Florida transplant Dan Hasbrouck opened Freedom Boat Club at 2630 Ingraham St. in Dana Landing in August 2014.
“An alternative to boat ownership is our slogan,” said Hasbrouck, a former helicopter pilot who grew up around boats.
Hasbrouck explained his business model. “It’s like a gym membership with a one-time entry fee and flat monthly dues,” he said. “We take care of the insurance, maintenance, dock fees, cleaning, training — everything. All you have to do is show up, go boating, have a good time, come back and drop the keys off.”
Freedom’s monthly boat charge is $325 for a craft valued at about $55,000 to $60,000.
After a year in business, Freedom has nearly 50 members signed up for its current inventory of five boats, some for fishing, some for pleasure and a pontoon boat for kids with a water slide. Hasbrouck intends to expand and grow the business. But he will not deviate from having a 10-to-1, customer-to-boat ratio.
Hasbrouck said Freedom’s business model is especially appealing to two types of potential clients: young professionals seeking to try out boating before they go all in on purchasing one, and long-time boaters who want to continue, but without all the hassles — and costs — involved in maintaining their own vessel.
“Eighty-five to 90 percent of our clients are ex-boaters,” Hasbrouck said. “They’re novices, mostly young professionals, who don’t really know if they want a boat. Or they’re ex-boaters who know about all the costs associated with boat ownership, so this (monthly rental) is a no-brainer for them.”
Freedom Boat Club also has an online reservation system.
“It’s a real easy, no-hassle way to reserve a boat,” said Hasbrouck noting every member is entitled to four “rolling” reservations.
“Every membership can reserve four days up to six months in advance, a maximum of four at a time,” he said. “Once they make a reservation and use that reservation, they get it back, so it’s rolling. You have unlimited reservations, but you can only have four at a time. What that does is it keeps the boat hog away from taking every Saturday morning.”
There is also same-day boat usage available.
Freedom is also very liberal concerning where members are allowed to take their boats. Hasbrouck said anywhere in Mission and San Diego bays is fair game.
“They can go from the shoreline off into the ocean 50 miles,” he said. “They can go down to the Coronado Islands in Mexico to fish, but no further south. They’re allowed to go as far north as they would like to go.”
Members pay for gas, which is about the same price as car gas.
Hasbrouck said boat sharing in a club essentially gives members the freedom of boat usage without all the attendant responsibilities that go along with owning one.
Also, when members go on vacation elsewhere, they can use boats of other Freedom franchises, of which there are 88 nationwide.
Freedom Boat Club
Where: 2630 Ingraham St. in Dana Landing on Mission Bay.
Info: (619) 981-BOAT,
www.freedomboatclub.com, email email@example.com.