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Maybe a boat club membership is the way to go?

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Dec 11, 2020

Capt. George Tunison

Maintaining any boat, especially an older one, can be an expensive proposition. I know this to be fact. A repair shop in Matlacha has a dedicated parking space for me with my name on the blacktop and a plaque with my picture on the wall inside. Clearly, the boat is happier there than at my place.

Finally tired of the costs of shop time, down time and non-warranty always expensive repairs, I recently went out and priced a new 23-foot class bay boat package with the same set-up I’m running now. Looks like I’ll be captain of the old SS Money Pit awhile longer as an extra hundred thousand plus dollars isn’t in this year’s Christmas budget. Wonder what that same boat will sell for in 2035? Scary!

If over the years worrying about fuel filters, gauges not working, trailer bearings, lights shorted out, paint chalking, storage or dock fees, weekend in-season boat ramp madness and ethanol related problems has just taken the wind out of your sails, even keeping you up at night, there is a solution.

Selling the darn thing and taking up golf or curling would obviously fix the problem but you still enjoy fishing, the family likes getting on the water and it’s (almost) always fun when the relatives come south for a winter visit.

Maybe it’s time to enjoy the benefits and peace of mind a boat club membership offers.

Just imagine not prepping your boat. No more trailering and overcrowded ramps, no more maintenance worries, insurance costs, constant clean-up — simply walk on and at the end of a long hot day, simply walk off and go home. After 50 years of trailering from Upper Canada to Key West and back again several times, all the while constantly maintaining a lifetime’s fleet of various boats, I can’t imagine how wonderful that would be!

There are several boat clubs in the area offering lifetime or other various membership plans. One club offers a great variety with 60 boats in its fleet. Flats boats, bay boats, double decker pontoon boats with water slides and family cruisers. After joining, simply call or go online and check for boat availability for your desired date, book it, show up and go. Gassed up and waiting for you at the dock.

A one-time fee lifetime membership in the above mentioned club costs $7,500 then an ongoing monthly fee of $349.  Do the math and compare annual boat ownership costs plus your time and effort, to club membership fees. Add in how many actual days you spend on the water.

After relocating to Florida and after their “got to have a boat fever” subsides, thousands of boats end up spending 90% or more of their time sitting on their trailers neglected. For this group, using a daily rental makes more sense than outright ownership or club membership.

Clubs typically require you to first pass a free basic boating course and will take you out for a demo and basic safety ride-along if you are new to boating or to the area.

Considering the high costs of boat ownership, the never-ending maintenance and trailering, ramp and storage headaches, a boat club membership might be perfect for you.

This past week I witnessed anglers that had drifted too shallow on an outgoing tide and were using the big engine, tilted up to try and make their way back to deeper water. Problem was, they were destroying a long patch of sea grass in the process.

A prop scar like this may take 10 years or more to regrow, sometimes never growing back.

Without shallow water grass and weed beds to support juvenile life and food for gamefish, the whole fishery eventually collapses.

With Southwest Florida’s winter low sometimes negative tides, boaters must take great care not to destroy our all-important seagrass areas. Use a push pole or electric motor.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.