A Richmond-based boating club is dropping anchor on the Appomattox.
Carefree Boat Club of Central Virginia plans to launch its first voyages out of Anchor Point Marina in Hopewell starting early next month. It will be the third location for the club, which also operates on the James River in Henrico and on Lake Anna.
Carefree Boat Club pitches itself as a no-hassle and lower-cost alternative to boat ownership, allowing members access to boats the club owns and maintains for a monthly fee.
The local club’s initiation fees run between $3,500 and $5,000. Members pay a monthly fee of $300 to $500 and for the fuel they use. Members get a choice of a home marina and for an additional fee get access to the club’s other locations.
“We want to make sure the members that are here not only have a variety of boats, but a variety of home locations,” local club co-owner Tim Baker said of the expansion.
The club plans to start with one boat at Anchor Point and add one or two more vessels by the end of the year. It currently leases one slip at Anchor Point. The club leases five slips at Kingsland Reach Marina in eastern Henrico and four slips at the Sturgeon Creek Marina on Lake Anna.
Baker said that an expansion to Hopewell wasn’t on the club’s radar until earlier this year when he brought in a boat for repairs at Richmond Marine Center in Chester and got to chatting with the boat dealership’s office manager Theresa Pulley.
Pulley, who also works part-time at Anchor Point, connected Baker with the marina’s manager Tim Bednar and talks ensued about an expansion there.
Bednar said the arrangement was appealing as a way to drive more people and business to the Hopewell marina, which is at 303 Beacon Ridge Drive.
“We’re always looking to bring more traffic into Anchor Point. Through the years it’s been a little slower at this marina and we’re trying to bring business back to this place,” he said, noting that the marina is working on some deferred maintenance as well.
Anchor Point has 113 slips, of which 75 are currently usable, Bednar said.
The Hopewell marina is situated on the Appomattox River, which Baker said was a draw not only because it expands the club’s footprint but it also provides a different waterscape from Lake Anna or the section of James River that’s home to the Richmond outpost.
“You got a wider area of river to play around with. There’s also a sandbar and that’s a public attraction,” Baker said. “The boating community in Hopewell is a very welcoming and family friendly environment.”
Baker said he and club co-owner Nick Bawa have invested about $500,000 to expand to Hopewell and also stand up a new state-licensure boat training program and new amenities for club members.
Baker said the club has about 40 members currently, and hopes to have between 225 and 250 members by the end of 2024.
The club has seven boats and five employees.
Baker joined Carefree as managing partner in February. Bawa bought the club with Mike Broggie, Jeff Palumbo and Pat Hull in 2019. Baker said that Broggie and Palumbo have since stepped away from the club, and Hull has since died.
Carefree Boat Club, which launched in 2002, has licensees throughout the world who operate more than 100 locations, including the Richmond-area license. Baker said other Carefree clubs elsewhere in the country experienced strong growth during the pandemic, but his club missed out and he hopes to capture some of that demand now that he’s at the helm.
“While COVID was going on, families gravitated to entities like Carefree Boat Club and the growth of the clubs was exponential,” he said. “Except for Richmond. The reality was they didn’t have the hands in the mix to really capitalize on what was going on. They didn’t have time to be involved in daily operations because they had other businesses to run as well.”
Baker is full-time at the club. He was in the Navy and has a background in the finance sector. More recently he’s been involved with local startups such as GoGo Band, which he co-founded in 2016 but has since left.