Boat Clubs in San Diego: 4 Clubs to Know (Before Deciding)

In Boatingby Morten Storgaard

The decision to join a boat club is a big one. If you’re ready to have access to a large fleet of boats without the additional expense that comes with ownership, then it could be one of the best choices you can make.

Here is a list of boat clubs in San Diego that can give you a world of benefits.

1) Freedom Boat Club 

The Freedom Boat Club is one of the top choices for boat rentals in San Diego.

As the largest boat club in the world, their location in San Diego is just one of many, which allows you to have access to a boat any time you want it while you’re home, but also have access to a global fleet of boats when traveling away from home as well.

Whether you’re just looking for a place to hang out with your friends, a family outing on the water, fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding, or just plain old bird watching, this club gives you stress-free boating where you can enjoy the thrill of boat ownership and save the work and expense of maintenance and upkeep.

They have two locations in San Diego.

  • San Diego Bay Cabrillo Isle
  • San Diego Mission Bay.

Perks: Unlimited access to the home fleet

Plans: choose from seasonal or year-round membership

The fleet includes:

  • Bowriders,
  • Pontoons,
  • Fishing boats,
  • and Deck boards

There is a one-time membership fee and then regular monthly dues, which vary in price depending on the plan you choose and the location, but the cost would be far less than meeting the expense of mooring and maintaining your own private boat

Pros:
The club takes care of all boat maintenance, dock fees, insurance, depreciation, trailers, and even the clean-up aafterward All you need to pay is gas and you’re off.
Members have access to a full fleet and come with all the needed training for novice sailors.

Cons:
While the staff is required to be very knowledgeable about boating and what is needed, with a large fleet of boats it is impossible for them to be familiar with every boat intimately.

So, there is a chance that the staff may not be fully knowledgeable about the kind of boat you get.

2) Harbor Sailboats

Harbor Sailboats maintains a large fleet of sailboats and yachts that can range in size from 22’ to 51’. Many of them are fully equipped with the latest in designs including Beneteau, Catalin and Lagoon Catamarans.

Every member should provide proof of their boating experience before they can take a boat out on the water. However, membership includes a complete battery of lessons starting with beginners all the way up to advanced sailors so you’ll be prepared for taking to the water. There are classes for both sailboats and yachts as well as an ASA 101 Basic Keelboat class.

Newbies without much experience can take out smaller boats until they gain enough experience and then gradually move up to learning how to fully operate one of the larger yachts when ready.

Eventually, they can move up to becoming a Skipper with boats up to 37’ in length.

Pros:
Members have access to one of the newest and largest fleet of boats in Southern California, a 30-50% discount on rentals, access to the marina facilities like the swimming pool, spa, showers, and laundry. They also get access to annual remote destination club flotillas.

They even have a women’s only clinic designed to build up the basic boating skills offered by a certified instructor.

Cons:
Their very strict protocol requires proof of experience before you can take out a boat on your own can be difficult, especially if you’re not a full member. You must submit a sailing resume and wait a minimum of 48 hours for approval before you can charter a boat of any size.

If you cannot satisfy their requirements, then you can still take out a boat but with a hired skipper to navigate it for you.

3) San Diego Sailing Club

Membership in the San Diego Sailing Club allows you to reserve and take out boats whenever you want at a discounted rate. With locations in both San Diego and Long Beach, you have two options for destinations and conditions to sail from.

However, you will be expected to choose a preferred location for sailing when you start your membership.

Members also get the added privilege of choosing a sailing partner from the Members Only section of their website. If you don’t already have a sailing buddy, this can be the ideal solution for anyone who truly wants to get out more often. Choose your partner based on their level of experience, availability, and the type of boat you prefer or you can list your own criteria for the kind of person you want to take to the water with.

Pros:

They are the most affordable with an enrollment fee of $399 and two membership options.

  • Option 1: Monthly fee of $45 (all of which must be spent on boat rentals during that month.
  • Option 2: Monthly fee of $45, which includes $20 in dues and $25 to be applied towards rentals at either location.
    With this option, the $25 can be accrued and held in your sailing bank up to a maximum of $300 to be applied when you’re ready for a rental. 

Cons: There are a limited number of boats available for half-day rentals and you may not be able to reserve them unless you book it well in advance.

4) Carefree Boat Club

Carefree Boat Club offers its members unlimited access to their entire fleet year-round.

As part of a nationwide club, your membership also extends to another 80 clubs around the country.

Their fleet consists of all late model boats including:

  • Pontoons,
  • bow-riders,
  • deck boats,
  • fishing boats,
  • cruisers,
  • sailboats,
  • and sports boats.

The boats range from as small as 18’ all the way up to 27’ Boat rentals are only available to members and after paying the fees there are never any other additional fees to rent the boat.

There is a one-time enrollment fee and an annual membership cost with a minimum commitment of one year. There are also no restrictions on how often you can take a boat out.

You can sail as often as you like, even staying out after hours or overnight for those members with the right kind of training and expertise.

Once you become a member, you will receive a training manual and will be expected to attend at least one classroom session along with an “on the water” class with the dockmaster if needed. The training covers CBC processes, general navigation, docking, and safety.

They even provide assistance in getting your captain’s license if you want.

Pros:
To ensure availability, Carefree Boat Club maintains a strict membership number (no more than ten members for every boat in their fleet. This allows them to maintain the highest quality and keep their boats in premium condition.

They also have a program that helps new boats to build up their skills in a safe and easy way, offering them training on a variety of different boats and sizes.

Cons:
While they do offer unlimited boat rentals, members can have no more than 4 reservations on the books at any one time so it is possible that you may not be able to get a boat when you need it.

There are lots of things to consider when choosing a boat club.

Aside from the cost of membership, think about how often you plan to use it and how much you are willing to spend to help you to decide which club will be right for you.

Finally, make sure that the club you choose will have a good selection of different boats and sizes available so you can reasonably expect to get what you’re looking for when you need them.

In Closing

There are many reasons why you might consider joining a boat club.

Some people have memberships because they enjoy sailing but may not have the time necessary to dedicate to maintaining a boat of their own while others prefer the benefits of having an entire fleet of boats at their disposal rather than just one.

Boat club memberships are also great for those who are considering buying a boat but are not sure if they are ready for the commitment.

If you’re new to boating, a year’s membership will help you to decide if becoming a boat owner is really the type of lifestyle you want.

Still, there are many different boat clubs to choose from and they can vary greatly in what they have to offer. With a good membership, there are several factors to consider carefully.

At the very least, you want to be sure of the cost, availability of boats, and the membership level.

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