By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising fuel costs and growing expenses to own a boat are making it harder for people to get out on the water.
But there is an affordable alternative to owning a boat – “sailing without owning”.
Now entering its fourth season ashore, the Carefree Boat Club of South Jersey offers its members all the fun of being on the water without the hassle and expense of owning a boat.
Carefree Boat Club is expanding to the shoreline this summer, opening in the Ocean City Marketplace at the All Seasons Marina at the base of the 34th Street Bridge on the Marmora side.
The company will officially open the Ocean City site on May 15, but will hold a grand opening and open house at All Seasons Marina on May 8. More details will be announced later.
A fleet of six new boats and two jet skis will be available for Ocean City members who want to experience all the coast has to offer on the water. All six boats are equipped with tow bars for tubing and waterskiing.
The variety of boats will allow members to go on fishing trips, enjoy a recreational outing, or simply spend a relaxing and lazy day on the bay or ocean.
“When you join, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of owning a boat. The boat is always ready for you,” said Sean McNulty, Carefree Boat Club Membership Director.
The boat is in the water when the members arrive, fueled and ready to go. When they’re done, they just have to take the boat back to the marina. There’s nothing left for them to do – save them the headaches of cleaning or maintaining the boat.
The Ocean City location will be limited to 50 members to ensure everyone will have access to the boats.
“We try to give our members the feel of a yacht club or a country club,” McNulty said.
Club memberships are only a third of the cost of owning a boat. Say goodbye to slip fees, insurance, maintenance, repairs, taxes, towing and winterizing.
For the 2022 season, members will pay a one-time initiation fee of $7,500, plus $550 monthly dues. However, those who lock in their membership before April 15 will be eligible for the 2021 prices of $7,200 initiation fee and $535 monthly dues.
Members can browse as often as they like at no additional cost. An online booking system allows them to choose the day, time and type of boat they want.
Before leaving the dock, members will receive personalized water safety training to familiarize themselves with the boats. Carefree trainers are certified by the National Safe Boating Council.
Carefree’s Jersey Shore boating season runs approximately from Easter to Thanksgiving. The business typically begins April 15 and will open its Avalon location on that date.
It accepts reservations from April 15 to November 15, but sometimes stays open for a few weeks longer. Although the Ocean City location will open on May 15 this year, the plan is to start April 15 at this site from 2023.
Carefree Boat Club of South Jersey began in 2019 with operations in Avalon at the Commodore Bay Marina at 900 Ocean Drive. Membership fees are the same in Avalon and Ocean City.
The Avalon and Ocean City locations are part of a growing network that includes more than 100 Carefree Boat Club locations in the United States and around the world. Membership in Avalon and Ocean City gives boaters access to all Carefree locations, including Canada, the Philippines, the Virgin Islands and Panama.
McNulty noted that Carefree’s hassle-free membership stands in stark contrast to what typically happens in the boating world for individual owners and buyers.
Rising fuel costs, rising boat prices and supply chain disruptions affecting the industry make owning a boat a challenge these days. Reflecting the high demand, even used boats are selling for high prices.
“It’s crazy. People can’t get boats,” McNulty said. “People have extra income and they need something to do.”
Carefree Boat Club solved problems of boat shortages and higher costs with its “boating without owning” membership franchise.
McNulty co-owns the Carefree Boat Club of South Jersey with his business partner Adam Fox, a licensed charter boat captain who serves as the company’s general manager.
Dave Neville, a longtime Jersey Shore resident who has enjoyed the local waterways since a young age, will serve as General Manager of Carefree’s new location in Ocean City.
Neville is an avid fisherman and has owned his own boats since he was a teenager. Prior to joining Carefree Boat Club, he was a detective with the Cape May County District Attorney’s Office for six years.
Previously, Neville was a beach lifeguard for five summers in Strathmere. He also owns his own business, Krystal Clean, which offers services such as window washing, pressure washing, carpet cleaning and shrink wrapping.
Neville said his love for boats and water sports will allow him to share his experiences with Carefree members to make them more enjoyable.
“I’ve had boats since I was 16,” he says. “I like fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding and being around boats,” he said.
For more information about Carefree Boat Club of South Jersey, visit southjersey.carefreeboats.com or call (609) 388-9009.