Boat club offers fun without pain of ownership

In Your Community: Freedom Boat Club

LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) - There's an old saying that the two happiest days in a boat owner's life is the day they buy a boat and the day they sell it.

Owning your own boat can be rewarding but that reward take a lot of work and can be expensive.

WMBF News Anchor David Klugh discovered an alternative to the idea of actually owning that boat. It's a boat club, and it's found a home and great success In Your Community of Little River.

As the sun rises on yet another beautiful day on the North Strand there are a few things in mind. Getting outside is of course, the main thing, maybe a walk on the beach, perhaps a ride in a boat.

Well, that last one could cost you a lot of money. But here in North Myrtle Beach there is another option, one that could save you thousands.

At any given time you can find a hundred boats at the Harborgate Marina on the Intracoastal Watery in North Myrtle Beach. A small fleet of those belong to a select group of people who decided they loved to go boating, cruising and fishing but refused to take on the responsibility of owning an actual boat.

"We take care of all the maintenance, the insurance and the upkeep. So they literally spend 100 percent of the time boating and having fun," says Karen Berry

The 'we' Karen Berry is referring to is the Freedom Boat Club. This club has been around since 1989. It started in Sarasota, Florida and has grown to 63 locations and 2,000 boats nationwide.

Four of those locations are along the Grand Strand. And as David Klugh found out, there aren't just john boats.

Karen Beery explains that, "The boats range from 18 to 31 feet. And we've got a nice variety.  Deck boats, bow riders, cabin cruisers that you can spend the night on, all kinds of fishing boats for inshore and offshore fully rigged for any kind of deep sea fishing that you might want to do."

A membership to this boat club is good at any location in the United States, from the Great Lakes to Cape Cod to the Gulf Coast.

Donny McCrary has been a happy member for nearly three years. "At the summer time we'll take it out three times a week. But the reason I do that is because all I have to do is get on the boat and get off the boat. I don't have to prepare the boat. I don't have to clean the boat."

Donny loves going fishing with his buddy Neill McDonald, another member of the Freedom Boat Club. Neill says the membership is most impressive when guests come to town.

"I can tell that when we have friends that come down here and visit us and we'll say you want to go boating? And they'll say sure. And I'll say well, what do you want to do? Do you want to go cruise on a pontoon boat or do you want to go on a speed boat  You want to party on a deck boat or do you want to go fishing? And they'll say how many boats do you have?" Neill boasts.

And his friend Donny admits he was warned about joining a boat club. Friends said good luck ever getting a boat when you want it - but it turns out those friends couldn't be more wrong.

"I've always had a boat, even on holidays. I've always had a boat that is available to you. And that's one of the reservations everybody said. Oh, you'll never get a boat. It'll never be available to you," he informs.

Next to safety, availability is the most important consideration here. The ratio of members to boats is kept low. However, your expectations are kept high, even if you know nothing about boating.

"We have a licensed captain that comes out and gets in the boat with them and takes them down the waterway making sure they're familiar with reading the channel markers, know how to dock, know how to anchor," Karen Berry explains.

There are of course costs to have a membership in the boat club, but the bottom line is simple.  You get to basically be the owner of a fleet of boats while at the same time the only part of ownership you have to worry about is the fun part.

If you'd like additional information about the Freedom Boat Club, the variety of memberships and how much they cost, stop by their offices at the Harborgate Marina on Sea Mountain Highway in North Myrtle Beach.

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