Turn-Key Boating

Posted on Jul 1, 2010 :: Down Time
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Mariners Club boats, photo by Noah Rasmussen

To be out on the open water, to feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, the spray on your fingertips. To bob lazily with a fishing pole or a book, a cool one in your hand and friends and family at your side – it doesn’t get any better than this, right?

Actually, a lot of boaters know it could be a whole lot better, if only they didn’t have to trailer their boat, wait their turn at the launch, fill up with fuel and then hope the engine turns over while the passengers get fidgety and the sun rises higher in the sky on a short weekend of an all-too-short summer.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Door County business partners Jay Chomeau and Warren James recognized a trend in Florida and other parts of the country, where marinas have been offering a time-share arrangement for boats. This year, they launched the idea in Fish Creek.

“It’s a short boating season, and with the economic crisis, a lot of people were getting out of boating but still had a passion to be on the water – they couldn’t justify the expense for just three months,” Chomeau explains. With an eight- to 10-year waiting list for slips at the Alibi in Fish Creek, Door County’s largest marina, the demand was simmering for the Mariners Club.

“Here’s an easier way to get on the water and enjoy the boating lifestyle, with a fixed cost,” he adds.

James’ family owns the Alibi, where Chomeau is the harbor master. For the past 15 years, Chomeau has also run a yacht management service, Hassle Free Marine, which handles everything from washing and docking boats to filling them with personal supplies, food and beverages so that they’re ready for their owners when they arrive. Probably due to more owners maintaining their old boats instead of buying new ones, business with Hassle Free Marine has grown 63 percent in the last two years, Chomeau says.

After surveying potential clients last summer, the Mariners Club purchased three boats that would appeal to a wide clientele. Two are 26-foot Sea Ray Sundecks with Mercruiser 350Mag 300HP engines, each with dual sinks, head, bow and stern ladders, dual coolers and an oversized swim platform. The third boat is a 21-foot Everglades 210CC with a 250HP

Mercury Verado engine; modeled after a Boston Whaler, its center console set up for water sports or sport fishing. Complimentary training is offered for each captain until they are comfortable handling each boat.

About a dozen members had joined at the start of this year’s boating season. With a desired maximum of 7.5 members per boat, the Mariners Club will purchase a fourth boat when it reaches 25 members, Chomeau says. Members can keep up to two reservations rolling at a time and launch any boat available when they arrive at the marina.

Memberships are priced at a rate comparable to the price of owning a boat, after accounting for the cost of renting a slip, maintenance and storage: the annual fee is $4,400, plus a one-time initiation fee of $5,500 (which can be split over three years) and the cost of fuel. Each membership covers two captains, and these can be shared by family members (a spouse, sibling, adult child or parent). Discounts may be available based on demand.

Whenever he’s not working on his clients’ boats, Chomeau enjoys time on the water with his own boat, a Boston Whaler.

“I love being on the water at sunset, on my days off, or once in a while I’ll duck out in the afternoon if it’s slow. My summers are priceless.”

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →