Freedom Boat Club Planning More Bay Sites

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA; | Friday, July 25, 2003

A quick call to the Freedom Boat Club can get you a reservation on many types of power or sail boats, just like you reserve a tee-time or a bowling lane. Here is how it works: Join the club. Then call and reserve the boat of your choice. You and your friends arrive with your personal gear and refreshments, board a maintained, fully gassed boat, take your personal gear and leave with smiles on the faces of your guests. If you want to said one day and water ski the next, just order a different boat. Take if out of half a day or an extended weekend cruise. First-time boaters According to Chris Ragland, sales manager for the mid-Atlantic Freedom Boat Clubs, "our entire mission is to increase the quality of life of our members. We provide a nurturing service to make all the family members comfortable with the various boats they want to use. They lead very busy lives and we recognize that they want to spend their spare time enjoying the water, not painting, polishing or tinkering with the mechanics of the boat." The majority of Freedom Boat Club members are first-time boaters. Starting their boating life with the Freedom Boat Club offers an opportunity to try different boats before perhaps making the jump to ownership. "We recognize that when someone wants to start boating they rarely know what kind of craft is best for their lifestyle," says Ragland. Chris spends a lot of time interviewing a potential club member to learn what they would really like to do on the water - fish, cruise, ski, or explore. He particularly listens to the woman's point of view and provides boats that will make them feel comfortable and safe. Where to take safety courses and obtain specific training in the use of many crafts is a big concern of new boaters. Again, Freedom Boat Club has come up with the answer to make it easy and fun to learn about boating. Special training weekends are held periodically at the clubs, which include safety education, rules of the road and hands-on instruction. Party time for the kids Needless to say, kids have the most fun and love the sports boats. But when it comes to birthday swim parties with tube tows and ice cream with cake, the pontoon boats are the craft of choice. "When I tell the moms that we expect the craft to have food spread from bow to stern when the party is over, and the clean up is on us, they just throw back their heads and laugh," says Ragland. "As a result, boat parties have become more popular here than the local fast food place with playground." Ragland is proud of the fact that he has never had to tell a member he does not have a boat for their use. "We have approximately 90 members in the mid-Atlantic region and 18 craft to service their needs. That is a 5 to 1 ratio, whereas the clubs in Florida work on a ratio of 12 to 1. In addition to maintaining a full docking staff, FBC has a crew of certified mechanics to keep their craft in top running order and always ready for member use. Each craft owned by the club is equipped with all the necessary safety equipment, including PFD's, boat depth sounders, and VHF radios. However, FBC goes one step further as a good business should. "We monitor the weather for those members out there and keep them informed by radio or cell phone when a squall is suddenly approaching. We also give the closest location for a safe harbor." In the rare event that a mechanical problem is encountered on the water, FBC locates and dispatches the nearest tow craft to bring the boat back to the dock. Members make the switch with another boat and get back to the business of enjoying themselves on the water. Hop aboard at any location One of the many priviledges of belonging to Freedom Boat Club is that members can hop on a boat at any club location. Currently there are 10 clubs in Florida, one in Long Island, New York, three in the tidewater of Virginia and three in the Chesapeake Bay area. "Some folks like the Bay, while others prefer river cruises. They can travel to many sites from our Pleasure Cove Marina in Pasadena, Maryland, but the view of Washington, DC from the Potomac is spectacular, " says Ragland Ragland is also fond of the Pilot House Marina near Neabsco Creek in Woodbridge, Virgnia, adjacent to the beautiful historic Leesylvania State Park. A similar location in Georgia is available on Lake Lanier. With locations in Portsmouth, Hampton and Virgina Beach, plans are being made to expand to Glouchester, Smithfield, Williamsburg and Richmond. Ragland is also looking for a site on the Eastern Shore at Kent Island or St. Michaels and plans expansion to Deal and the Solomons. While families are Freedom Boat Club's main focus, businesses have also benefited from memberships. "While we cater to families, we are also a good deal for businessmen who want to entertain clients," says CEO Dave Beall. "Where else can you have a great time on the water and walk away when it is time to clean up?"

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