Boating becoming more popular during pandemic for non boat owners

The openness of the water is inviting during a time when distance is encouraged.

“We are just off the coast of the Southern tip of Whidbey Island,” Jeff Stodola said Monday while on a boat with his wife Jodi and two children.

 “We are dropping crab pots, we just dropped our second crab pot and we are about to drop our third,” Stodola said.

The Woodinville family is enjoying that kind of a lifestyle without actually owning the boat.

“Get up, get a few things ready and be on the water so fast,"Jodi Stodola said.

They are members of the Freedom Boat Club, a company that is soaring to new heights during the pandemic.

“It has skyrocketed, we actually had record breaking year, not only here in Seattle but all across the US,” Freedom Boat Club Franchise Owner Keith Lemley said.

Lemley said when the pandemic first hit, business was slow, then took off starting in April. Since then, Lemley said long-time clients have been renting boats 30% more than usual while new memberships are up by 50%.

From 11 different marinas across Western Washington, members can choose from an array of diverse boats.

“All of our boats you can keep for 4 days and 3 nights,” Lemley said.

He said most people use the boats for just the day but there are options that sleeps 4 comfortably for longer trips.

“Whether you’ve never boated before or boating your entire life, we get everybody up to speed,” said Lemley.

The club said they rigorously clean between each client.

For Monday's outing the Stodola family picked a fishing boat. They say they've been out on the water about 15 times in the last several months.

In order to join, there is an initiation fee and a monthly charge. Stodola said it’s still more affordable.

“No matter how you cut it, it’s definitely cheaper than owning your own boat,” Stodola said.

Like so many, they can’t go on vacations they intended to this summer. But catching Dungeness crabs and tubing on the water are memorable all the same.