The Sea Ray glugs to life as Tricia Scott dons a pair of aviator sunglasses and steers the boat out of Bay Harbor Marina in Colchester. Scott is the co-founder of Champlain Fleet Club, Vermont’s first and only boat club, an alternative to boat ownership where members pay a monthly or annual fee and can reserve the fleet’s four boats as they like.
Scott started the club with her husband, Phil Scott–“No, not the governor,” Tricia jokes–in the Fall of 2018 when their youngest daughter flew off to college. “She left us with all of this freedom,” says Tricia laughing.
Before moving to Colchester, the Scotts moved around the east coast and found that being members of a boat club was an easier, hassle-free way for them to enjoy water without having the responsibilities that come with owning a boat–paying for insurance and fuel, trailering, cleaning, winterizing, renting dock space, etc.
“With a club, your biggest hassle is remembering to pack sunscreen, towels, and a rolling cooler,” says, Tricia, ticking them off on her fingers.
Club membership costs between $3,000 and $3,600 per year, depending on which package members choose. In addition to nearly unlimited use of the boats, the club also provides safety equipment, water toys like skiis and wake-boards, and basic boat training.
This includes an orientation, basic training, and instruction in docking. “We want members to know what it feels like, what it sounds like. A hard stop might be scary sometimes, but we want them to get to a place where they feel comfortable,” says Tricia. In addition, members born after 1974 have to take the Vt. Boater Safety Course.
The fleet includes the Sea Ray, a Cypress Cay pontoon boat, a Regal bow rider boat, and a Chaparral boat.
Another positive Tricia sees to a boat club, is that members care more about the boats. “People who rent boats use it once, party hard, and put it back wrecked,” she says. “One of the positives to being a member of a boat club is that you work with people who are more invested.”
The club already has ten members, and the Scott’s hope to continue growing. Tricia says it’s been hard running a business that is weather dependent and introducing boat sharing to Vermonters. “This is a new concept in Vermont,” says Tricia. But it is not much different from other rideshare services on the rise, like Zipcar.
Having grown up in West Rutland, Tricia is a Vermonter at heart. But this project is her husband’s passion, she says, as he grew up in the Philippines around the ocean. “He can’t live without water and I can’t live without mountains,” she says. “And I always knew I wanted to make it back to Vermont.”
When the kids all left the nest, she and her husband asked themselves, “What are we going to do to get back to Vermont?” The club turned out to be the answer.
The Sea Ray cuts a smooth path out of the Marina, picking up speed as it leaves Lake Champlain’s Inner Bay. A resident sunbathing on the dock throws a casual wave. As the shore falls away, sailboats becoming indistinguishable against the solid blue sky, the Sea Ray picks up speed. White foam trails in its wake, like a string tying the boat to the shore.
“This is my favorite view,” says Tricia over the rush of wind and water, as the Sea Ray curves around Marble Island into the Outer Bay, revealing the shadowy outline of New York’s Adirondack mountains, and the Colchester Causeway in between.