Thursday, February 2, 2023

There's More To Savannah's Freedom Boat Club Than Meets the Eye

What could be better than a ride on a new boat on a sunny Florida day?

We have been Freedom Boat Club members for 6 years or so, and it has been a fantastic deal for us. Before joining the club, we owned a 22' Sea Ray which we stored at Hogan's Marina for 12 years.  Living in Savannah, a boat is pretty much part and parcel of the experience. To live here without access to a boat is akin to living in Vail or Telluride without a set of snow skis. You can do it, but why live somewhere and miss out on one of the main attractions? So given that a boat is important to a Savannah lifestyle, the next question is how to accommodate that need as easily and inexpensively as possible. 

When we stored our boat at Hogan's, the storage bill alone was $290 dollars a month. That ship has left the dock. Per-foot dry or wet storage amounts go up as regularly and consistently as the rising sun, but unlike the sun they never go down. $20 a foot is the norm now, and that would be $440 for that old Sea Ray we had. 

Beyond storage, there are considerations; regular services like oil and impeller changes, insurance, tow-coverage, and never-ending cleaning. Your boat will need to be cleaned before it goes into the water, and again when it comes out. This fact led us to put our boat into the water only once during the last year we had it stored. It didn't make sense to own a boat. We just wanted to enjoy one.

So we traded in our boat for a membership and the first year's dues at Savannah's Freedom Boat Club. It was a no-brainer, and all of those detractor-factors I mentioned above no longer apply. We reserve a boat on our phone app, and wheel a cooler up to it when it's time to go. When we get back to the dock, we tie it up and walk away. Smiling.

This alone is great, but wait! There's more!

An additional benefit to a Freedom membership is the ability to reserve a boat at any one of the hundreds of other franchise locations as often as 4 times a year per location. (Disclosure: Clubs set aside certain boats in their fleets for reciprocal reservations, and planning ahead and reserving early--as much as 6 months is allowed--is key to a successful experience). We have done this at the Baltimore Harbor location, and most recently in Lantana Florida. And it was a spotlessly enjoyable trip. We took our daughter and two of our nine grands out for a cruise on the ICW. We saw the sights, and stopped for lunch at Two Georges,  with slips available to diners for free. 

Our boat for the day was a brand new deck. Lots of room!

Where better to deal with winter than Palm Beach County?
Two Georges Restaurant, on the ICW in Lantana.

Freedom was recently bought by Brunswick Marine, and they changed the reservation app right away, and the reciprocal function is not up to speed yet. Now a "team" has to evaluate and approve all requests. But perhaps that is why our recip requests are getting approved. Allowing reciprocals is a requirement of being a franchisee--for obvious reasons. The ability to get a boat anywhere makes the club much more attractive. Of course, a franchise owner wants to serve her own paying members before attending to some out-of-towner. So this has to be monitored I imagine. 

No phones required!

I can say that Tommy McCarthy, who owns the Savannah and Richmond Hill clubs has been recognized with an award for being a "Guardian of Reciprocity." (No surprise. Tommy is awesome in every regard, not just the way he runs his clubs) We have members from other clubs show up at the Savannah location (Savannah Boathouse Marina, 8020 Highway 80 East) all the time. And they love the rides. 

The Lantana area has public parks with dock access,
and clean restrooms!

We now own two charter boats, ( with all that this entails, and yet we still maintain our FBC membership. It's too easy and too good a deal to let go. Tommy's practice is to leave your dues level where it is when you start, forever. (Not all clubs do this). If we want to go for a ride with no paying customers, we take a Freedom boat. And if we want to go to Florida and go for a boat ride, we don't have to pull one down there or rent some ragged-out rental boat. We just enjoy our Freedom!

When momma's happy, everyone is happy.

FBC Lantana's dock master Tyler was polite
and professional. That kid's gonna go places.

Freedom locations are always nice. This is Loggerhead
Marina, Lantana FL, one of several affiliated clubs in 
the area. 

The boat is ready. Let's go!

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