Easy, Breezy Boating

Cape Cod Life  /  June 2021 /

Writer: Brenna Collins

The Freedom Boat Club offers a full-service boat club membership to new and seasoned boaters alike, taking the stress out of your time on the water.

As with any coastal settlements, boating is a central aspect of the culture along the Massachusetts and Cape Cod shoreline. Parading along the ocean and breathing in the salt air with loved ones is the essence of lighthearted summer joy, as beachgoers observe from the sand with envy. It’s no secret that owning a boat is a pretty penny, from fuel cost, to storage, maintenance and insurance. Freedom Boat Club, established in Sarasota, Florida, pioneered a solution: a full-service boating club membership. For members, it’s as simple as strolling up to a pristine boat completely prepped for a day at sea. The hassle of everything accompanying boat ownership vanishes, and you’re left simply with the joy of boating in its purest form. 

Photo courtesy of Freedom Boat Club

When the company began in 1989, the revolutionary business model focused on a vision to make recreational boating more accessible. It is now the largest boat club in the nation, with locations throughout the United States as well as Canada, France and soon England. A membership grants boaters access to any port across their 275 locations. Whether you’re at your local marina or across the country, the luxury is the always the same.

In 2008, Matt Carrick, a Dennis native, opened the Mid-Cape’s first Freedom Boat Club at Bass River Marina in West Dennis. With four boats, he immediately sold 30 memberships and was off and running. That first summer, members mentioned how convenient it would be to have a location on the bay side as well. For the 2009 season, Carrick was able to secure slips at the Northside Marina in East Dennis. From there, it took off, as Carrick was offering a highly valuable opportunity to boat on both sides of the Cape. Previously, this was only possible for boaters who transported their boat on a trailer. For five years, they successfully operated in East and West Dennis, prompting Carrick to acquire the Falmouth location, as well as six more including Beverly, downtown Boston, Quincy, Hingham, and Scituate. From there, they slowly added ports in Chatham at Outermost Harbor, at Skippy’s in Yarmouth, Kingman Marina in Cataumet, and in Marshfield. Their newest club on the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts is set to open this year. 

In 2019, the Freedom Boat Club of Greater Boston and Cape Cod won Franchise of the Year, evidence of their level of commitment and growth through the years. With 200 boats and 1,600 members across their current 14 locations, it is between an eight to nine member to boat ratio. “We’re always looking at usage and availability. We want to make sure that boats are available. We also strive to have new or one to two-year-old boats at most in the fleet at all times,” Carrick says. 

Photo courtesy of Freedom Boat Club

Acquiring a membership is as simple as the boating process, whether you’re a new or experienced boater. New members pay a one-time joining fee, following up with monthly fees ranging from a weekday-only plan versus the full seven-day plan. Friends and family plans are also offered, allowing two families to join together, as well as corporate plans that allow multiple people to be placed on one plan. Each new member goes through Freedom Boat Club’s training program, receiving an online Boat US certificate and subsequently going out on the water with one of their captains to ensure comfortability with anchoring and docking. From there, they are added to the club’s insurance policy.

When planning excursions, members have access to a specific reservation system that allows up to four reservations on the books at a time. After one is used, it rolls off, and a new one can be scheduled. Members are also afforded unlimited same day access. “You might have four reservations next week, but say you get out of work early and want to call the dock, if there’s a boat there, you’re welcome to it, and it doesn’t count against your four on the system,” Carrick adds. Knowledgeable and friendly staff are located at each port daily from 7:30am to sunset, fueling and cleaning boats and assisting members. With fuel tracking meters on each vessel, members are billed for their fuel used upon returning to the dock. “It’s a total valet service. You don’t have to worry about cleaning or gassing the boat. Your time is truly net boating time. You show up, use the boat, and then you’re off to Sesuit Harbor Café or the Shanty for lunch or dinner. You’re not wasting an hour parking the boat, cleaning it, and all of the rest of it,” Carrick says.

Photo courtesy of Freedom Boat Club

Across each location, boats range from 19 to 26 feet, and are all brand new or up to two-year-old outboard powered boats. In recent years, they’ve started sprinkling in twin engine boats for a daily upgrade fee. “The members have really taken to that. They like the ability to get out in a bigger, luxurious boat or get offshore further to fish,” Carrick notes.

For Carrick, there are three central reasons the Freedom Boat Club is sought after and valued. “There’s three main reasons that people join the club. One is the training. A good chunk of people that do join Freedom Boat Club are novices, so what better way to get unlimited training included with your membership. You go through an online course and get out on the water as many times as you’d like with one of our captains until you truly feel comfortable out there. Second is cost savings. It’s over 50% cheaper than the cost of owning just one boat. You have access to a whole fleet of boats in Massachusetts, but you also have what we call reciprocity. For free, you can use all 275 locations across the US, Canada, France, and soon to be England. The third reason is the variety. Whether you’re a new boater or an avid boater, you can be out in a pontoon boat one day, a fishing boat the next day, and in different locations,” he shares.

Additionally, the advent of the shared asset model has taken off and added to its popularity. “People are getting much more comfortable with net jets and Uber. It seems like the younger generation is much more about experiences than ownership,” Carrick says. 

Whether you’re a seasoned boater or new to the waters, Freedom Boat Club is the perfect option for a stress-free experience. With a club membership, the world is your oyster. Here in Massachusetts, the waters become your harbor to explore, in the quiet of the Cape Cod Bay, out on the Atlantic, or in downtown Boston surrounded by the city skyline. 

Brenna Collins is the story editor at Cape Cod Life Publicaitons.