A unique alternative to owning a boat

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The Rex Boating Club offers an easy way of getting out on the water: rent a boat for the day, bring it back, and Rex Marine Center does all the rest.

The Rex Boating Club recently added a 300 Sundancer to its fleet.

The idea for the club started in 2004 when Bill Gardella Jr., vice president and general manager, needed a master’s thesis to complete his MBA program at the University of Connecticut.

“Why not do a real business [proposal] when I had to do all the work anyway?” says Gardella.

The biggest challenge in creating the boating club was putting the rental insurance in place, Gardella says. Many of the companies he spoke to in the state weren’t even familiar with his boat-rental formula.

“I have to say that’s probably my fattest file in my drawer,” says Gardella. “It is a bit of a challenge with banks when you are trying to do something new, at least a new concept in this area.”

Gardella says he took ideas from similar programs in Florida, and the club was introduced to customers in April 2006 with eight Sea Ray 240 Sundecks. The customers take care of the fuel; the marina takes care of the upkeep.

“It’s perfect for people who are interested in boating, but prefer not to own one for whatever reason,” says Gardella.

Rex Marine has since added a 21-foot Boston Whaler and a 300 Sundancer for more advanced boaters. Membership fees at Rex Marine are $995 and come standard with a safety training course and a full tour of the vessel of choice. Rex also offers a two-hour cruise around the Norwalk Islands with a fully licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain for $99 to those interested in joining the club. The fee is waived if the person decides to apply for a membership. The rental plans begin at $4,195, which gives an individual, a couple or one family 10 peak-season weekday uses between May 23 and Sept. 23. All boats are equipped with GPS, VHF, depth finders and life jackets.

“We have attracted dozens of people to boating who had the money but otherwise would not have bought boats due to inadequate perceived value,” says Gardella. “We’re hoping they get out there on one of our Sea Rays or the Boston Whaler and say, ‘Wow this is nice. Maybe I would like to own one of these.’ But if not, at least they’re still renting.”

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This article originally appeared in the Connecticut & New York Home Waters Section of the August 2009 issue.