By Jeff Weir
It is one thing to love boating, it is quite another to love the time and expense that is so often associated with it. It has often been said that the two happiest times in boater’s life is when he buys his boat . . . and when he sells it.
For many boating enthusiasts, the time spent on repairs, maintenance, cleaning and towing, as well as the numerous costs, have taken the pleasure out of pleasure boating.
But an increasing number of people believe they have found an affordable, hassle-free alternative to owning a boat: Joining a boat club. In recent years, private boat clubs have been gaining popularity across the United States, both offshore and in freshwater lakes.
Lake Norman has several boat clubs in operation, including Boat Club of Lake Norman, Carefree Boat Club and Freedom Boat Club.
Boat clubs typically offer members a fleet of boats for their personal use for a monthly or annual fee, plus the cost of gas they use. Dues vary from club to club but the cost is normally a fraction of what it would cost to own and operate your own boat.
Members of boat clubs save considerable money because, unlike private boat owners, they do not have to write checks for insurance, taxes, maintenance, repairs, storage fees, dock fees, etc. In addition, it is a hassle-free way to enjoy time on the water without worrying about washing, waxing, towing or even covering up a boat.
Depending on location, boat clubs often offer a wide variety of amenities and extras.
If the idea of affordable, hassle-free boating appeals to you, and you want to consider the benefits of joining a boat club, you should consider the following factors before making a final decision:
• Are the boat styles, sizes, power and accessories a good fit for your family's boating tastes and interests?
• Are the boats new and well maintained?
• Does the club offer a comprehensive general liability insurance policy? What are the limits?
• What is the ratio of members to boats? Are there enough boats available so you won’t be disappointed during busy times?
• What types of plans does the club offer? What are the costs and obligations?
• How many months a year does the club operate?
• Does the club offer boating privileges in other cities or states, or is it one location only?
• What additional dockside amenities and facilities does the club offer?
• What kind of safety training and boat-operation training does the club offer or require?
• Does the club offer social events and parties for members, families and guests?
• What other services does the club offer members?
• Are the boats for use of members only or does the club also offer boat rentals to the public?
• What is the financial condition of the club? Does the club own the boats free and clear or are they financed?
• Are there any other benefits such as member discounts at other clubs, restaurants, retail stores, etc.?
For many people who love being out on the water, the benefits of a boat club are almost too good to be true. But be sure to do your research first. A great deal is only great if it fits your needs and provides good value for your money.
I hope to see you out on the water.
Jeff Weir owns Freedom Boat Club of Lake Norman. Details: www.freedomboatclublkn.com.