South Park Magazine

Want to boat? Join the club

A family takes a boat from Queen City Boat Club out onto Lake Norman.
A family takes a boat from Queen City Boat Club out onto Lake Norman. Observer file photo

There’s an old saying: The two happiest days of a boater’s life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it. Boating is great recreation, especially in the Charlotte area where residents have almost year-round access to Lake Wylie and Lake Norman. Early-morning fishing expeditions, Saturday afternoon tubing adventures and weekday sunset cruises after work are all ways we can enjoy life on our surrounding waters. But sometimes the flip side of boat ownership seems daunting. The cost of purchasing a vessel. Finding storage space. The routine maintenance. Rather than succumbing to that old saying about ownership, some instead turn to boat clubs. Monthly membership dues give them year-round access to a variety of boats without the responsibility of maintenance, transport and upkeep. For many, it’s worth the price of admission.

How it works

In exchange for monthly dues paid to the club, members have access to the fleet of boats maintained by the organization. Boaters simply reserve a boat, show up at the dock with supplies – fishing poles, picnics or tubes – and hop in. After orientation/initiation and monthly fees, the only cost members are responsible for is gas.“You just get in the boat and go,” says Paul Skinner, co-owner and manager of The Carolina Boat Club, which operates on Lake Wylie. “There’s no trailing your boat from storage to water. Just show up and it’s waiting for you.” The Carolina Boat Club, located at Pier 49 Marina on the North Carolina side of the Buster Boyd Bridge, was formed two years ago. Currently over 50 club members enjoy boating on Lake Wylie and can choose from a fleet featuring pontoons to 36-foot cabin cruisers. The Carolina Boat Club owners and managers highlight the economics of joining a boat club versus owning a boat on their website. A calculator helps you compare the cost of owning a boat to membership dues. (The club advertises on its website a $100 orientation fee and monthly dues starting at $195). The savings add up. Tony DeMauro, president and founder of The Queen City Boat Club in Cornelius, agrees. “To buy one of our boats would cost on average about 40 to 50 percent more than the club membership,” he says. Originally from Atlanta, Demauro and his brother founded the Lake Norman-based club in 2008 after spotting an unfilled niche. “We didn’t really see any boat clubs in the area and joked that we should start one,” he laughs. “It just made sense.”

Convenience over cost

While both clubs tout the savings of joining a boating club in lieu of buying a boat, most members say economics doesn’t top their list of reasons to join. Convenience does. “Each year when we survey members as to why they join, cost is lower on the list,” DeMauro says. “What keeps people coming back is being able to enjoy a boat without having to take care of one.”Huntersville resident David Lloyd and his family owned and kept a boat for years at a Lincoln County marina, but sold it when the expense and upkeep took its toll. Missing their time on the lake, the Lloyds joined The Queen City Boat Club in 2009. “It’s the perfect fit for our family,” says Lloyd. “Whether it’s a last-minute dinner with friends or a well-planned day of fun, we simply reserve the boat, show up at the marina and it’s pulled to the side of the dock – cleaned and ready to go.” Scott Kitteridge wasn’t at all familiar with boats when he and his family moved to Lake Wylie from Colorado in 2009. Kitteridge saw an advertisement for The Carolina Boat Club last year, decided to join, and plans to renew his membership. “My work schedule allows us to enjoy the lake during the week so we take full advantage of it,” he says. “It amazes me that you’re trusted with this equipment. (The club) owners and managers spent a lot of time teaching me how to operate everything.” DeMauro says people don’t want to spend their time getting the boat ready for the water. “These days everyone has busy schedules,” he says. “Many of our members are young professionals with growing families. They have weekend soccer and baseball, so whatever time they have for boating they want it to be on the water.” The perks of boating minus the hassles – membership definitely has its privileges.

For more information:

The Carolina Boat Club: www.thecarolinaboatclub.comThe Queen City Boat Club: