CORNELIUS — If you’re trying to soak up the last days of summer before school starts, or wondering if you’re cut out for boating or want an easy way to beat the heat, Freedom Boat Club is the answer.
Freedom Boat Club offers monthly memberships where anyone can schedule a time to rent a boat on either Lake Norman or Lake Wylie. A state issued boater’s certificate is required for anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.
Prior to taking a boat out for the first time, members receive four hours of training on how to operate the boat and where they can travel on the lake.
The club offers the luxury of relaxing on a boat without the hassle of owning one. Members do not have to wash the boats, winterize the boats, cover the boat, pay for a slip or pay for space in a dry storage facility or hauling a boat on a trailer or even fight traffic at boat ramps. Jeff Weir is a Freedom Boat Club franchise owner for locations on Lake Norman and Lake Wylie. He explained how Freedom Boat Club provides the luxury of relaxing on a boat without the stress of owning one.
Members make reservations ahead of time and then check in on the day off. They already know which boat they are renting.
Members can rent boats as often throughout the month as they want depending on availability. They pay a one-time entry fee, a monthly membership and they pay for the amount of gas they use. Freedom Boat Club offers friends and family plans for large groups that cost more. Each boat comes with a complimentary bag of ice and Freedom Boat Club has their own mechanics.
Prices for membership, Weir said, are dependent on if members would like access on the weekends or just during the week or if they sign up for a friends and family plan. He said the one-time entry fee could be between $3,000 to $5,000. The friends and family plan is more expensive. The monthly dues range between $350 — $450 depending on the access members want.
Freedom Boat Club members can use their membership at any location across the nation, and at locations in Canada and France.
In 2013, Weir and his father opened their first franchise on Lake Norman. At that time, there were only six boats at one location. Today, there are three locations on Lake Norman (34 boats in Cornelius, 11 boats in Denver and seven boats in Davidson) and one on Lake Wylie (18 boats are at Pier 49). In total, Weir oversees 72 boats. He hopes to expand the franchise on Lake Wylie.
Members can choose from center console fishing boats, fiberglass Sea Rays and various types of pontoons.
The most popular boats, Weir said, are the double decker pontoons — especially the ones with a slide attached to the back.
Weir said his family was a “boating family” and his dad always owned boats. On a family vacation to Holden Beach, North Carolina in 2012, the Weirs learned about Freedom Boat Club for the first time. Later, Weir and his father traveled to the club in North Myrtle Beach to listen to the sales presentation.
“It sounded too good to be true, but it also made sense to me,” Weir said. At that time, Weir lived in Winston-Salem so traveling four hours to go boating was impractical. Instead he and his father discovered that there was not a franchise on Lake Norman, yet, which is where the family frequently boated.
“Rather than joining the club, we bought a franchise,” Weir said laughing.
On Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer, Freedom Boat Club hosts Open Houses where people can learn about memberships, the boats and talk to current members.