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Old 05-08-2008, 01:55 PM   #1
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Default Freedom boat club?

What do you guys think of boat clubs like this one? I want some opinions from fellow THTers
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Old 05-08-2008, 05:59 PM   #2
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

very expensive - When they run their "specials" it is 4K (if I recall correctly) to join and than 350 per month for 3 years. These numbers are close - I do not remember exactly, the breakdown, but it was 17K for 3 years. The Point Pleasant location has 23 foot Polars CC's with Yamaha 4s's. It is cheaper than owning your own boat, paying slip and winter storage, maintainence, etc... but I ofter wonder about the availibility, etc.....also, 3 years and 17K later, you have nothing.
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Old 05-08-2008, 06:26 PM   #3
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

ehhh... I looked into it two years ago, and the math didn't work for me... I was worried about the availability as well... I would think that for 17k you can get an ok boat, and then you have something to sell as well.... too high brow for my taste.
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Old 05-08-2008, 06:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

Just way to expensive.....and my week it would rain all week.... LOL
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Old 05-08-2008, 06:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

Those setups are for the folks who get to the Marina at 11:00 for a morning of fishing... I.E bragging to the friends of the " YachtClub" they are in...

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Old 05-08-2008, 11:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

I run a similar club in a different country. There are a few differences between Freedom and our system, but the end result is still a group of Members having access to several fleets of boats (ski boats & fishing boats to 40ft launches) at different locations around the country. I can't comment on Freedom themselves, but I do know that the concept is absolutely great and unless you are a real 'hardcore' boatie that wants to be out every week it is almost certainly both cheaper and better than owning your own boat. The only big issue is to get over the thought that you NEED to own your own boat and have it decaying in your driveway or on your dock. It is this emotional decision that is hard, as the practical decision is very simple.
In our case the rule of thumb is that if you use a boat less than 30 days per year it is both cheaper and better to use our fleet. Between 30 days and 50 days per year the finances of both joining the Fleet and Owning your Own are pretty close, but the service level is much better being in the Fleet. If you do more than 50 days per year - BUY A BOAT.
Freedom is a little different to us, but I don't see how anyone can personally own the equivalent to their boat(s) for the mentioned above $17k over 3 years. Allowing for Finance costs (either interest paid or lost investment returns), Depreciation, Maintenance, Insurance, Storage, Dock Fees, Trailer registrations etc I guess that you might just own a $35k boat for the same annual cost. I don't know the US market very well but I am guessing that most of the Freedom boats aren't $35k boats.
Anyway, it is not a scheme that suits everyone, but in most cases it is the emotional decision rather than the true financial decision that will push you towards owning your own boat. So if you really want to buy a boat then that is what you should do as long as you are OK that it might be 1/2 the size of the boat you could use in a fleet situation for the same cost, and you are OK about taking the risk of having to pay out for a blown engine etc if your boat fails somehow. We have had several Members of our system leave us, buy a boat, and then come back a few years later telling us that they now understand what owning a boat really means (in money and time) and they can't wait to sell theirs and rejoin us.
If you do look at Freedom or a similar setup, the comments from other posters above about checking availability are very valid. One of the differences between our system and Freedom's is how this is handled. Freedom's system appears more risky from a usage point of view than ours. My suggestion would be to ask them for a print out of their bookings for the past 12 months, and visibility of their bookings for the next 3 months into the future. This is basically what I offer my prospective clients when they ask this question of me. This way you can see for yourself the real facts on availability and make your own decision as to how this will fit your needs. Other than that, meet the staff, check out the condition of the boats, and if possible make that emotional decision about not needing to own your own boat.
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Old 05-09-2008, 04:02 AM   #7
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

I don't know much about them, but on a cost basis, if $17,000 for 3 years for use of a 21-25 ft boat is what they charge in Western Long Island (Freeport location) it is a pretty good deal. If you had your own 23' boat in the same location, it will cost you: $120/ft = $2,760 for dockage; about $80/ft for hauling, winter storage, bottom painting and relaunch = $1,840; figure another $700 just for parts for maintenance, repairs and updates, which totals $15,900 for 3 years and that doesn't include depreciation (because we all know boats are one of the only investments that appreciate in value faster than the price of diesel in 2008 - or is that depreciate faster than the price of Enron stock) . Plus, they do all the maintenance and clean the boats when you are done. The negative is it is not yours and you may not be comfortable using a range of different boats. Assuming you can get a boat whenever you want, on a purely economic analysis it seems to make sense.
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Old 05-09-2008, 06:32 AM   #8
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Default RE: Freedom boat club?

I'm hesitant to post this as it may be considered spamming. But I can Assure you it is not. The program has been shut down. But I thought you may find this somewhat interesting.

I tried this concept in starting a boatclub of my own. I was actually in the same marina as Freedom here locally. My idea was to offer higher quality larger boats than the other clubs. There are several here locally. Clubs like Freedom have alot of deck boats and pontoon boats and a few CC's. I offered Pursuit 2460's and 2470's.

End result: Complete failure on my part. I can think of several reasons it failed. Local economy stinks right now. High gas prices. Marketing is very very expensive, so expensive in fact it caused by business plan and pricing structure to break down. Typical boater doesn't know the difference between a Pursuit and a Bayliner.

Results for my efforts: 2 telephone calls of interest over 4 months.

But I had a dandy website, really nice boats and some really professional looking print stock.

I was especially pleased with the website:

But alas it was not to be.
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Old 05-09-2008, 09:26 AM   #9
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

Consider it almost a year ago.

If you like to go boating whenever you feel like - rather that be a 4:00 the morining or 1:00 in the afternoon.
If you want to come back from boating whenever you feel like - rather that be 11:00 at night or 3:00 in the morning.

It is NOT for you.

The reality is - it's a wash when considering: the cost of ownership in the smaller size boat to what is available in the fleet. And if you can afford to run the biggest of the fleet. You rather have your own.
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Old 05-10-2008, 05:50 AM   #10
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Default Re: Freedom boat club?

truepursuit - after many years in the same business I have worked out many of the problems around fleet structures and marketing boat sharing products. Looking at your website I can't help but think that you were probably on the right track with the bigger boats (but maybe still not big enough), but learning to convince people to not own their own boat is a difficult task. Learning cost effective marketing for this product is also interesting. We spent many 10's of t$housands on radio, TV, and print before we finally worked out where the results really come from.

I am a little intrigued by the way yourself and Freedom both advertise 'unlimited boating'. This is not possible for us as we might only get 100 - 150 boatable days (due to weather etc) in a year, leading to dissatisfied customers once they realise that 'unlimited' really means 10 to 15 days per user. We actually have some competitors here that advertise something similar to 'unlimited' boating and I am just about to launch a major discrediting campaign to show them up for the fraud they are. How many days per year did you expect your boats to work from your locations? It is a bit hard to do a true apples for apples comparison, but to me it looks like your price structure was significantly cheaper than ours. Did you feel that it was correct, or did you figure out that the expense side was going to be higher than expected?
Anyway, if you do ever get going again, I would love to compare notes and learnings.
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Old 02-06-2010, 01:20 AM   #11
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I have been FBC Quincy member for 2 years. Never owned a boat before, so can not say what is better. Did not have any issues with boat availability. There is always something available, even in the last minute.
Got free training on boat use, docking, and area. Learned how to sail in Beverly, ma ($30 hr for instructor).
Afer some time, when you learn more, you can take boat off hours or keep it overnight. I went on a 3 day trip to Cape out of Plymouth.
If you damage a boat you have to pay 2000,- insurance will pay the rest.
I mostly use boats to scubadive, any boat is permited for that. The only restrictions I know of - is having fishing gear on the cruising or sailing boats which have leather finishing or sails.
The only thing: somtimes I was unsure if the previous user have filled up the tank all the way, especialy in Plymouth. You could always fisit a fuel dock before heading out but I am too lasy for that.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:36 AM   #12
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Just received a quote for the local FBC, looks pretty fair. The fleet of boats look good, with a good mix of fish and cruising boats, all very good quality or better .They offer a "weekday" only package which is a great deal if you can take advantage of it. I can understand the attraction, especially in the north east, no worries over the off season, no spring / fall work to be done, just enjoy it when you want to.
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Old 02-06-2010, 06:59 AM   #13
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I explored it years ago as well. You had to pay around $5,000 to join then monthly payments for a specified number of years. You get "rolling use blocks" for their vessels. Let's say you get 4 rolling blocks...that means you can schedule 4 dates in advance. The problem is, you cannot reserve any other dates until you have used one of your previous schedule blocks. So if it's April and I reserve say Mem Day, 4th of July, 5th of July, and Labor Day I can't make another reservation until after Mem Day. You can call the day of and see if there is a boat free.

The other problem for me was the fact that you have to use the boat between 9 and 5 for the most part. Also, you can't use the boat for things unless they approve it. Unless they designate a boat suitable for fishing, you can't fish from it. I'm a diver and they said the same thing.

There are more expensive memberships I think they referred to as "Cruiser" memberships will offered larger boats and overnight stays.

There were too many limitations for my taste relative to the cost. I also think of boats as a really personal thing in terms of maintenance, how you set it up, what you keep aboard, etc.

I'm sure it's a great option for some.
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Old 02-06-2010, 07:27 AM   #14
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The Savannah franchise is very well run, with well maintained boats, great owners and they seem plenty darn busy to me.
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Old 07-21-2010, 08:27 AM   #15
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Just wanted to post my 2 cents on this subject. I have been a member for 2 years now to the Freedom Boat Club in Savannah. Please note: All FBC's are owned by different people and therefore operated in a different manner. This following is my experience solely with the Savannah FBC. I have been a boat owner for 15 years. I had a 17' Boston Whaler that we had easily put more than 25K in over 15 years with refurbs and new motor, electronics, etc. I originally went to the Sales Pitch meeting very hesitant and ready to prove to myself that this was not a good deal for me. Unfortunately I could hardly make an argument against it at the end of the meeting. The only thing you are giving up is the "pride" in owning and customizing your own boat. This was tough for me because I loved my boat and really liked that fact that I could make it as unique as I wanted to (if I had the money). We sold our boat and paid less than $5K for a lifetime membership. The monthly fees are $200/month. This may sound high, but if I was to store my 17' Whaler at any of the Savannah marina's I would be paying the same, if not more, per month. It did take sometime getting used to the reservation process. It does take some planning in advance for those popular weekends. But you learn your way through the system. Regarding the check-out and return hours: You can keep the boat all day and night if you want to. I have never had an issue with returning it after hours, you just have to sign a different release form when you take the boat out. All of the boats with outboards are 4 strokes. Since you only pay for your gas, this is a huge plus. I have never spent more than $30 a single day in any of there boats. They replace each boat after 3 years of use. This is great because you always get to experience "owning" a new boat every year as new ones come in. I can call up there almost any week day and take a boat out with no problems. Even on the weekends you can usually get a boat that someone has returned early or just canceled their reservation. I know it sounds like I am stacking the deck in their favor but there really are only a few times that have been a conflict for me to get a boat. The first year, I probably only used a boat 8 times the whole year. This year, I have already gone out over 25 times with no issues. I hope this helps some people at least understand the value of saving money over boat ownership.
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Old 07-21-2010, 09:50 AM   #16
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I live in No. Virginia, and the numbers did NOT work for me. I own a 21 foot boat purchased new... and although it's depreciated, I still have equity in it. Storage for me is 30 bucks a month, and that includes unlimited launch fees from any of No Va. State parks... I can trailer my boat to the Chesapeke,(2 to 3 weekends during the season) and not be limited to using the Freedom boats just from one location. (they may have changed this and allow you to take boats from other locations). I launch from up by the Capitol, I launch from several locations down the Potomac. I don't find bringing the boat home and doing a wax & clean a nuisance, but a pride in ownership thing.

Since it is my boat, I can hang fishing rods up under the gunwhals, or make any modifications I like to customize the boat to my likings. I've had the boat since 2004 and at the end of each season, it undergoes a thorough maintenance, and shrink wrap for the following year, and the cost is still less than the 5 grand for joining.

My own observations is that DC yuppies are good potential customers. There's a minimum amount of learning necessary for these folks, and they're out on the water. A good option for the casual boater, kinda like maid service. Nice if you can afford it.

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Old 10-07-2010, 05:50 AM   #17
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Freedom Boat Club… I am a member, I am not satisfied and I would never do it again.

The sales pitch sounded great. I have owned several boats over the years ranging in new purchase prices from 25K to 110K. Boat club membership cost me $3900.00 plus $249.00 per month for life or until I “opt out”, which I can do at any time by submitting in writing my intentions 2 months in advance with no penalties. I would still have club privileges for those last 2 months.

I have “*unlimited*” use of the boats from 16’ to 28’ in length at my “home club” and can use boats at affiliate clubs around the country up to 4 times in a twelve month period.

I am a hardcore fisherman and have no interest in pleasure boating in general.

Why am I not satisfied… ?

My club does not have enough boats to go around; the reservation system is backlogged most often for 4 to 6 weeks out for boats on the weekends. THAT SUX BIG TIME!!

I can have up to four standing reservations at a time, say I call today 10/7 to make a reservation… first reservation available is 11/21… so I reserve for 11/21, 11/28, 12/5 and 12/12.

I fish on 11/21, that reservation drops off and is now available to be placed again but due at that time to back log can not be used again on a weekend until 1/2/2011 or maybe not until 1/9/2011.

ALSO… the boats are not in the greatest of shape, electronics are often broken, running lights don’t work or are burned out, etc…

I must say that on most weekdays Mon thru Thu boats are most always available with a one day notice and do not require the use of a reservation… I just don’t get that much time during the week to fish.

It is still way cheaper for me to be in the club than to own a 28’ Grady White… considering storage, payment, depreciation, maintenance, and insurance. Trouble is my fishing time is limited in the club… cheap… YES, value… not much to me. I am still a member and will continue to be a member because I have already paid my 3900 bucks that is unrecoverable and the 250 bucks per month is for me affordable.

“*UNLIMITED*” as described by the club is very limited in my assessment.

The folks running the club are always very friendly; however it is a big club and moves like a machine… although friendly, the service is not very personalized.
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Old 10-07-2010, 06:01 AM   #18
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Basically boils down to if you like trailerable sized craft, or slipped..

It is probably reasonable compared to the upkeep and costs of owning a larger boat that is not trailerable.

It is not more cost effective than owning a trailerable boat. Trailer boating can be done fairly cheap and at the end of a period of time, there is some return on your investment(probably put toward trading up to a larger boat!)

i'm not saying owning a boat pays you back, but the boat club returns nothing after the same period.
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