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Topic: Carefree Boat Club worth it??
rhodenhome
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Posted: 25 May 2009 at 6:32am | IP Logged
I have been doing some research on this boat club ot of the Potomac and the Bay area of Maryland, I am trying to figure out if it is worth it or do they charge you an arm and a leg every month as a membership fee. Anyone have any information abuot it I would appreciate it. Thanks
chantillycpl
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Posted: 25 May 2009 at 4:03pm | IP Logged

We compared the +/-s of owning our own or going the time-share route and felt being able to use  our boat on a moment's notice and leave our personal belongings on board was well worth the extra cost associated iwth ownership.

Note that if you do purchase a new boat Carefree, at least in the past, was willing to cut a deal in which they pay for your insurance, slip fee, routine maintenance and some other costs in exchange for allowing others to use your boat. 

We are on our boat every weekend.  Perhaps if you're going to use it once or twice a month, then Carefree could be the way to go.  Make your own +/- list, check it twice, and Good Luck!  Hope to eventually see you on the Potomac!

"All Hanz On Deck"
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Palmetto, FL
captharv
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Posted: 28 May 2009 at 7:17am | IP Logged
IMHO:
I maintain my boat to the Nth degree. My revreational time is valuable to me, and I would rather spend time maintaining than spend time fixing a problem, on the water. I would not want strangers, especially those who's boat knowledge approaches 0 to operate my boat. Insurance? Does that cover some idiot screwing up the head, and YOU have to fix it? It may cover operational damage, but not incidentals.
If you are inclinded not to do maintenace, get into a boat time-shre type operation. You will wind up costing more than if you owned it and paid someone to maintain it.

Think about this from a business standpoint:
The boat will cost you: depreciation, maintenance, fuel, repairs, insurance (I'll bet it aint cheap for multiple untrained users), etc. Then, on top of all that, an organization is paying help to run it, and still make a profit? Thnk about it.... The benefit is for them, not you.
We had a houseboat time share operation near here some years back. They charged the prople for a week with maintenance fees. They never got the boats totally sold, and went under after 2 years. the people lost their money.
the 10 year timeshare and maint fees were about 140% of what it would have cost to just plain rent it for a week, and walk away.
Granted, there are operations where they are around for a long time, but go into this with your eyes (and checkbook) open.
boatergirl
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Posted: 11 July 2009 at 3:05pm | IP Logged

The thing that I have been considering regarding the carefree boat club is that i get to use different kinds of boats - so I am not tied to just one.  it is nice to keep my personal stuff on board - that is true!!  But for the convenience of someone else taking care of the maint, dealing with insurance, and having different options (sailing one weekend, tubing another, cruising another).  Nothing beats it.  Of course, when I retire and can boat all the time - I am sure I will change my mind.  But for right now -- it seems like a great deal -- and cheaper.  From what I understand it is about $5k per year with some sort of initiation fee.

wkearney99
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Posted: 12 July 2009 at 12:39pm | IP Logged
Ever rented something and been utterly disgusted with the condition of it? I can't imagine the hassles of dealing with the inevitable poor maintenance of a rented boat; a sailboat even more so.

As for insurance, you'd be an absolute fool to assume there's going to be effective coverage through such a scheme. You'd, at the very least, want to make sure you have a decent umbrella liability policy. In the event something goes wrong and you're held liable the likely bare-bones minimums those schemes probably carry could leave you with a serious financial risk.

Fortunately most homeowner policies have reasonably priced umbrella options, just make sure you're covered effectively. Bear in mind that it's not just the cost of your boat, it's that of anything you hit and the people on board.

Then there's the fantastically naive notion of being able to simply hop on board some totally different vessel each time and be able to safely operate it. Now, that's laughable, tragically so.
Edited by wkearney99 on 12 July 2009 at 12:40pm
--Bill Kearney, 2005 Four Winns 348 Vista
boxlaxman
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I wanted to revive this thread and give an honest opinion of a former member.  We were members for a little over a year and negotiated our of our contract.  We were members in the DC area.

Why we joined - First, I am a lifetime LAKE boater and was new to the coastal waterways.  This was a way to get my feet wet as well as consider other types of boats.  Carefree uses almost exlcusively Sea Ray boats whcih is great.  We have a chance to use the bowriders for tubing, etc. but also get some time on the Sundancers.  It cost us $2500 down and $4500/year for a 5-year plan.

The experience - There are some fundamental flaws with the system so of which are Carefree's fault and some are not.

  1. Time - The 4 hours blocks of time were too restrictive (10a-2pm & 2pm-6p).  You had to gas up before returning and we all know how long that takes.  Reservations have to be made WEEKS in advance and this did not work with our spontaneous nature.  Overnight and extended privleges are available with advanced training but 6pm was usually the limit.
  2. Availability - It simply was not good.  Many of the resular users book the prime slots WELL in advance which is allowed but again, just didn't work with our spontaneous nature.
  3. Cleanliness - The boats were OK.  Many times we found beer caps and other little things that reminded us these were not OURS.  If the boat had a head...it smelled.
  4. Dock Staff - The dock staff was always great because many of them were younger adults with summer jobs.  No complaints there...
  5. Office Staff - Very little transparency.  Felt like a mom and pop operation.

To sum it all up...if you are a BOATER, this is NOT for you.  Your exppectations will be TOO HIGH for Carefree to meet and you will be dissappointed.  If you are NEW to boating, this would be a good start for you.

To be fair...I would say that Carfree was not a good FIT for us but very well could be for someone else.  We are now purchasing our own boat for full-time use...

Hope this helps...

rwidman
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Posted: 01 October 2009 at 8:11pm | IP Logged
boxlaxman wrote:

I wanted to revive this thread and give an honest opinion of a former member.  We were members for a little over a year and negotiated our of our contract.  We were members in the DC area.

...................

To be fair...I would say that Carfree was not a good FIT for us but very well could be for someone else.  We are now purchasing our own boat for full-time use...

 

So how did you get out of it?  Did you loose money in the deal?

To me, these "clubs" compare to a time share.  Good for some folks but not that good for many more. 

Ron
2000 Camano Troll - High Cotton




jehines3
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$25,000 for five years of non guaranteed use of a boat I will not own in the end.  I guess its ok compared to dock fees and depreciation, but the restrictions alone make your conclusion probably the majority. 

My dock fees/storage (summer/winter) and insurance this season will run $4100.  I doubt you were running a boat requiring a 40' slip and double 30A electric.  I also doubt you spent 8 weekends on a boat. 

I think the j port annapolis is a far better arrangement.

John E. Hines III, P.E.
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rjs78
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Posted: 15 May 2011 at 1:30pm | IP Logged
any recent info on this... i am considering

offered $2,000 down, $375 per month for 4 years plus 5th year free.
(averages to $300 per month).

$450 for insurance to cancel anytime i want. Else, i can cancel for 6mth
penalty unless i move more than 90 miles away.

$750 for co-member (i.e spouse).

Seems decent to me.. $3,600 per year - no slip fees, no loan, no
maintenance, no insurance, etc.. access to all clubs...

i'm brand new to boating so really have no interset in purchasing yet..

anyone else have recent reviews in the MD, DV, VA area.
Mike M2
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Posted: 15 May 2011 at 7:09pm | IP Logged

How often do you get to use it? How much advance notice do you need to give them?

You could give me 3600 a year and i'll even captain the boat...

Mike M2
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rwidman
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There was a recent thread on another forum where the boat broke down and the boat club (a different club) charged the member several thousand dollars for repair.  Of course, I only saw one side of it, but it's something to be aware of.
Ron
2000 Camano Troll - High Cotton




jehines3
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I don't get it.  Paying $20k to avoid paying $20k to have your own and getting to use it whenever and where ever you wish. 
John E. Hines III, P.E.
1992 Silverton 34ACMY
Twin Crusader 454XL/Borg Warner 5000



jehines3
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And I can say this, I've never wanted to use any boat i've ever owned in four hour increments reserved weeks in advance.  I'm thinking that Blue Angles, 4th of july, memorial day and labor day are booked by current members three years out...Just a hunch.
John E. Hines III, P.E.
1992 Silverton 34ACMY
Twin Crusader 454XL/Borg Warner 5000



chntllm
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Funny you should mention just that issue, Johnhines3;
This is my "holiday availability" experience with The
"Carefree Boat Club."

I joined the Carefree Boat Club in June 2010. I had
trailered for 8 years, but sold my boat, and decided to
try this on the recommendation of a member. I paid a
$3990 upfront initiation fee and was billed for $375/mo
for the next 60 months. I did use the boats a few times;
because of a flexible schedule, I could go out during the
week and a boat was usually available. They did close at
the slightest hint of foul weather and were unavailable
at those times. Unfortunately, it didn't take 3 months
until Carefree had reneged on it's most sacred promise;
TIME. Their slogan is "It's about time" When push came
to shove, they took my money and didn't give me my time.
The only thing they sell is the PROMISE of time in a
boat. They promised me one of the 3 major summer
holidays (July 4th was completely booked and not
available).

I had reserved ahead for nearly a month for my all day
Labor Day weekend boat outing in Annapolis, and had to
pass on other reservations, just so I could keep this 2-
slot all day weekend. (as others have noted, CBC only
allows 4 slots reserved) I called in advance the day of
the reservation and confirmed I was coming, then drove 60
miles to the dock, only to be told: 1st story) the boat
didn't come back last night; prop caught a crabpot; 2nd
story) the boat was unavailable had been in the shop for
a week with a blown engine; 3rd story) another boat
would be substituted, even though the president of the
company personally had taken it out of service because 6
other members had been left stranded on it; 4th
story)Finally the truth; another member was out in my
boat on my time. My family got nothing. We got to look
at other people out in the boat, doing what I had paid
for and had been cheated out of.

My PREPAID, alloted, PREPAID, reserved, PREPAID, perfect
weather weekend was ruined, and I was completely
embarrassed in front of my guests. I really felt like a
complete chump, and CBC did it to me in front of my
friends. Thanks a lot CBC! CBC never did explain why my
time was taken, but they did offer to buy me lunch after
I had complained in writing. BTW, CBC uses a "Tip"
system, (I found out about this AFTER I signed my
contract; $20/trip was suggested by my CBC salesman, and
I did pay it) and it is my belief that another member had
"Tipped" his way onto my boat, a charge CBC denied. I
made several suggestions of equitable compensation to
CBC, through the local manager (out of his hands he said)
their Customer Relations Manager, and the President
rejected all of them. Other than a meal, there would be
no compensation, just my tough luck. Denied equitable
compensation, I demanded termination and refund of the
unearned membership fees for the breech of contract. CBC
offered no refund just a letter of release if I kept my
mouth shut, and then threatened to sue me if I didn't
continue to pay. Fortunately I had paid with Aerican
Express, and when I filed a Merchant Services Complaint,
I did get a finding of default on the part of CBC in my
favor, and got some of my $$ back. The Carefree Boat
Club were not honest in their dealings with me, were very
difficult to deal with when they defaulted, and very
quick to enforce their heavy handed contract. I own a
business and deal with problems every day; when the going
got tough, they were not nice people to deal with..

Shop around; a 20-22 ft boat with 1000 hrs on it was
the normal boat I was provided. It is worth $5-10,000
tops. Compare. Do business with these people at your
own risk.
boatingncst8fan
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Playing with my boating is like playing with my emotions, and I'll paddle a canoe against an outgoing tide before I give Freedom or Care Free a single dollar.

There's a reason folks have resorted to selling their Freedom and Carefree club memberships on Craigslist.  They'll do anything to get away from them.

'07 Tidewater 2100 BayMax with a Suzuki 140
Lawmen
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I'm almost one year into a five-year Carefree contract in the DC area.  So far, the experience has been 80 - 85% positive.  I do worry, sometimes, that I might find myself trying to sell on Craigslist someday, but I can't say I've found reason yet.

I talked personally to about ten current and former members prior to deciding to join.  Be sure you get phone numbers from the Carefree Membership Director and make calls before you decide.  I was VERY skeptical.  However, I knew I didn't want to worry about maintenance, trailering, or storage.  An option would have been to buy a boat in a "concierge boating" setup with a dealer on the water -- which I did research.  This dealer would have provided me much the same experience as Carefree, but it would have been much more expensive.  That said, I know there are guys out there who are great with engines and love working on their boats and will do all that is required to keep them in tip top shape -- I am not that guy.  For such folks, buying your own boat is definitely going to be the money play.  It also really helps from a financial standpoint if you have good access to affordable trailered boat storage (military, for example).  You will, however, still have the requirement to get your boat from storage to the water (and back) every time you want to go out.

During Aug/Sept/Oct 2010, we went out on Carefree boats 17 times.  Been out 6 or 7 times this May and June so far.  Only ever had one mech problem, and we had a replacement boat in thirty minutes (however, it was a weekday, so boats were available).

Scheduling:

Yes, it is harder to be spontaneous about boating when you don't own your own.  Can't argue with that.  Here are some of my thoughts on scheduling:

  1. I tend to make my weekend reservations about two weeks or more in advance.  I made my Memorial Day 2011 reservation in late April, I think.  It's June 20th right now, and most July 4th afternoon reservations are taken.
  2. Weekday reservations are much easier to get spontaneously.  Even Friday afternoons don't tend to book up very quickly.
  3. The dock hand at my home dock will occassionaly text me on short notice to let me know if boats have come available on the weekend.
  4. Once you have a bit of experience, you can apply for "after hours" privileges, which means you can keep the boat out until sunset (8:30 pm right now) even though the dock hands go home at 6 pm.  Makes for a longer "half day."
  5. The Annapolis Labor Day horror story above rings true to me.  I think I heard about that from another club member.  However, I'm glad to say that I haven't had any scheduling foul ups of that nature (or even close).  I really feel for the victim of that snafu.

Boat Quality:

Boats at my "home dock" (Occoquan, VA) are all Sea Rays except a pontoon boat, fishing boat, and wake-boarding boat.  Just got a brand new 2011 Sea Ray Sundancer 260 at the dock and she's a pretty nice cruiser.  Yes, some of the boats are getting a little tired, but nothing that I would consider embarrassing when I bring friends on board.  I would give overall average boat fit-and-finish quality a "B+" with a couple of "A+" quality boats and a couple of "B-" quality.  Best to go to the dock and look at them, of course, before signing up.  Mechanically, all my experience has been very good -- a solid "A" in this category.  One "abort" as mentioned above, and one boat that had a bit of a "hiccup" in acceleration that was annoying, but didn't keep us from tubing and having fun.

Boat Selection:

This is an aspect of the club that was attractive to me.  We have used deck boats for tubing and skiing, and cruisers for adult happy hour cruises.  My home dock has 4 Sea Ray deck boats (22 - 24 feet), a Sea Ray bow rider, a wakeboard/deck boat, a center console fishing boat, a 22-foot Sea Ray cuddy cabin cruiser, a pontoon boat, and two 27-foot Sea Ray cruisers.  If I bought my own boat, I'd be torn between getting a 24-26 foot deck boat and getting a 27 - 29 foot cruiser.  It's nice to have access to both types and more.  So far, I think we've used all but the pontoon boat and the fishing boat.

Other Members:

Yes, there are jerks out there everywhere.  One of the new boats in our club got banged up by a knucklehead who didn't think he needed to put out fenders to raft up to another boat.  Very aggravating to see this on a boat with < 50 hours TT.  One thing I've not encountered much, fortunately, is members trashing out the boats.  Either members are cleaning up after themselves or the dock hands are doing a good job on turnaround.  Any issues I've seen with the boat furniture, upholstery, canvas, etc. has been more normal age type stuff rather than looking like the boat has been mistreated or neglected.  In other words, I'd compare the boats to good used cars rather than rentals.

Bottom Line:

If you want to own and take care of your own boat, trailer it, and store it, you will spend less than I am at Carefree.

If you want to be totally spontaneous and go boating at the time and place of your choosing, Carefree is probably not a fit for you.  That said, I have called down to the dock on short notice (same day) before and found that a boat was available.

I was looking for an opportunity to go boating with minimal hassle and I am willing to do a little planning.  It's not cheap, but I don't think I could beat the price for "concierge boating" and I even get a variety of boats.  So far, it's a pretty good fit and gets a big thumbs up from the wife and kids.

When I drive down to the dock, someone provides me a clean boat, ready to go.  When I get back, I turn in the keys and drive away.

So far, Carefree has provided a very positive experience for my family.  I hope it continues.

Lawmen
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Posted: 20 June 2011 at 2:59pm | IP Logged

When we were in Florida for Spring Break, we were able to reserve one of the boats at the local Carefree chapter.  That was pretty cool.

Lawmen
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LulaCici, I don't know if your post was directed at me, but I'll answer it anyway. . .

I am still in the club and am a satisfied member.  I agree that comparing this club to a timeshare is appropriate.

The appeal of the club to me is that I can drive down to the water, get in a boat and zoom away, come back, turn in the keys, and go home.  Someone else takes care of storage, maintenance, and cleaning the boat.  I don't have to wonder if the boat is going to start or if a family of hornets has moved into the engine compartment.

Like I said in my initial post, there are folks who do a good job maintaining their own boat and don't mind trailering the boat to and from dry storage.  Those folks will spend less money and won't have to worry about someone else dinging the boat or trashing a prop.

Of course, it's fair to mention that even conscientious boat owners ding the boat or bend a prop now and then.  With Carefree, the club is going to ensure it gets fixed soon.  Not all boat owners are as motivated to have a problem fixed immediately.

Carefree provides convenience, boat variety, and hassle-free boating (in my experience).  To get that, I give up some flexibility (have to reserve a boat) and I am limited to boating where the Carefree boats are (can't put a boat on a trailer to try out a new lake).

Hope that helps.

guvguy
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Posted: 05 July 2011 at 3:06pm | IP Logged

@ Lawmen,

We just signed up at the Stafford Club with the exact same reasons.  I want a boat, I just dont want the responsibility of owning it (i.e. towing, storing, taxes, ect...).  My only concern is whether I will have a boat.  Our sales guy (LEO) says thats not an issue.  Just dont see how.  I am skeptical bu looks like your family is enjoying it just fine. 

Lawmen
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guvguy,

I'd say that 85% of our boating has been on reservations that we held for about 2 weeks.  The other 15% have been "spur of the moment" opportunities where we have found out on short notice that our desire to go boating has matched an available boat.

I can't really remember a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when we have been sitting around wishing we had a boat available.  Generally, we either have one reserved, get one on "spur of the moment," or have other plans that keep us from boating.

Weekdays are very easy to get, even on short notice (same day or evening before).  If you can get off work in time to meet the family at the dock by 4 pm, you can have four solid hours of boating before you have to return at sunset*. . . without even having to burn a reservation.  If you can get off at noon. . . bonus!  Fridays are a little tougher than M - Th, but still very often available short notice.

* - I don't know what time the dockhands go home at Stafford.  If you're new, and don't have "after hours" privileges, you'll have to come back before they leave.  Get "after hours" privileges as soon as you can.

The dockhands are the key to success.  Inside of 48 hours, they schedule the boats (outside of 48 hours is the central reservations system online).  I've traded texts many times with my dockmaster and learned about the next couple days' opportunities.  I've also received calls from the dock to let me know that a boat is available.

I don't know if I would go as far as Leo and say availability is "not an issue," but I will say I can't remember having a disappointment (Aug - Oct 2010 and May - June 2011).

I would be happy to address any other questions you have.

 

chntllm
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Posted: 05 July 2011 at 4:03pm | IP Logged

Lawman, Guvguy;

I joined CBC for all the same reasons you did, and had the same sales guy make the same promises to me.  Hope you're not stuck on the dock with your friends watching someone else use the reservation that had been promised to you.  I gave these guys every opportunity to do right by me, and their response was essentially "too bad it happened, but keep paying and try again".  Do it to me once, shame on you; to let them try to do it twice, shame on me!  They ended up with a lot of my money, and I ended up with no boat.  Good luck!

Lawmen
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Posted: 05 July 2011 at 4:17pm | IP Logged

chntllm,

Yes, yours is a horror story that I believe and hope I don't encounter.  I would probably have the same reaction as you.  I'm disappointed that they didn't do right by you -- it certainly affects my confidence in the club.  I think it's good that prospective members are able to see all kinds of stories in venues such as this forum. 

I'm not so naive as to believe that I could never be the victim of a similar circumstance.  So far, everything has worked very well.

Fair winds. . .

guvguy
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Posted: 05 July 2011 at 4:19pm | IP Logged

Lawmen,

Thanks sir.  I am get the feeling that everything will be cool.  Not sure how long ago this happened to chntllm but I assume that with your most recent post and experiences that everything was pretty satisfactory.  Obviously without owning a boat your time is limited but make the best use of it as possible to get the best out of it.  The dock guys seem pretty cool and let me know if I have any issues or need anything that they will pass along their numbers.  We are scheduled for our first training on the 16th then the week after for session 2 and 3 to get the after hours and overnight.

 

Lawmen
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Posted: 05 July 2011 at 4:25pm | IP Logged

guvguy,

I think it happened to chntllm last Labor Day, so it's not a "way old issue."  I only pray that Carefree learned something from it and will work to provide better safeguards and better reactions to problems. 

I kept a log of my fuel receipts and can report that I was out on a boat 19 times between 6 Aug 10 and 24 Oct 10.  That averages out to about once every four days. . . I think that says good things about boat availability.  Of course, July is more popular for boating than September and October, but last year, those were two beautiful months.

guvguy
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Posted: 05 July 2011 at 4:27pm | IP Logged

Lawmen,

Did you get a boat for the 4th?  I feel real bad about chntllm.  That is certainly a fear I have.  I hope the club did learn something.  Have you ever done the overnight boats?

Serg

Lawmen
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Posted: 05 July 2011 at 4:35pm | IP Logged

We were traveling over the 4oJ weekend, so, no, we didn't reserve a boat.  I had looked at availability in early June, and there were still options for 4oJ.

We are taking our first overnight trip on August 5/6.  Going to use one of the boats from the Annapolis club and go across the bay to Oxford, MD, I think.  Will be a new adventure for the family.

Labor Day weekend is still wide open at the Occoquan club.  I am confident I'll be able to get a boat for that weekend.

wkearney99
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Be aware the jellyfish are usually pretty thick around Oxford by then, so don't expect to swim unless it's in a pool. And take care when transiting through Knapps Narrows as the channel is tight, both in from the Chesapeake and on the east out in to the Choptank.
--Bill Kearney, 2005 Four Winns 348 Vista
Lawmen
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Posted: 06 July 2011 at 8:26am | IP Logged

Bill,

Thank you for the heads up.  It's great to get tips from those familiar with the waters.  I haven't boated over there yet.  The dockmaster at the Annapolis club lives and sails near Oxford, so I intend to bend his ear a bit before we go.

Oxford is just a skeleton plan right now. . . would you suggest other overnight possibilities for me, my wife, and our three sons (9, 12, 14) sailing from Annapolis?

Cheers!

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Posted: 06 July 2011 at 8:56am | IP Logged
I'm thinking it might be better to start a fresh thread for discussing destination options, instead of hijacking this one. That said, places like St. Michaels, Rock Hall and Fairlee Creek are nice. There's things to do onshore and slips available to get shore power for running the AC overnight.
--Bill Kearney, 2005 Four Winns 348 Vista
Lawmen
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Posted: 06 July 2011 at 9:05am | IP Logged

I agree we shouldn't hijack.  I started a new topic at http://my.boatus.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=66636&PN= 1&TPN=1

Same folder as this topic ("General Cruising").  Subject is "First Time Crusing the Chesapeake"

Lawmen
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Posted: 19 July 2011 at 12:51pm | IP Logged
I had a close call this past week with Carefree scheduling.  The big deck boat I had reserved (a nice Sea Ray Sundeck 240) went hard down after a member tried to drive it through too much hydrilla on Sunday.  My reservation was for the following Friday.  On Wednesday, I got a call from the club that the 240 was down, but they were holding a Sea Ray Sundeck 220 for me as a backup.  This was okay with me since I only had six adults for a happy hour cruise.  Wouldn't have been so okay if I had more people.  As it turns out, they got the whole outdrive replaced and tweaked ignition system problems on the 240 and I used it as scheduled.  Bottom line: yes, a member screwed up the boat.  However, there but for the grace of God go I.  Would I have been able to get it fixed so quickly?  Hmmm.  Carefree did a good job of keeping me up to speed on the status.

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