By TOM JACKSON
Jim Spreng and Mike McDaniel believe there are people who enjoy riding in boats more than taking care of boats.
The two have opened a Freedom Boat Club franchise at Lyman Harbor, 1615 First Street.
Membership provides the opportunity to use a boat to people who can't afford to own one or want to avoid the hassle of maintenance.
The two franchise owners have the Freedom Boat Club rights to the western basin of Lake Erie. They opened a franchise at Catawba Island last year and have followed that up with their new Sandusky franchise.
Both men live part of the year at Catawba Island and part in Savannah, Ga., and decided to open a franchise after becoming customers.
McDaniel, 40, said he was preparing to buy a $65,000 boat when he stumbled upon the Freedom Boat Club office in Georgia.
"I just walked in and started talking with the guy. I tore up the contract," he said.
Membership in the local club costs a $5,000 down payment, which covers a lifetime of membership. The first six months are free after that, and then members pay $200 a month, Spreng, 60, said.
That's a big savings over owning a boat yourself, but the savings in time also is important to most members, Spreng said. When the boat comes back from a trip, the club's employees clean it.
"We dock it, we put it in the slip, we winterize," Spreng said.
The club worries about maintenance, insurance, slip fees and so on.
The Catawba club has 10 members but expects to add three more soon. The Sandusky club is starting off with three members. Each location has three boats, including a bow rider, cuddy cabin and center console. Members can have up to four reservations at a time, but can turn around and make a new reservation each time they use one.
The business tends to complement the boat ownership industry rather than compete with it, Spreng said.
Some people have to own their own boat.
"They like touching it. They like feeling it," he said.
Young professionals who don't have the time to own a boat, or perhaps don't have the money, tend to become attracted to the boat club. Some of them will graduate to becoming owners. Other members tend to be older and have gotten tired of keeping a boat up, but still want to be able to use one, Spreng said.
McDaniel said the club is explained in a video posted at freedomboatclub.com.