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Summer has arrived and it is easy to imagine cruising around Lake Erie on a sunny day. The wind sweeps through your hair as the hull of your boat slices effortlessly through the waves. Your family and friends are all with you, smiling and laughing, anticipating the fun that lies ahead.
Now, imagine being able to do this any time you want with anyone you want, without any of the responsibilities that come with owning a boat. If this sounds like something that interests you, look no further than Freedom Boat Club Lake Erie.
Freedom Boat Club Lake Erie is a multinational, members-only boat club that provides an innovative alternative to boat ownership.This multinational, members-only boat club provides an innovative alternative to boat ownership. Founded in 1989 in Sarasota, Florida, the club has since become the largest marine franchiser in the U.S. They now have 275-plus locations across Canada, the U.S. and France, 2400 boats, and over 20,000 members.
There are three locations in Northeast Ohio—one at Channel Park Marina, one at Emerald Necklace Marina in Lakewood, and one at Mentor Harbor Yachting Club in Mentor.
All three are experiencing unprecedented expansion. In 2021 membership drastically increased in over its initial opening in 2019, says to Chris Christen, director of operations for Freedom Boat Club Lake Erie, “We're blowing up,” he says. “We're over 350 members now [in Cleveland], so we've doubled.”
With a one-time initiation fee followed by monthly dues, members get unlimited access to any of the boats at their individual membership location. At the Cleveland clubs, members get access to a total of 18 boats that are built for all types of watersports.
The clubs has center console boats that are built for fishing, bowriders built for tubing and waterskiing, and pontoons for larger parties. Christen notes that the versatility of their fleet gives members more options for aquatic activities than boat ownership.
“One benefit of Freedom Boat Club is that it’s for people who have a lot of different demands on their boating lifestyle,” Christen says. “Lets say dad and mom liked to go fishing, right? And then on the weekends, the kids, they don't want to go fishing. They want to go tubing. So we'll have a center console where they can go out and go fishing, and we have bowriders for tubing.”
Freedom Boat Club Lake Erie has three locations in Northeast Ohio—one at Channel Park Marina, one at Emerald Necklace Marina in Lakewood, and one at Mentor Harbor Yachting Club in Mentor.Membership in freedom Boat Club also means leaving the typical responsibilities associated with owning a boat to the club. Outside of fuel, all costs of the boating experience are covered by the membership. “It’s tough to beat out the boating model that we have,” says Christen. “We maintain, clean, and insure [the boats]—so when they [members] come to the dock, they know they’re going to have a fun day.”
The membership fees are surprisingly low compared to the costs of purchasing and maintaining a boat, argues Christen. Initiation costs are between $4,000 and $9,000, depending on the location, and monthly costs range from $300 to $370 per month, depending on the type of membership.
Members have the option of choosing a slightly cheaper, Monday-through-Friday plan or a plan that covers seven days a week of boating.
Additionally, members can transfer to another location at any time. In fact, transferring a membership to another location can be easier and more cost effective than moving locations while owning a boat, as Christen explains.
“That's a really nice part about it—with Freedom Boat Club, you just pay $500 to transfer your membership, and you're boating again with boats compliant to that area,” he explains. “In that same situation, say you bought a boat for Lake Erie, and you're going to live down near the Florida Keys. Well, that [Lake Erie] boat is not going to work down there. Maybe it doesn't have systems compliant with salt water. So, then you’ve got to sell that boat. You might break even, but in this economy you never know.”
All members are required to take a written and on-the-water safety training course. The course length varies depending on the experience of the boater, but regardless all members have access to unlimited one-on-one training with certified captains.
“We go over all the safety sequences, everything that they need to know when they're out there on the water to make sure that they are confident when they get on the boat,” explains Christen. “We have U.S. Coast Guard-certified captains while they go out—we do not cut corners on boats, and we do not cut corners on safety.”
Founded in 1989 in Sarasota, Florida, the Freedom Boat Club Lake Erie has since become the largest marine franchiser in the U.S.The club does not cut corners on pandemic-related safety measures either. The staff has worked hard to provide members with a COVID-safe experience. The results speak for themselves, as the club did not have any COVID-19 cases last year, and no cases have occurred so far this year.
Christen says he takes pride in knowing that throughout these unprecedented times, Freedom gives members the opportunity to have fun in a safe, stress-free environment.
“Its just a warming feeling to know that I'm able to impact families and really get something going out there, especially right now with the current times and all the stuff going on in the world,” he says. “Boating is a great way to get out there and just get away from it all.”
For those who are interested in Freedom Boat Club’s membership options, you can find the link to the website here or visit any of their locations for more information.
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