By Marie Gilmore
Lithia resident Keith Balot loves to head out into the open waters near Tampa Bay with friends. Day cruises, fishing or just relaxing and enjoying the sights around Tampa Bay. When Balot wants to use a boat, he logs on to the Freedom Boat Clib website, where he is a member, and has a choice of over 40 high quality boats and four local locations from which to choose.Once he makes a reservation, he shows up and his boat is ready and waiting, fully fueled and ready for the day. When he is ready to return to the marina, a quick phone call brings a staff member out to retrieve the boat and his day is done. No cleaning, no maintenance,no dock fees, no fuss. And, for peace of mind, when Balot was learning to captain the selection of club boats, unlimited free boating lessons were also included in the club.
“This has been the best way to enjoy Florida living and boating without all the stress and maintenance,” described Balot.
With a new owner, new inventory and a new marina expansion, Freedom Boat Club has made boating even more appealing for snow birds.
Glenn Bergoffen is the new owner of Freedom Boat Club’s four local locations, and he is no stranger to owning boat membership clubs. In fact, he has owned Another Day in Paradise boat club in Tarpon Springs for 7 years. With the purchase of two additional locations of Freedom Boat Club last year, he was able to rebrand his Tarpon location and with the new expansion to Little Harbor, now has four locations and over 40 boats available for members.
“We have purchased twelve brand new boats in the last three months,” said Bergoffen. “And with every ten new club members, we will add to our inventory.”
On a recent morning, we took a 20-foot Hurricane Sun Deck out into Tampa Bay with fishing guide and Freedom team member Matt Morrison, who manages the Little Harbor location. “I have been a part of Freedom Boat Club for thirteen years,” said Morrison. “I am happy to work with members and believe this is the best membership boat club there is.”
Morrison is a Florida native who has been navigating the local waters for more than 25 years and he is happy to share his love of the water with members. From Little Harbor, there are great destinations available, including fishing for Trout, Red Fish and Snook. In addition, there are great canals for sightseeing and enjoying the open water.
During our mid-morning trip, we caught Trout and Red Fish and saw dolphins and lots of wild life along the way.And, when we returned to the Little Harbor marina, we stepped off the boat to pass on the reins to the waiting Freedom team member and our day was done!
Bergoffen lives in Crystal Beach and moved here from New Jersey. He enjoys spending time on and off the water with his wife, two daughters and their families. “We are extremely excited about this location, not only is this a great fishing and pleasure boating location, but the marina itself has so much to offer. Little Harbor has a restaurant with live music many weekends, two pools and hot tubs that may be used by our members as well as a private beach. To us, boating is a way to relax, connect with friends and create powerful memories with family.”
Freedom Boat Club started in Sarasota in 1989 and is now the world’s largest members-only boating club. Freedom now has 61 franchises throughout the United States. Membership plans including unlimited usage at the home club and seasonal plans are available. In addition, Freedom members have access to boats at ALL franchise locations for no extra fee.
Boats available range from 19-25 foot boats and include 20 foot Hurricane Deck Boats, 23 foot Key West Center Console and 19 foot Nautic Star Center Console to name a few.
For more information about the club call 800-875-6577 or visit www.freedomboatclub-tb.com