One of the Best Ways to See the World: Freedom Boat Club
The last couple years we have been to some extraordinary places and have seen some amazing sites, but one thing we know for certain is that alternative perspectives of those same sites really give you the full picture. In 2018, Scott and I were looking for a way to enjoy summers in Chicago and make use of the beautiful lake that we have out our back door. We stumbled on a company called Freedom Boar Club. While this turned out to be a great way for us to explore Lake Michigan and get out on the water to enjoy sunshine and the occasional dip, it also turned out to be so much more than we expected and have been able to use this as a way for us to explore sites while on vacation.
The club was founded in 1989 in Sarasota, Florida. This was an extremely new concept back in 1989, but quickly grew in size and popularity within the Sarasota region. The model was simple, but effective: provide a hassle free boating experience for any and all boaters with varying experience levels. Over the course of various acquisitions and investment groups taking over the company, the club has grown to 300+ locations across the US, Canada and Europe. Most of these are franchises with some locations that are the largest in membership owned corporately. In total there are over 50,000 members across all 300+ locations.
The way the membership works is relatively simple… you pay and initiation fee that varies by club location and the timing for when you join (we joined in 2018 when the Chicago club was relatively new so we paid a cheaper fee) as well as a monthly fee that is ongoing for the life of you membership. You may cancel at any time, but the initiation fee and any monthly fee paid is non-refundable. Once you join, you will be required to take various training courses that are standard across all club locations as well as any location specific trainings for your home club. Once you complete the training… you are ready to use their online reservation system to book boats for days you want to hit the water. The final remaining piece of the membership is the number of reservations you can have at one time. Standard with all memberships is two rolling reservations… this means that at most I can have two dates booked at one time, but as soon as I use one of those dates the. One of my reservations becomes available to book another date. If I have a reservation for this Saturday and Sunday, I won’t be able to book a reservation for next Tuesday until I use my Saturday reservation. You can also upgrade your membership to have 3 or 4 reservations available at any time, but your monthly fee will be higher.
The draw for us when we were looking at options was a couple different things: cost, training, ease of use and reciprocal opportunities.
Cost: The cost is relatively cost effective when you compare the alternative of owning your own boat and having to pay maintenance, storage, docking fees etc.
Training: I am an avid boater and grew up boating, but Scott is not. One of the important factors for us was the training options the club offered to get Scott comfortable driving the boat on his own. The training programs are incredible!
Ease of Use: we wanted to make sure we weren’t paying all of this money and never able to get a reservation. We have found it extremely easy to make reservations (often even last minute), but it definitely takes some planning and flexibility to make it work. The other aspect I would throw in this bucket it the fact that you just show up, the boat is ready for you, you take it out, return to the dock and that’s it!
Reciprocal Options: With their being 300+ locations around the world, the reciprocal benefits for us have started to become the best benefit. Basically anytime we are in a city or location that has a freedom boat club, we use one of our reservations from our membership to book a boat in that city for no extra cost!
Some of the Reciprocal Locations We Have Tried:
San Diego Bay:
- San Diego Bay
- Coronado Island
- Restaurants and Bars you can dock at
- Mission Bay
- City Views Day and Night
- Coronado Bridge
Naples, Florida & Marco Island, Florida
- Kewaydin Island
- Tons of inter coastal space to explore
- Gulf of Mexico
- Marco Island Restaurants and Bars
- Naples Restaurants and Bars
- Explore Naples canals and browse houses
- Sunset Cruises
- Air and Water Show
- Navy Pier Fireworks
- Chicago River North and South Branches
- Restaurants along the river to dock at
- Monroe Harbor
- Soldier Field / Northerly Island
- City Views
- Bahá’í House of Worship
- Northwestern University
- Montrose Beach Bay
We plan to continue to use this benefit in Chicago to beat the summer heat, but we are even more excited to be able to explore other locations around the world from the water. It allows us offer to see views we wouldn’t normally see, experience places we normally couldn’t get to by car or foot and adds a fun twist to almost any travel destination.
Comment below for any questions we can help answer! If you end up joining the club, please use Scott Endress or Kyle Bordner as a referral code for a discount on your initiation fee.