Be a Boater — Without the Work

It's great owning a boat, right? That is when you're actually on the water. 
Boating usually involves owning a boat, and that can be expensive (there’s a reason boaters define a boat as “a hole in the water into which you throw money”).
But a local company is trying to make it possible for people to get all the enjoyment with none of the hassle. It’s a niche that is just begging to be filled, says owner Jim Spreng.

“Not too many people have boats for rental,” he says.

Freedom Boat Club started in 1989 on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It started its Ohio franchise on Catawba Island in 2012. Today, there are three locations — Huron and Cleveland, in addition to Catawba — and more than 200 members.

It’s a simple concept: You pay an initiation fee and monthly dues, and you get to use boats at your home marina — or any of the other more than 135 sites, from Boston and Long Island to California to the Gulf Coast. A variety of packages are available for weekend, weekday or some combination of the two.

You get four reservations each year. Otherwise, you stop at the local marina and see what’s available — and there’s usually something available. Spreng says 22 boats serve more than 200 members. “We add boats as we add members,” says Spreng, noting that he started out with three boats.

Most boats go out a couple of times a day — and are cleaned between rentals (Spreng says one of the selling points is that club members don’t have to clean or maintain the boat — or even provide their own safety gear). Safety is a priority. “Every boat is overpowered, and every boat has a deep bow,” he says. “That means you can get to a safe spot if you have to.”

Spreng says the Freedom Boat Club has even led people to buy their own boats. “We’ve had seven people start with us and get their own boat,” he says. “And they all came back and thanked us, because if they hadn’t started out with us, they would have bought the wrong size boat.” 888-781-7363,