The first rule of the Freedom Boat Club is to make it as easy as possible for members to set sail

If you sometimes think about buying a boat, but reject the notion because of the maintenance work, Anthony Adams would like to talk to you.

Adams is the Membership Executive for Freedom Boat Club of Mid and Northern Michigan, says Michigan is home to two types of boaters.

“There are people who just love it and there are people who just hate the hassles of it,” Adams says.

Either way, Adams says he believes most people enjoy time spent in a boat on the water. But when they're not on the water, boat owners spend hours maintaining and cleaning their watercraft. For some the reward is worth the effort. For others, the hassles are too much. Adams says the Freedom Boat Club is a way to enjoy boating without all the work.

Here’s how it works in Bay City: Members pay a one-time entry fee and then a monthly fee to choose from eight boats docked at Wheeler Landing, 600 Marquette St. Members also pay for fuel. The fees vary depending upon the access members choose.

Freedom Boat Club opened in 1989 in Sarasota, Fla. Today, it has locations in the US, Canada, and Europe.Whatever package they choose, members have reciprocal rights at some 300 Freedom Boat Club locations in the continental United States, Canada, and Europe. Membership comes with perks including social events, access to amenities such as pools, and training from U.S. Coast Guard-certified personnel.

Several factors drew the company to Bay City. Adams says the Saginaw Bay already is well known as a high-quality site for recreational boaters. Many avid boaters make their homes here. The company also took note of onshore recreational opportunities in the community.

“The Bay is a great boating location and Bay City has a lot of offer,” Adams says. “Downtown Bay City is coming back to life. That’s the trend we’re seeing in Michigan. The smart cities are bringing their downtowns back to life and I think Bay City is doing that and I think that’s a draw.”

Freedom Boat Club wants to add quality to the experience of boating in Bay City. Adams says the staff do everything possible to make boat trips easy. Porters carry equipment to and from cars. Staff at the dock tie and un-tie vessels. After each trip, staff clean and cover the boat. They’ll even help you back into a slip and give you a hand as you step on and off the dock.

“The only thing we ask you to do at the end of the day is clean your fish,” Adams says with a laugh.

The Bay City site opened in May, but Adams says he doesn’t have exact numbers on how many people have joined. In Michigan, Freedom Boat Club boasts thousands of members at 113 locations. Worldwide, about 50,000 people are members.

The boats vary by location. In Bay City, eight boats are available ranging from pontoons to fishing boats. Adams says the boats are never more than three years old and all come from Brunswick companies such as Mercury, Boston Whaler, and Sea Ray. The value ranges up to $170,000.

Membership packages come in different levels, depending on the size of the boat and number of days a week you are invited to reserve them. The entry price starts at $5,500. The monthly fees start at $295. Adams is offering reduced rates now, but says the sale will end soon.

The Freedom Boat Club will hold an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sat., July 23 at Wheeler Landing. If you can’t make it to the open house, more information is available online or at (989) 573-5005

“Anybody is welcome to come,” Adams says. “They can bring their friends and family, get a free boat ride, food and drink, and see what Freedom Boat Club is all about.”

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Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at