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LI boat club franchise bought by its parent

The purchase of Freedom Boat Club of New

The purchase of Freedom Boat Club of New York by its parent company includes its Port Jefferson location, seen here. Credit: Freedom Boat Club

The world’s largest shared-access boat club has bought out its New York franchisee and its six Long Island locations, as the parent company eyes the New York market for future expansion, officials said.

The purchase of Freedom Boat Club of New York by parent company Freedom Boat Club of Venice, Florida, includes locations in Port Washington, Freeport, Glen Cove, Northport, Lindenhurst and Port Jefferson, and territory rights that extend from Long Island to Westchester. Freedom Boat Club is a division of Brunswick Corp., owner of a stable of marine-product brands that include Mercury engines and Boston Whaler boats, among others. Terms of the Freedom-New York transaction were not disclosed.

Scott Ward, vice president and general manager of Freedom Boat Club’s corporate territories, said the parent’s buyout of the New York franchise is almost certain to include new club locations, from Montauk to Manhattan.

"We can head west and we can also head east, we have plans to do just that," Ward said Friday. Growth in the region has been upward of 30% for each of the last three years, he said.

Freedom Boat Club of New York’s former owners Peter and Zelle DeVilbiss, who started the operation nine years ago, will stay on through a transition, Ward said. The six Long Island locations are staffed by 75 dock staff, including trainers and maintenance staff who will remain with the company. Peter DeVilbiss will remain co-owner with Richard Cromwell of Freedom Boat Club of Connecticut, which was not a part of the transaction.

Freedom Boat Club is neither a boat-rental business nor an exclusive club. Its members pay an initiation fee and a monthly fee of between $250 and $700 for access to fleets of pleasure boats in their region — including more than 73 different boats for the 630 members in New York/Long Island.

Members can also make arrangements to use boats at more than 260 locations around the world, including the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Fees vary by location and membership types, and membership is open to anyone who can pay — and pass boat-training and on-the-water piloting tests, Ward said.

"It’s really pay the fee and you’re in," he said. "It’s also going through the training and making sure the skill sets and capability are there to be able to safely operate the boat."

Shared-access boaters can use the boats in their home port for fishing, sightseeing or other pleasure-boating activities, and don't have to worry about maintenance, dock costs or repairs as typical boat owners do. "It’s less expensive than owning your own boat," Ward said of the tens of thousands or more that owners would pay to buy and maintain, dock and store their own boat.

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