Joining a boat club can be a significant financial investment, so how do you decide which one is right for you? Understanding the major advantages and differences between the various boating clubs is the first step toward making the right decision.
Georgia has a fairly large selection of prominent boating clubs that can help get you on the water this year. Whether you are a novice or an expert, each of these boating clubs has something unique to offer to its members. You simply have to take a look at their overall offering before you make a final decision about membership.
Before you decide which boat club is best for you, here are seven clubs that you should know.
Carefree Boat Club
Carefree Boat Club is a nationwide program with several Georgia locations that grants you access to high-quality sailing experiences. Compared to some other clubs, Carefree maintains low ratios that make it easier to sail whenever you want.
This private club makes all boats available to members instead of renting or chartering them during slow seasons. As a result, you have unlimited access to the boats in exchange for an initiation fee and an annual fee. Beyond this financial commitment, you never pay additional fees for use of the boats.
They do not allow more than ten members for each boat in the fleet.
This makes it easier for members to reserve boats for the days and times that work best for them. The fleet itself consists of a wide variety of boats including:
- Fishing boats
- Luxury pontoons
- Bow Riders
- Wakeboard and wake surf boats
New members are required to attend one classroom session to ensure that they understand proper safety protocol. This does mean that you may have to wait up to two weeks before you can embark on your first boating adventure with the Carefree Boat Club.
Freedom Boat Club
Freedom Boat Club boasts the oldest and largest fleet available to private members.
Much like many of the other large-scale commercial boat clubs, Freedom does not rent their boats out to non-members. You have unlimited access to the boats whenever they are available without any additional fees. The only expense you incur when reserving a boat is the fuel that you use throughout the day.
One of the main advantages of the Freedom Boat Club is the variety of membership opportunities available. You can choose from a seasonal pass, a year-round pass, a weekday pass, or a special friends and family option. The plans are designed to suit your unique lifestyle and boating interests.
Choose from one of six Georgia locations for a unique fleet that contains a combination of center consoles, bowriders, pontoons, and deck boats.
Members aren’t locked into any long-term contracts, but you are required to give 60-day written notice if you intend to leave the program. On the other hand, you can also transform your membership into an opportunity to purchase a boat of your own. This is a great option for someone who has really fallen in love with the art of sailing.
Athens Boat Club
Are you interested in an elite boating club that only caters to a select handful of individuals? Athens Boat Club is by far one of the most exclusive boating clubs you can join in the Lake Lanier area.
In order to be considered for a membership, you must be sponsored by an existing member and co-sponsored by three additional members. These sponsorships still don’t necessarily mean that you will be accepted into this prestigious community of sailors. The final decision is ultimately left up to the board of directors.
Despite the exclusivity of the club itself, those who are fortunate enough to be extended an invitation have a ticket into a world like no other. This sleepy lakeside community boasts 147 boat slips, a public gas dock with a hometown shop, and it’s very own water system.
You’ll feel right at home with the more intimate setting offered by the Athens Boat Club.
North Georgia Boating Club
North Georgia Boating Club boasts far more than the simple rental of a boat. This boating club is ideal for individuals and families who want to enjoy everything water has to offer – both onshore and offshore. Membership includes the use of the fleet itself as well as access to waterfront rental properties.
Much like the Freedom Boat Club, this group also offers a wide variety of membership options depending on the number of people who plan to use these amenities. A basic individual plan starts at $200 while a corporate plan for six individuals totals $800.
Keep in mind that your first year of membership will be viewed as a trial basis to determine your eligibility for future years.
The downside to the North Georgia Boating Club is its relatively small size. Some of the larger national boat club chains boast thousands of boats. Meanwhile, this club has fewer than ten models available for your weekly rental.
Suntex Boat Club
Suntex Boat Club is a great option for those who live in or around the Canton or Acworth, Georgia areas. Of course, it is also an excellent option for those who will be traveling and want access to boats. Members can use the fleets at any Suntex Boat Club location instead of just those at their home fleet.
While the Suntex Boat Club is smaller than the Carefree and Freedom boating clubs, it still offers some of the same advantages. New boaters are always welcome and are greeted with lessons on safety and proper boating protocol.
You can learn the basics of how to navigate the waters with any of their boats, including:
- Center consoles
If you’re interested in water sports, club members also receive complimentary access to equipment like wakeboards, kneeboards, paddleboards, tubes, and skis.
Memberships are flexible with options for weekday passes, full access to the entire fleet, corporate memberships, and even shared options. All memberships offer unlimited boating with the only additional fees being the fuel and cost of any damages done to the boat.
Nottely Boat Club and Marina
Worried about spending too much money on an annual membership that you may not use? Nottely Boat Club and Marina may have the perfect solution for you. Instead of offering memberships, you can instead reserve one of their boats for four- to eight-hour blocks.
They offer a 22’ triton boat perfect for watersports as well as 21’ pontoon ideal for enjoying a calm day on the water. Prices for renting the boats start at just under $200 and increase from there for larger time blocks and multi-day reservations.
Tube rentals and other watersports equipment can also be conveniently rented when placing your reservation.
This boating club may not be the best option for beginners. Unlike some of the other boating clubs that offer hands-on training in the water, Nottely only requires you to watch a short video on protocol and boating safety. This may not be sufficient enough to help you master the skills you need to make boating a regular part of your life.
Nautical Boat Club at Lanier Islands
The Nautical Boat Club at Lanier Islands considers itself to be more of a country club with an emphasis on sailing. Their docks are tucked inside the Margaritaville entertainment center, giving you access to a wide variety of fun activities and delicious restaurants. You gain access to year-round boating in an idyllic location.
The fleet itself consists of new boats purchased each year including varieties like surf boats, double-decker party boats, tri-toons, and sport boats. Old boats are sold or replaced every two to three years so that you always have the most modern experience possible.
Unfortunately, you will find that the rates are rather high for entrance into this exclusive boating club. The one-time membership fee ranges from $1,000 to $6,000 with monthly costs potentially reaching as high as $600 per month thereafter.
For sailors who haven’t quite found their sea legs yet, Nautical Boat Club does offer:
- Quick courses in boating safety
- On-board orientation for every type of boat in the fleet
- S. Coast Guard vessel checks
- On-board walkthroughs of equipment safety points
Choosing the Right Boat Club
The right boat club can mean different things to different people. Georgia has a great selection of programs and memberships available based on your skill level, price range, and the type of boats you hope to have access to. Take some time to consider what you really want out of a boat club before you sign on the dotted line for an expensive annual membership.
Joining a boat club is an excellent way to gain unlimited access to a fleet of boats without the pressure of maintaining your own boat. Make sure to take some time to consider whether any of these boat clubs would be the right fit for you and your family before you decide which one to join!
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.