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By Chris Frost
Ventura-- So, you'd love to hit the water and enjoy all the glory of the ocean, except for one problem. THE COST!!!
First, boats can be expensive, docking it at the marina is more costly, and if it breaks down, you're left with a vessel that goes nowhere.
The people at the Freedom Boat Club offered simple solutions during its Ventura open house Oct 11, which makes boat ownership obsolete.
Once you pay your entry fee and monthly dues, a member gets unlimited access to every boat in Freedom's fleet of ships at every location. There are over 225 locations worldwide.
The club takes care of the slip fees, maintenance, insurance, service on the boats, all the cleaning, and if something goes wrong, they take care of the problem. Members have one job, enjoy the water.
The club plans to expand in Oxnard and Santa Barbara.
Club Manager Jessi Price said she worked on the docks for many years, has seen people buy big boats, and there's always something wrong with them.
"They never leave the slip," she said. "I moved from San Diego to open this location in June. We have three locations there with 65 boats. I worked at a Freedom Boat Club in Florida, and we had over 100 boats."
The club has five boats in its Ventura fleet, and number six is coming before Oct. 18.
"We have the Defiance Admiral 220, a Striper and the Key West Center Console," she said. "We also just got a Duffy, which is 100 percent electric. Each boat has GPS, touch screens, sonar, VHF radios, flairs safety gear, and life jackets. "
Members sign up, pay an entry fee, monthly dues, and are ready to go.
"We have a reservation system and an app, so they can reserve the boat wherever they want," she said.
Another important feature about membership is unlimited training with a Coast Guard Captain, so no disasters happen at sea.
"I've seen it all," she said. "If you don't feel comfortable with anchoring or docking, we'll sit for hours and practice with you. There are four hours of classroom and offshore training. You can split it up, but if you don't feel comfortable, there is no time limit. It's all up to the member. We're here for you guys."
Jessi needed the ocean and saltwater to make her soul happy, so the Freedom Boat Club is the perfect fit.
"I love everything about the ocean and sharing that experience with everybody," she said.
She loves the area and said there are amazing adventures to explore on the water.
"The Channel Islands are amazing," Jessi said. "They are the American Galapagos. "It blows my mind how many people live here and have never been out there. I stumbled across the job online back in Saint Augustine, Florida. It was right before Hurrican Irma, and I decided that I was moving out to California. They had a Freedom there, so I called the owner, and he took me in."
Her calling in life is customer service.
"I love meeting new people and making them happy," she said. "I went to school for business, but I don't like being stuck at the office. I like being outdoors and on the ocean."
If someone still wants to fund their own boating adventure and make a purchase, she said you'd better be ready to spend some serious money.
"I know the boat slips here cost $300 a month," she said. "With the cost of a comparable boat, you're looking at between $60,000 and $70,000 for the price. Upkeep maintenance is even more."
The Freedom fleet is new.
"We don't let our boats get over two years old before we sell them," she said.
The Freedom Boat Club is celebrating the Fall back into Boating event by waiving membership fees until Jan. 2021. The regular price is $325 each month for weekday access or $425 a month for unlimited access. There is a $6,000 one-time entry fee.
"If you refer five people, you get your entry fee back," she said. "Down the road, if you want to use your entry fee for a downpayment on one of your boats, you can do that. For every person you refer, you get a free month."
She loves seeing people get out on the water, explore the amazing Channel Islands, and then hear their stories.
"I love new places," she said. "I love Santa Cruz, the Chinese Harbor, and also Potato Harbor. The other day I went to Tinker Beach, where the original Tinker Bell was filmed. It's hidden back there, a nice little cool cave. That was the best. I anchored the boat and swam to shore with my little innertube and explored for a little bit and looked at all the shells. When I was swimming back to the boat, I saw four leopard sharks swimming in the water. It was cool to see them up close like that."
Membership is open to anyone 21 years old and older.
"We get all ages," Jenni said. "It's diverse, and we get divers, photographers, and people who love sea life."
If you're worried about Covid-19, the Freedom Boat Club is the perfect solution.
"I think it's the best way to social distance," she said. "You're not with random people, and you are your own captain. I have strict cleaning and sanitizing protocols in place after each use. It's not like a charter. You get to choose where you want to go. You can bring your friends, family, and dogs are welcome too. We love dogs."
Brian Roberton was on the dock and having a good look up close.
"The name, Freedom Boat Club, piqued my interest," he said. "I like being able to take a boat out anytime and go out to enjoy a picnic, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and come back in, walk-off, and not worry about anything. It's trouble-free."
For more information, visit freedomboatclub.com.