New Everett Franchise Offers Boats at Everett Marina

EVERETT — Retired and living her best life in her 70s, Carolyn Duncan considered buying a boat.

“I wanted my grandkids to experience boating,” said Duncan, who grew up in the Everett area in a family of avid boaters.

But shelling out for a new boat – even a used boat – gave him a shock. A new sailboat can cost $75,000 or more. A new motorboat can cost $12,000 and more. And then there is the annual maintenance which, according to boating enthusiasts, can represent up to 10% of the cost of a boat.

“I considered buying a second-hand boat. I even thought I might tow a trailer,” Duncan said. “Not a good idea.

His son-in-law suggested an alternative: Freedom Boat Club, which offers members access to its fleet and 350 locations in 34 US states, Canada and Europe.

Its newest location is Everett Marina.

To join, members pay a one-time entry fee for a lifetime membership, then pay a monthly fee, depending on the plan.

The club covers the cost of the boat, storage, maintenance and cleaning. Membership includes standard marine insurance coverage.

Freedom Boat has a fleet of over 1,000 members and 125 boats at 16 Washington locations. The armada of 20-25 foot vessels includes wheelhouse cruisers, outfitted boats for fishing, bow riders and pontoon boats for water sports and cruising.

Other state locations include Edmonds, Kirkland, Poulsbo, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle.

Duncan signed up, determined to go boating twice a week.

Sean Jones, director of the Everett chapter of the Freedom Boat Club, sits in one of the club’s ships for a photo Aug. 11, 2022, at the Port of Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“It’s like a gym membership, it’s up to you how often you use it,” said Duncan, who joined the club a year ago. “It solved all the boat ownership issues.”

The alternative was to buy a boat or rent boats by Boatsetter, which is like Airbnb for boats. In the Puget Sound area, most boat rentals start at over $100 per hour with a minimum commitment of two hours. However, unlike Freedom Boat, the boat sharing platform does not have a membership structure.

After paying the one-time registration fee, Duncan’s monthly dues are the equivalent of a “car payment,” she said.

The Everett site has six boats and about 40 members, said Sean Jones, membership manager for Everett, Edmonds, Seattle, Lake Union and other coastal sites.

The club maintains a ratio of eight boats for each member. It adds boats as membership grows, Jones said.

The franchise launched an Everett chapter a year ago. Its office is currently housed at the Hotel Indigo, but next year the club will take up residence in a building currently under construction at the Port of Everett’s Waterfront Place.

Freedom declined to disclose its enrollment fees or monthly dues. But Jones said a slip at the public marina in Everett costs about $300 a month.

“Monthly dues are less than the cost of launching a boat,” Jones said.

The expense of owning a boat can go up, especially when you add maintenance, Jones said. The estimate includes painting the hull every year, cleaning the deck and replacing the sails every few years.

Freedom Boat was founded in Sarasota, Florida in 1989. It is now a division of Brunswick Corp, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BC.

Members can take as many people as they wish, up to the maximum capacity of the boat. Dogs are also welcome.

On a recent summer morning, Duncan and his friend Anna McNally filled a cart with cat food and crab pots and waited at Pier K on the south side of Hotel Indigo.

Three of the Freedom Boat Club ships are docked Aug. 11 at Port of Everett in Everett.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Three of the Freedom Boat Club ships are docked Aug. 11 at Port of Everett in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The couple planned to go crabbing off Mukilteo and Hat Island.

“Boats are always nice,” Duncan said of the selection. She was planning later in the week to go salmon fishing near Tacoma with her brother and had booked a boat for the trip. The company buys new boats every two or three years.

The club employs about half a dozen people at the Everett club, Jones said.

“The crew fuels and cleans the boats and helps people on board,” Jones said. “We want people to feel like a million bucks and make sure everything is okay.”

“Sailing with us is sunrise to sunset, seven days a week,” Jones said. Reservations can be made six months in advance or the same day, depending on availability, Jones said.

Boats are available year-round at all locations in the state, he said.

Membership fees include training.

“I didn’t even know how to drive a boat when I joined,” Duncan said. “I was always with someone else.”

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” she said of the classes she took.

Sean Jones, director of the Everett chapter of the Freedom Boat Club, helps Carolyn Duncan and Anna McNally load up before heading out on the water August 11, at Port of Everett in Everett.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Sean Jones, director of the Everett chapter of the Freedom Boat Club, helps Carolyn Duncan and Anna McNally load up before heading out on the water August 11, at Port of Everett in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Jones said the club had several residents of Waterfront Place Apartments among its members.

“They come and make an impulsive booking,” Jones said, adding that availability is the club’s “main objective”.

“The best day in a boat owner’s life is the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it,” Jones said. “We manage all headaches.”

Janice Podsada: 425 339-3097; [email protected]; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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