Making even bigger waves in the national boating industry, the Venice-based Freedom Boat Club is introducing the largest full ocean-going powered catamaran in June.
The ship is called an Overblue 52.
Described as creating a “new lifestyle with a concept redefining boating,” this new craft has an interior that is completely customizable.
A unique boat with a newer larger design will be the first 52-foot Overblue in the United States. With an exclusive preview, it will make its debut at the Bradenton and Venice locations of Freedom Boat Club and their new direct sales division, Gulfview Yacht Sales and Charters of Venice.
“In addition to selling these boats in our territory by Gulfview, from Tampa Bay down through Marco Island, we will be chartering them to our members, providing an additional amenity,” said John Giglio, president & CEO. “Initially, our first Overblue 52 will be moored at Bradenton; however, it can be chartered from other club venues including Venice for private party cruises, weekends or weeks.”
“In this area, there is very little of extended chartering on the West Coast of Florida,” Giglio said, “but this new service enables a member to either operate the boat following additional qualification to handle the 52-foot Overblue, or we will have captains available to sail it.”
He envisions setting up cruises to ports from Bradenton to Key West with his captains planning and managing the entire excursion, including stops as desired.
Somewhat unusual for a catamaran, this boat has no sails but is powered with twin 330 horsepower engines and a narrower design compared to other similar models. All berths are on the first floor compared to the usual style of being built up like a pyramid on different levels. There are even berths in the pontoons.
This Overblue is designed with all the space available and customizable on the one level first-floor, accommodating the kitchen, galley, dining area, berths and heads. This is an ideal solution for boaters not wanting to climb up and down or sleep in a tube.
Made in Italy, the ship has a retail price of $1.1 million and will be available in Venice as soon as they can secure a space.
Currently, it is sitting at the port of Genoa awaiting loading onto a container ship for the 3-week transit. He is hoping the whole program will be established, set up and ready for charter by the middle of June.
“To charter this unique boat will be outside of the existing membership and likely will be between $8,000 to $12,000 weekly,” he said. “Initially, it will be for the exclusive use of Freedom members but likely it will become available to non-members as our goal is to get a fleet of OverBlue 52 catamarans. My big focus is customer service, and I want to ensure we perfect this model and the service experience before we roll it out to everyone.”
An Overblue 52 is capable of holding a lot of people as staff found at a recent boat show when they had 40 people on the top deck. However, when cruising it is limited to 22 passengers. If the Freedom team brings it to Marker 4 in Venice for a reception, they can have 80 people on board when docked. The goal is to showcase it at all 19 Freedom Boat Clubs on Florida’s West Coast.
Because of the uniqueness of the Overblue 52, Giglio choose to set up a new company, Gulfview Yacht Sales and Charters, operating from the Freedom Boat Club offices at 990 Laguna Drive.
There are two other Overblue retailers, one on the West Coast in California and a second in Fort Lauderdale covering the East Coast.
Since acquiring Freedom in 2011, he has led the company’s dramatic growth and recently began restructuring. Freedom Boat Club now has a real estate arm, owns and operates marinas with four in the portfolio and another under contract in Naples.
The boat club has 19 locations that they own and operate together with the franchise division of 200+ locations in 31+ states, Washington, D.C. and Canada.
Two chief operating officers have been appointed, including Barry Slade to manage the Freedom Boat Club, running locations in the state; Freedom Marine Sales, buying and selling all fleet boats; Gulf View Yacht Sales & Charters and managing the real estate portfolio.
Louis Chemi will manage Freedom Franchise Systems, responsible for the franchising of the boat club concept domestically and internationally, and a new entity. In total, Freedom Boat Club has more than 250 employees on the West Coast in 19 locations with 80 employees in Venice. They serve 5,000 members on Florida’s West Coast and nationally more than 30,000.
—Roger Button, Businews Columnist