Bay Wa­ter Ex­clu­sive Boat Club of­fers an al­ter­na­tive to boat own­er­ship

Bay Wa­ter Ex­clu­sive Boat Club of­fers an al­ter­na­tive to boat own­er­ship

RSWLiving - - Features - BY DANA MIRMAN

It’s an un­usual over­cast day in South­west Florida, but de­spite the steel-col­ored skies, a fam­ily is pre­par­ing to board a boat at the Bay Wa­ter Ex­clu­sive Boat Club in Bonita Springs. Tot­ing beach bags and dressed in beach­wear, the fam­ily sim­ply parks their car in the boat club’s park­ing lot and boards the boat of their choos­ing, a priv­i­lege they’re en­ti­tled to as club mem­bers. When they re­turn from their ex­cur­sion, they’ll just dock the boat and head home, en­joy­ing all the fun of boat own­er­ship, with­out ever wor­ry­ing about cleaning, main­te­nance or any of the other po­ten­tial headaches as­so­ci­ated with own­ing a boat.

While this fam­ily em­barks on their jour­ney, another fam­ily is be­hind the scenes, mak­ing it all hap­pen. Cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary in 2016, Bay Wa­ter Ex­clu­sive Boat Club is a fast­grow­ing fam­ily-owned busi­ness presided over by the Botana fam­ily: pa­tri­arch Omar; his wife, Sherry; and sons Adam and Der­rick. Long­time fam­ily friend Steven Mein­bresse is the ma­rina’s man­ager.

“My grand­par­ents bought this land in the 1970s for their re­tire­ment, and they rented out boats as a side busi­ness,” says Adam Botana. Adam’s par­ents, mean­while, were in the car­ni­val busi­ness, and the fam­ily trav­eled around the coun­try to events such as NASCAR races, con­certs and state fairs un­til a dozen years ago. That’s when, Adam says, his dad had the idea of open­ing a full-fledged boat-rental busi­ness on the prop­erty. The en­ter­prise evolved to in­clude the boat club con­cept, which was spun off as a sep­a­rate busi­ness in 2006.

By 2015 the boat club had grown to 276 mem­bers and 28 boats in the fleet, a 10:1 ra­tio of mem­bers to boats. “The boat club has ex­ploded,” says Adam, and the Botana fam­ily is plan­ning ac­cord­ingly, hav­ing re­cently ac­quired 800 ad­di­tional feet of water­front to ex­pand their al­ready ro­bust prop­erty.

The ex­pan­sion, which Adam hopes will be ready this spring, will ac­com­mo­date about 30 ad­di­tional boat slips. “We’ll be able to dou­ble the size of our boat club,” as well as in­crease the size of the rental fleet, Adam pre­dicts. He notes how re­mark­able it is that af­ter open­ing 10 years ago with one mem­ber, the Bay Wa­ter Ex­clu­sive Boat Club soon will be able to ex­pand to 600 mem­bers with 60 boats. Adam of­fers sev­eral rea­sons for the boat club’s ap­peal. First, the economics make sense. Pur­chas­ing a boat such as a Hur­ri­cane Deck can cost around $45,000 to $50,000, and then to dock the boat at a ma­rina can cost hun­dreds of dol­lars a month, or pur­chas­ing a slip can cost tens of thou­sands, Adam ex­plains. Com­pare these costs with those of the boat club’s mem­ber­ship,

which in­clude a one-time fee of $10,000 and a monthly rate of $250. This cov­ers what Adam de­scribes as “walk-in turnkey” ser­vice. “The cost is less than the de­pre­ci­a­tion of your boat, and you don’t have to deal with the has­sle” of boat own­er­ship, he adds.

The turnkey ser­vice in­cludes main­te­nance and up­keep such as wash­ing and cleaning the boats, plus park­ing ameni­ties and ex­tras such as cool­ers and wine open­ers. There’s also the di­ver­sity of the Bay Wa­ter Ex­clu­sive Boat Club’s fleet, which in­cludes a va­ri­ety of deck boats, pon­toons and fish­ing boats. “No other club has the fleet we have,” says Adam.

While most mem­bers are sea­sonal res­i­dents who have boats up north and are ex­pe­ri­enced boaters, some mem­bers have no experience at sea and ben­e­fit from the club’s com­pli­men­tary at­sea train­ing. “Peo­ple get tired of golf and want a new ac­tiv­ity,” says Adam, and the club makes boat­ing easy and ac­ces­si­ble.

Some­times, even ex­pe­ri­enced boaters take ad­van­tage of the train­ing, adds Adam. Boaters who are ac­cus­tomed to sail­ing in deeper wa­ters up north, for ex­am­ple, may need some tips on nav­i­gat­ing the shal­low wa­ters of South­west Florida.

Another ben­e­fit is the club’s Bonita Springs lo­ca­tion. “Our mem­bers can sail to seven restau­rants within a 45-minute ride, visit three beaches or be in Marco in two hours,” says Adam. Along the way, they’ll en­joy man­groves, dol­phins and bird watch­ing. “I’ve trav­eled ev­ery­where,” says Adam, “and this is home, this is par­adise.”

The heart and soul of the boat club, Omar and Adam agree, are the mem­bers. “We wouldn’t be here with­out our mem­bers,” says Adam, who pre­dicts smooth sail­ing and great con­di­tions ahead for the club and its mem­bers.

“I see noth­ing but growth from here on out,” he says. “My grandpa had a vi­sion for this prop­erty, and he would be proud.”

The Bay Wa­ter Ex­clu­sive Boat Club fleet has a va­ri­ety of deck boats, pon­toons and fish­ing boats.

In the past 10 years, the Botana fam­ily has turned their small boat-rental busi­ness into a fast-grow­ing boat club, an­tic­i­pat­ing an ex­pan­sion to 60 boats and 600 mem­bers.

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