Joining a boat club in today is the smart thing to do. It deflects the cost of ownership from you to the club and removes private ownership responsibilities such as storage, cleaning, engine maintenance, finance charges and insurance, all for one time annual fee, so you can enjoy boating.
As boat clubs become more and more popular in the marine industry, what you need to watch out for is the opportunity some of them are taking to manipulate their marketing campaigns to make things look different than they actually are.
Here are 10 questions to ask before joining a boat club:
1. What is the ratio of boats to members at the location you intend to use?
Industry standard is 10 to 1. This means for every 10 members there is 1 boat. Should the ratio rise above 10-1, your chances of reserving a boat are lowered. Caution: some clubs have more than 1 location claiming all the boats from all the locations in the calculation.
2. Do the boats advertized match the actual boats you will have access to?
We see ads for clubs picturing 50-60 foot cruisers that are not part of the club’s daily inventory.
3. What is the model year of the boats in the club’s inventory and how many hours do they have on them?
Most clubs today purchase used boats for their inventory. This results in frequent breakdowns while you are using the boat and boats that are out of service which will reduce your chances of getting a boat to use. Ask for a list of the inventory and compare it to what you see. Some clubs show you their newest boat and the rest of the inventory is old and dirty.
4. What type of boats are offered?
Industry standard is cruisers with air conditioning, fishing boats with the ability to go in the ocean and bow riders/deck boats large enough to safely hold 6-10 people.
5. Where do you park your car for the day?
Because there is always additional personal items you wish to bring along, will it be easy to load and unload your belongings within a reasonable distance?
6. If the club offers larger boats (30ft and up) will there be a captain needed to operate it and what will be the associated costs?
These costs are usually not included in the membership fees and can be very expensive.
7. Do all the boats in the club have heads (bathrooms)?
This is a must if you are boating with children or guests.
8. Is the club located near to major activities and restaurants and how close in minutes is the nearest ocean access?
Time and fuel can be wasted traveling to and from destinations you want to reach.
9. Ask to take a look at the boats for yourself.
While doing so, check for safety items, cleanliness, bimini tops and condition of the upholstery. By simply looking in the engine bilge you can tell a lot about the boat. Messy wiring, the odor of gasoline and dirty water can be a sign of trouble.
10. Ask to talk to other members.
This can be done by hanging around the docks in the afternoon as the other members return.
By asking these 10 questions you will be able to learn for yourself what club is right for you. Many clubs offer several styles of memberships with pricing to match your needs.
Remember to judge the establishment you are dealing with. If they are renting space from a marina, they may be subject to certain circumstances beyond their control. This puts you last in line for service. In choosing, keep in mind that over the years there have been clubs that have financially failed leaving their membership in the cold. Try to keep the term of your membership to a time frame safe for you, should there be a problem.