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Chesapeake Bay Magazine Review of the Chesapeake Boating Club

Chesapeake Bay Magazine

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Used to be, back in the day, if you wanted to be a boater on the Chesapeake, you either bought yourself a boat (and rented a slip and bought insurance and arranged for maintenance and winter storage, etc.) or, if you were a sailor, you chartered sailboats as often as necessary to support your habit. Nowadays there is an in-between option: club boating, or, to use a term that's more immediately understandable, if slightly misleading, time-share boating.

 It's not an entirely new idea, of course; in one form or another, boat clubs and fractional ownership arrangements have been around for decades. But in this particular decade, and on our beloved body of water, it's an idea that seems to have come into its own. Here we offer a snapshot of the Chesapeake Boating Club, based in Annapolis. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted here that Chesapeake Bay Magazine maintains a corporate membership for its editorial staff--although most of them also have boats of their own.

Instructors working with Soon-to-Be-Sailors at the Club Chesapeake Boating Club was founded--or perhaps we should say grown from seed--in 1992 by Paul Mikulski (cousin of Maryland's U.S. Senator, Barbara Mikulski) as a key part of J/Port Annapolis on the Back Creek side of the city's Eastport neighborhood. Hanging it all on the highly regarded J/Boat brand, Mikulski created a three-pronged operation where you could buy a J/Boat, learn to sail on one (it's one of the five locations of the nationally renowned J/World Sailing School) or just cruise or race on one when the spirit moved you. That latter aspect began as a simple a la carte chartering business, but it quickly morphed into the Chesapeake Boating Club.

At first, it was all sail all the time, says Kevin Ryman, who came onboard in 1994 and now runs the boating club, while Mikulski focuses on sales. "We started with two J/80s and one J/105, and we limited it to 10 members per boat. So everytime we filled up we'd add more boats." The club has 15 sailboats now--six J/80s and three smaller Harbor 20s for the racing and daysailing crowd, plus three J/32s and three J/105s for the cruising set--and, since 2002, a handful of powerboats. The bread-and-butter powerboat is the Albin 28, an open-cockpit semi-displacement mini-trawler that straddles the line between picnic boat and overnighter (with V-berth and double quarterberth). The club has three of the 28s, plus a larger Albin, a 36-foot bona fide trawler that's available to members for an extra daily fee, and, as of last season, a 19-foot Twin Vee center-console.

Paul Mikulski - Founder of the Chesapeake Boating Club"The powerboat development was kind of interesting," says Ryman. "We had quite a few members who were starting families, and they still wanted to get on the water but didn't want to take little ones out on the sailboats, so they started asking if we'd consider adding powerboats. And that's how it started. . . . Some of those people have gone back to sailing now, but the powerboats have their own following. So it worked out well."

Ron Vandervort of Bowie, Md., a longtime sailor, has been a member of the club for two years now, with a "level one" sailing membership that gives him access to the J/80s and Harbor 20s. He says it's the smartest move he's ever made as a boater. Indeed, he's a walking advertisement for the club. "For literally the same price as a yearly slip fee in the Annapolis area, I not only get to sail out of a prime location in Annapolis, but I don't have to purchase a boat," he says. "It's like renting a slip and getting the boat free!" Having owned four daysailers and a couple of powerboats over the years, Vandervort says he thought he might miss the upsides of owning, but he doesn't. "Not having to maintain, haul out in the winter, worry about storms, et cetera, more than makes up for that," he says. "It's a no brainer."

With J/World on the premises, sailors can get all the training they could possibly want, though it's not part of the boating club package. The club itself requires only that members, whether power or sail, demonstrate proficiency in running and docking each of the boats they intend to use.

In addition to its one-time initiation fee of $1,000, the Chesapeake Boating Club charges $2,665 for the "level-one" sailing membership that Vandervort maintains, which limits him to the daysailer/racers. It's even less--$2,090--for a midweek-only version of that. For full sailing privileges, including the cruisers ,the initiation fee is the same but the annual fee jumps to $5,840. For power-boat members, it works essentially the same way--the one-time fee plus $2,665 for a level-one membership (the smaller runabouts), or the fee plus $5,840 for access to the runabouts and the three Albin 28s.

It's the latter that appealed to Dan Clements, an attorney who lives in Annapolis and works in Baltimore. He joined the club in 2006, he says, and has found it to be the perfect entree into boating for him--a nonboater married to a native Annapolitan and living in a city where boat chat is all but a social imperative. "It's been just ideal for me," he says. "We'll take the [Albin 28] out on a Sunday morning, say, and take our breakfast with us and go up the Severn to Clements Creek. And we'll tie up there and sit there on a quiet morning and read the Sunday papers and just enjoy being outside. . . . Or sometimes we'll run across the Bay for lunch, get crabs at Kentmoor or somewhere else on Kent Island. It's hard to beat."


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