The membership club charges a one-time fee, then ongoing monthly dues, for use of its fleet. According to the club’s general manager, Drew Goss, members get unlimited use of the club-owned boats at both Keenan Marina and White Lake in Whitehall.
The Keenan Marina location currently has six boats in the water, ranging from 22-26 feet. They are tritoons, center consoles and bow riders. All have outboard engines for easier maneuverability.
Members also have use of similar vessels in 160 locations throughout the country, and free, unlimited training. Some locations include sailboats, skiffs, SUP boards and kayaks.
A membership also includes access to the Keenan Marina swimming pool, clubhouse and member parties throughout the summer.
“We're excited,” Goss said. “I have summered at our White Lake family cottage since 1976. That was the draw for us to move back here with our family. After 20 years on Wall Street, I decided to slow things down.”
Goss moved back to West Michigan with his wife and kids in 2013.
“The Grand Haven location was always in my mind to be our regional headquarters for Freedom Boat Club of West Michigan,” he said. “Now that we are here, the response has been amazing. We couldn't be happier to have boats here in this location.”
Goss said he finds that members typically spend more time boating than traditional boat owners.
“They have the ability to just show up and use it and not have to worry about cleaning, maintaining, towing and storing a boat — 100 percent of their time is spent boating,” he said. “The two-hour quick trip is all boating. All that other work, we crumble up and throw away.”
The dock crew gas up the boats (members pay for the gas they use), load gear from the member's car onto the boat and even provide a bag of ice for the cooler. They'll put the bimini top up or down, and bring tubes to the boat. Members may also store tubes at the facility. It's literally a turn-key operation.
“They arrive, then they're off enjoying time with their family, making memories that will last a lifetime,” Goss said. “We're pet-friendly, too.”
Boats can be reserved in as little as an hour, or be booked up to two months in advance at the Grand Haven and White Lake locations. For reciprocal locations, vessels can be reserved up to six months in advance.
Some locations have as many as 50 vessels in their fleet.
“We want everyone to understand, this is not a fixed number of boats and unlimited number of memberships,” Goss said. “It's quite the contrary. We will always add boats based on membership growth to maximize their access to the water.”
Freedom Boat Club recently launched a location in France.
“Our members will also enjoy that location at no extra charge, other than their plane ticket to France,” Goss said.
Lyndon Mair and his wife joined Freedom Boat Club of West Michigan last summer. They were about to purchase a boat when they decided to join the club instead, according to Mair.
“We love going out after work,” Mair said. “We meet in Whitehall at 5:30 p.m. and don't have to mess with ramps. It's so much easier. We're on the water so much more.”
Mair said he, his wife and their three children also enjoyed their first reciprocal membership adventure over spring break — boating in Orange Beach, Alabama.
“We went out and, within five minutes, there were dolphins swimming around our boat,” he said. “No need to pay for a dolphin cruise.”
Rod Swanson, member consultant for Freedom Boat Club of West Michigan, said several new members signed up at last weekend's open house, which included food, beverages and boat rides.
“People are excited in the community,” Swanson said. “It's a great alternative to boating. A lot of people would like to own a boat, but don't want the work, hassle and expense of it.”
Swanson said the club is not just for couples, but for families and friends, as well.
“If you have a boat that seats 11, you can have 11 people on there, even though the other people may not be members,” he explained. “We hold dock parties and wine-and-cheese parties for our members in appreciation for them helping us get to where we're planning on going. Our concierge service makes boating hassle-free. Our members spend more time on the boat than they do working on the boat.”
For more information, call 855-526-2863, or visit yourboatiswaiting.com.