Larry Simms has always enjoyed boating with his wife Barbara. But he didn’t enjoy the constant upkeep.
“When you own a boat you feel like you are married to it,” Simms, 60, said Thursday afternoon at Stamford Harbor’s west branch before the couple departed for a ride on the Long Island Sound.
This shiny brand new boat, however — a 25-foot Robalo fitted with a 250-horsepower outboard motor — isn’t theirs.
The former sailboat owners are part of a new trend in boat-sharing.
As empty nesters from Darien who recently moved into the south tower at Harbor Point, the Simms saw an ad for the Carefree Boat Club on the development’s web site earlier this year and quickly became members.
Club owners Mitch and Cheryl Heffernan have three other boats docked in Stamford just like the one boarded by the Simms — and charge members an average of $6,800 a year to use them — a fraction of what many boaters spend getting onto the water every summer.
“It’s fantastic,” said Simms, who works in the financial services industry. “We love being back on the water. But now, I can still play golf or we can go into the city and see the Yankees and go to plays.”
Simms said at this point in his life he wouldn’t be boating any other way than the Carefree way because — like the name implies — the club has taken the work and worry out of boating.
“If we get tired of it, we’ll say ‘Thank you – it has been nice’ and we don’t have to sell a boat,” he said.
Heffernan, 59, a native Westporter now living in Lyme, says he has sold 22 memberships and is enthusiastic about his prospects to sell the remaining 10 — despite the cold rainy spring that seems to have just ended.
“This is a loss year and it was planned that way,” Heffernan said standing on the dock just south of the Harbor Point towers. “But I am very excited about how the memberships have been selling so fast. We only began marketing them in May.”
Some memberships cost less than $6,800 and some more, depending upon the number of reservations each plan allows the members to book at one time.
For those members with their weekdays free, they could have near unlimited access to Heffernan’s boats Monday through Friday.
Left in the wake of the Simms departure, were three other sparkling 25-foot boats tied up to the dock unused and the Heffernans have another seven docked in Westport and the Black Rock neighborhood of Bridgeport bordering Fairfield.
Members from any of the three Carefree locations can take boats out on a spur-of-the-moment basis, Heffernan said.
“If you just called up the dock any day of the week and there are boats available, you don’t have to use a reservation for that,” he said. “That’s free. That’s called a spur-of-the-moment. That gives you the unlimited use. These guys can boat every day.”
Heffernan said about half the members are brand new to boating and others are like Simms and his wife, looking to avoid the hassle of boat ownership.
One day in May, Julien Sharp and her spouse were walking their dog along the dock when Heffernan buttonholed them and took them for a ride on one of the boats. Sharp, 49, said she was hooked and joined right up.
Having recently moved into one of the Harbor Point towers from Denver, Sharp said she enjoys being a part of the community where she lives. While in Colorado she spent time in the mountains. But after moving to Stamford, while the water was tantalizingly close by, without any boating experience it still seemed far away.
Joining the club “makes us feel like we are a part of the water, a part of the boating community and that is really neat,” Sharp said.
Since Fairfield resident Tom Danilowicz, 63, became a Carefree member two months ago, he has taken a club boat out 18 times. As an avid fisherman, the semiretired financial adviser said he does more fishing now than over the past 26 years, during which he personally owned four boats.
Danilowicz sold his 32-foot Tiara in 2014 because it was just too big for the type of boating he wanted to do. He said he was skeptical when he heard of Carefree, but now he is an acolyte.
“It is as hassle free as you can possibly conceive and the boats are all good quality boats,” Danilowicz said. “It has really been a terrific experience.”