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Love Getting On The Water, But Hate Owning A Boat? Consider This

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Not only is Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we’re also home to the second-highest number of registered boats in the nation.

Only Florida has more motorboats registered than the 540,000 cruising our waterways. But there’s a new trend that’s getting even more families on the waters.

And you don’t even need to own a boat.

It’s belonging to a boat club. And users say it’s just like car sharing, but only with boats.

“[Boating] It’s one of the great things Minnesota has to offer,” said Luke Kujawa, the president of Your Boat Club.

Getting out on the water has never been bigger than it is now, but the pleasure of owning a boat has a price tag.

It’s far more than just buying the boat. There’s the gas, the insurance, the slip rental, the cleaning, fixing and winterizing, and, six months of storage.

That adds up to an average cost of ownership from between a couple thousand dollars to nearly $6,500 a year.

But as boat clubs gain members, boat ownership in Minnesota is dropping. It’s down 10 percent — or 58,000 registered motorized boats — since 2006.

Mitchell traded his boat keys for convenience.

“I like the flexibility of not having to worry about it,” former boat owner, Jim Mitchell, said.

Mitchell is a member of the Bay to Bay Boat Club on Lake Minnetonka. For $4,200 a season, he’ll get a dozen uses of any of the club’s 18 boats — runabouts, deck boats or pontoons.

He uses them for both business and pleasure.

“I can take a smaller more intimate boat, or, if I’ve got a large group, I can take a 30-foot pontoon out,” he said.

At $5,000, membership grants unlimited use – any day of the week, and once per weekend.

Tom Jacob started the club 14 years ago.

“It’s country club boating,” Jacob said. “And that’s the atmosphere we want.”

To accommodate all 160 members, each day is split in two. If you’re worried about availability, Jacob says that hasn’t been a problem.

“We have a 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. time slot and a 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. time slot,” he said. “So when you reserve it, it’s kind of like reserving a tee time.”

But if you’d like to cruise lakes in addition to Minnetonka, Your Boat Club might be the answer. Its members can reserve boats on seven popular lakes and the St. Croix.

“And once you’re a member, you can choose boats at any of those locations, and go boating, explore different lakes,” said Kujawa.

Your Boat Club packages run from $1,300 to $5,800, depending on use.

“A lot of our members are people who used to own boats, or used to own cabins, and absolutely loved the lifestyle. Um, maybe they are simplifying or downsizing, and just still want to get on the water, but don’t have the ability to tow, or haul, or launch and load a boat,” Kujawa said.

Members of both clubs are taught the basics, like safety and navigation.

With the season just days away, clubs are now working overtime, getting boats unwrapped and in the water.

Preparing a hassle free boat time for members.

“Scrubbing the bottom, all the stuff I hate,” Mitchell said, “and now it’s just get down to having fun on the boat.”

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