Friday, July 27, 2018

Business spotlight on Freedom Boat Club by Michelle Libby has a new way to get out on the water without the hassle and cost of traditional boatownership. Freedom Boat Club gets people into boating with a different approach that provides the opportunity to try out boating or continuing boating without having to worry about maintenance or storage after the season is over.

“A new way of boating is coming to Maine,” said Tracy Coughlin, marketing director for Freedom Boat Club.

Freedom Boat Club is a membership-based club that offers all the perks of boat ownership without all of the details. When a member wants to take a boat out, he uses the app on his phone or makes an online reservation. Dockhands will greet the boaters at their car, help carry the bags to the vessel and then check them in. It’s as simple as that. From 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. boats can be taken out seven days a week.

Members show up after work to take a boat out for an evening cruise on the water, sometimes on the lake and other times on Casco Bay. They just make a reservation.

“There’s no better place to go boating than Casco Bay and the lakes region,” said Steve Arnold, who bought the Freedom Boat Club franchise for the whole State of Maine and has two locations for members to enjoy at this time, one at Yarmouth Boat Yard at 72 Lafayette Street in Yarmouth and the other at Moose Landing Marina, 32 Moose Landing Trail, Naples. One membership gives boaters access to both locations.

“It’s turnkey. We’re getting a lot of people on the water,” Arnold said. “It’s hassle-free, maintenance-free boating.”

Members pay an entry fee, then a monthly charge for all of the services. Freedom is always offering membership specials and packages that can be tailored to meet the needs of the clients.

Each member gets free Coast Guard training on boat safety and operation. There’s a classroom portion and then an on the water training. Once the members are signed off by the Coast Guard captain, they can take a boat out as often as they’d like. It’s unlimited and the only thing they pay for is the gas they use.

“It’s a great tool to give people the confidence to get out on the water,” he said.

Many members are thankful for the training and respond really well to it, Coughlin said.

More women are going boating with their friends after taking the trainings, Arnold pointed out.
Once the training is taken, members can take boats out anywhere there is a Freedom Boat Club. There are 165 clubs in the United States. Members have reciprocal rights at any location. If on vacation in Florida during the winter, a member can take a boat out from any nearby location. They only pay for gas. It’s a large savings when traditional boat rentals can run approximately $700.

“The process is a guaranteed great experience,” Arnold said. From car to boat and back, members are treated with first class service.

“People are attracted to the ease of it, making boating so simple,” said Coughlin.

With 40 members, Arnold has exceeded his expectations during this first season. His membership executive Ed Bernard has taken care of the members, planning monthly gatherings year-round. The members represent a wide variety of the population men and women, singles to families, and with ages ranging from 30 to over 80.

“It’s a different subset of boaters that don’t want to own a boat,” said Arnold.

There are currently seven brand new boats in the fleet, but that will increase as the membership list does. The member to boat ratio for Freedom Boat Club of Maine is 6 and a half to 1. The boats in the fleet are always new. Each boat comes with lifejackets, throwables, VHF radio and lists of phone numbers to call if members need assistance while on the water. They also have charts of the area and a top 10 list of points of interest from beaches to dinner places. 

“[Freedom Boat Club] makes it that much more approachable. It lets them try it out to see if boating is for them,” Coughlin added. “If they’re not experiencing Maine by water, they’re missing out.”

Members are even allowed to trade in a boat for a membership in Freedom. Or, the membership fee can be put toward a boat if members decide they want to own their own vessel. The contract can be cancelled at any time. Members are not locked in.

“I see people getting into boating and then getting out because of the cost. Freedom gave us the opportunity to approach it differently,” Arnold said.

For more information, call Ed at 207-650-9374 or email Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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