Club gives access to several 'toons, deck boats at Bridge Marina

Published online: Aug 01, 2011 News Lyndsay Cayetana Bouchal -
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HOPATCONG - A man walks out onto one of the docks at Bridge Marina. He hops into a brand new, white Sea Ray - the boat isn't his - but the keys are in the ignition. He takes off into open water, full throttle.

Now, the answer to your question is: No, this man has not stolen a $45,000 boat. He is a member of the Bridge Marina Boating Club, where members pay a flat seasonal rate for unlimited access to a fleet of well-appointed boats.

Bridge Marina owner Ray Fernandez fathered the idea of a boating club in 2005 when he began seeing clients leave the sport and sell their boats. He said he saw older couples "grow out" of their crafts and found it "too much of a hassle" to try and find another one more suitable to their lifestyle.

Fernandez introduced the new concept to Lake Hopatcong waters in 2007 with 12 initial members. To date, Bridge Marina Boating Club has nearly doubled in size with 21 members.

He said one of the biggest perks of the boating club is that it offers flexibility, the opportunity to change a boat as quickly as someone can swap out a hat. One day, members can drift around on a cabin cruiser, and the next, jet around, towing tubes with a bowrider.

Bridge Marina Boating Club is one of two in the state and is the only one in

northern New Jersey; the other is located at the shore, Fernandez said.

Another benefit to joining the boating club, rather than buying a vessel, is the savings. According to the marina's website, members pay a quarter of the cost of owning a boat without any of the ownership hassles: No dock slip fees (about $1,500 to $2,000 for a 21-foot Sea Ray); no winterization costs (about $1,500); no spring cleanup expenses ($300 to $500); no boat insurance ($300), and the list goes on.

Further, the marina owner said many people don't have time to maintain a boat and they don't want the commitment either. He said the average boater boats 14 times a season.

"It's amazing how many people don't have time," Fernandez said. "(With the boat club) people don't waste time cleaning it, calling maintenance services, uncovering it, covering it ... It's all taken care of."

Additionally, Fernandez said, tubes and life vests - the works - are all provided to club members, so they need not worry about the cost of popping inflatables or a grandchild outgrowing a life vest.

Members don't even need to worry about backing their boat into the dreaded slip - one of the more challenging and intimidating parts about boating - it's done for them.

"You literally just do this," Fernandez said Thursday as he leisurely cruised the lake in his Sea Ray.


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