they’ve grown in popularity and are quickly becoming a great choice for those who want to use a boat without the commitment of actually owning a boat.
I talked with Bryan Wallace of Nautical Boat Club, considered the Boating Country Club®, and he explained what it’s all about. A boat club is a members only club that allows you to use different boats offered at a specific location and locations nationwide, usually at a marina, throughout the boating season.
You will typically find boat clubs partnered with marinas that are located near big water and large metropolitan areas. Since they’re gaining momentum, you could expect to see boat clubs in more places in the future.
This is for boaters who want to own a boat but don’t necessarily have the time that boat ownership requires. This experience differs from boat rentals because as a member, you can come and go all season long using different types of boats at your leisure.
Most people who plan on renting a boat do so for a specific occasion lasting one maybe two days, or an entire weekend. Being a member of a boat club allows you to have access to boats as many times as you would like without the hassle of renting every time you want to go out on the water.
Becoming a member of a boat club is a great supplement for those who want to be on the water but don’t want the investment that comes with owning a boat of their own.
How Does a Boat Club Work?
If you have a boat club near you and are thinking this may be the avenue you want to take, this is the process you will need to go through to become a member and get on the water.
Become a Member
Shop your local boat club and learn about the different levels of memberships that are offered. Plans vary based on usage, types of boats you plan to use, and pricing. No matter which level you choose, these clubs typically stock newer model year boats, so rest assured, you will have access to the latest and greatest.
For instance, the average lifespan of the boats available at Nautical Boat Club are 2-3 years old with an average price of $80K nationwide.
Membership pricing will vary between locations and clubs. This ballpark pricing relates to Nautical Boat Club.
Typically, there will be a one time membership fee in the ballpark of $3-$10k.
Then there are monthly fees anywhere from $300-$1,000.
Your membership is good for one year and pricing depends on location, the plan that you select, and local taxes. Once you’ve completed the membership process, the club will teach you everything you need to know about boating.
Get Comfortable Driving a Boat
This is a huge bonus for a member that may not have boating experience yet. You will be required to go through an orientation then on-water training with a staff member.
They will make sure you’re confident and comfortable driving a boat before you ever take off from the dock on your own.
The on-water training will teach you how to drive and operate each style of boat that you will be responsible for. That means, if you plan to hop from towboats, to cabin cruisers, to pontoon boats, the club staff will make sure you’re properly trained on how to drive each type of boat.
Make a Reservation
Once you’re confident in your boating skills and are ready to hit the water, the next thing you must do is make a reservation. You will want to plan in advance and make a reservation at least 14 days out from when you would like to use the boat.
Planning ahead will ensure that you get to reserve the type of boat you want for the period of time you would like. Making a reservation will be the most work you have to put into this boating experience.
Get on the Water
You’ve reserved a boat and the day has come, now you just have to bring your cooler, your towels, and your family to the marina and hop on board. The rest is taken care of from safety gear such as life jackets, to ropes and fenders, the club will provide everything.
You will also have the option to reserve water sport equipment in advance so it’s ready to go when you get there. All you need to worry about is if the cooler is iced down and you remembered to bring your SPF.
When you’re done for the day, the only thing you need to do before docking the boat is to replenish the gas tank. Once it’s filled up, bring it back in and you can head out leaving the cleaning and maintenance behind.
All care and maintenance is handled by the marina and is a part of your membership. Like I mentioned before, you get all the joys of boating without any of the hassle.
Join the Club
If you’re ready to be on the water but not ready to own a boat, joining a boat club is the perfect way to get where you want to be. Becoming a member is easy and once you join the club, you have access to all different types of boating experiences.
“It’s as easy as coming to the marina, bring your kids and your cooler, and enjoy your day on the water,” Bryan explains.
From sailboats, to pontoons, to center consoles, the options are endless. And have no fear, the staff at your club will make sure you are confident in your boat driving skills before you take your maiden voyage.
Keep in mind, this is a great option for those who want to enjoy the water or are wanting to learn what they enjoy most about being on a boat. Are you looking to cruise with the kids? Are you wondering if you would enjoy wakesurfing? Maybe you want to learn how to sail.
The intentions of a boat club are to get you on the water and to help you figure out what your ultimate day on the boat looks like. Boat clubs are not necessarily the way to go if you’re just looking for a weekend party barge.
If you’re up for responsibly boating with family and friends, and are not ready for boat ownership, joining a boat club might be for you.
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