Is A Membership Relevant Anymore To Anything?

I know, I know, this has the potential to look like I am taking a shot at clubs or society’s. I am not. In fact, I do think it helps all of us to help the ACBS, Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club, and the Century Boat Club. Okay, that’s out of the way.

The focus of the story is really about belonging to a club and paying a membership without that membership having value. And time has dramatically changed what is considered “value” in the past 10 years. Before that it made sense. It was a way for like minded folks to connect. But not today.  When someone plunks down some coin on a membership, there has to be a reason why? What is the service provided? What is that value?



In today’s digital connected world, it’s possible for free to connect. by the way, we even have an app now that does that. You can literally see where others are, and find friendly places to help you with the tap of your fat finger. FREE. You can see whats going on in the classic boat world for free here and Facebook and Instagram. FREE. No need for newsletters, or anything. None of the traditional things that clubs provide to create value. In fact those clubs show stuff on those platforms for free. Confusing? Yes?

So, what is the future for clubs? memberships?

As we said at the top of the story. We are here to help as ALWAYS.

This culture is all about helping others

Clubs are good because they are a focused place that you contribute to so there is a center. Like a church, its a place to say, I am with you and the money part is all not that important. Local chapters of clubs are critical, because they embody the reason to join. In person, face to face connections.

Worlds Sexiest Man. Tommy is the man and a fantastic asset to the culture

The Century Boat Club is doing it right. No facebook crap. And guess what, if you want info or brotherhood, join. Smart and will pay off in the long run is our prediction.

The Chris Craft Antique Boat Club is a huge important club for many reasons. First, it keeps like minded folks connected on the Boat Buzz, and has an amazing archive. Needs updating, but amazing resource.

Fantastic timeless design

The Brass Bell is an extremely well produced magazine. What Bill Basler designed 10 years ago, saved the future of the club, and its been run well from there.

Dan is doing a fantastic job and making a difference

The ACBS is getting it’s self figured out. I still think the politics have been its worst nightmare. But the new Director is hammering away and making a difference. And that is good for all of us. This years Boat The Blue is looking like it might be one of the best ACBS International shows. Up there with Woods and Water. The local ACBS Chapter in Michigan is a perfect example of how it should be done!


We will be there reporting live!

So membership? Is it worth it. YES! Support is always good and keeps things moving. There will always be clubs, and organizations. There has to be. But like everything in today’s crazy disruptive world. Stuff will evolve and change. And hopefully our most important clubs will evolve along with it.

33 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    As I started reading today’s story, I was not going to comment, until I read that last part. I could not agree more about the great job Dan is doing to get the ACBS focused on what this is all about. He has also been a tremendous resource and great to work with on Boat the Blue. Thanks for the shameless plug and with a true team effort behind this event, it will be a great time for all in Port Huron!

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      HA, it was a hook.. And yes, its all coming together these days. We are all finding our place.

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    There are a lot of questions with very few real answers in today’s story.

    1) You had a huge rant on FB a few weeks ago yet now you seem to tote the fact that it is free. You also seem to tote Instagram, aren’t they owned by FB?

    2) That WB app may be FREE to us, but I know it cost someone a lot of money. (gee, I wonder who funded that)

    3) Dues and Clubs are basically a way to spread the expense out among those who want to use the resources.

    Will any of our clubs survive? I suspect so, but I suspect they will all morph into whatever new design will allow them to survive.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Thanks Troy. It is what it is, andFB is larger than all of us. So our challange as a group is to help it. I am learning as I go along here. And yes, the app was expensive as crap! Like a boat restoration, and not sure still if anyone cares. But it needed to be done. And the expense was covered by years of saving sponsorship money and donations.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Why is this the first I am hearing about this Boat the Blue show? We need more young people in this hobby to spread the word for events like this online!

    Oh, and yes clubs need to figure out a value proposition, or people won’t join. Especially young people that we need in the hobby. If you give it away on Facebook, your club will die.

  4. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    Thank you , Matt. Our hobby is beset by lots of challenges that are familiar to all of us: economics, demographics, etc. Only by banding together in these organizations can we hope to surmount these and move the hobby forward. thanks for the reminder.

  5. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    The Century Boat Club stands ready to assist members in many ways including simply the sense of belonging with others of like mind. Thanks for the promote. Join on line at our new .org web site.

  6. Dave Nau
    Dave Nau says:

    Organizations like ACBS are also covering the whole hobby, not just a focus on wood boats. There is to other place for me to go if I want look up owners of a particular fiberglass or aluminum boat model, maybe powered by a particular outboard. There are few marque clubs for those, likely because there were literally hundreds and hundreds of small non-wood boat makers. All have a place.

  7. Wilson
    Wilson says:


    The same can be said for Kiwanis and Rotary….Most companies, insurance agents, law offices, banks, etc used to pay member dues in anticipation of some reciprocal benefits. Now very few support service clubs with dues support…Folks just don’t seem to interested in joining when they have to pay their own dues. I think similar results came about with the Chris Craft Club with an administration change and membership dues were immediately doubled. Just my view.

    • don vogt
      don vogt says:

      wilson, as i recall the dues went from $35 to $50. The club was insolvent when we took over and revenues were less than costs. Not a successful formula, so there wasnt much choice there.

      But the point is still valid. There is clearly a limit to what people will pay in dues, and the pool of voluntary labor is definitely shrinking.

      • Wilson
        Wilson says:

        No, Don…When Basler took over he doubled dues from $25 to $50…The alleged justification was that members we getting an improved National Geographic quality publication. My view at the time was that if the information was getting out there, the form was less important.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      If I remember correctly, the dues were increased shortly before the management chain, but either way, there was a serious shortage of cash to pay the bills at the time.

      That brings up the question of where clubs should spend their money and the balance of club services vs club dues.

      • Wilson
        Wilson says:

        There was no shortage of cash when the club management left Tallahassee…In fact a $50,000 grant which was later used for archival improvement went with the transfer.

  8. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    Has anyone suggested we need more young people?

    Seriously, they’re not joiners in a traditional sense. There are so many more “modern” ways to connect. I worry about that.

    And, yes, the Brass Bell is beautiful, as is the new Rudder. As a lover of print they’re worth the price of a membership alone.

  9. FrankofFalmouth
    FrankofFalmouth says:

    Matt, you make many good points and applaud the risk of stirring the hornets nest!! 🙂

    Many years ago (pre inter-web) clubs and publications were the only place to go. Wooden Boat magazine, I waited for gleefully each month. Club membership included member and boat directories and were the main value for me to find others with like boats. I kept a chronological archive of Wooden Boat magazines from number one and it was my source of information. Unless fellow enthusiasts were nearby Id have to wait for the next boatshow and have to decide if I should visit my dad on Fathers Day or go drool over boats who owners had others restore them I also use the newspaper to acquire boats. AND…you could find ‘barn-finds” and great deals by the side of the road.
    Now ads in magazines are stale by the time its published and gets to your mailbox (cont)

    • FrankofFalmouth
      FrankofFalmouth says:

      Now, I can google something at 2 am from my secret boat hideaway as I sit in one of my boats or want to know what it originally looked like. Paying $50 a year for a newletter lost its value, but in order to support the hobby I viewed it as a donation to further the cause. Yes clubs are necessary to organize people to put on boatshows without which everyone would keep their beautiful boats in their garages or boathouses (lucky)
      Ill bet there are a TON of people who read WoodyBoater on a daily basis and dont participate in the banter, my usual MO. Just go ahead and …..miss one day posting your daily missive and Id love to see the fallout!! :-0 What you have done to bring Classic boating into the mainstream is amazing, but many surely cant appreciate the resources and time you have dedicated. Not to be a fanboy, and at the risk of getting slammed, your website has probably contributed to the demise of some organizations… Id rather log on daily for FRESH content and with and humor and its all FREE.. and with links to resources ?

      …wait what was the question? was there a question??

      • Wilson
        Wilson says:

        You are probably right…Woody Boater with daily commentary has replaced much of what clubs offered with quarterly publications which is why CCABC used to maintain an office with an open phone line to accept calls and respond more quickly to member needs & wants.

  10. Chad
    Chad says:

    Connecting with like-minded people is worth the cost of membership to any boat club, IMO. It’s all about the people and the culture. Take technology out of the equation and what you are left with are real people.

    Pay your dues, meet some people and GO BOATING!

    Looking forward to seeing some old friends and making some new ones in Port Huron.


  11. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Like Chad says : “pay your dues, meet some people, and GO BOATING!”…..
    My mantra all along.
    We are having a boating picnic in a couple of weeks featuring guys I met from belonging to the clubs…several clubs in fact….this is a neat deal because it is a Whirlwind rendezvous featuring 3 of the boats I had/restored….and we are even letting a wagemaker in for the fun! Others welcome.
    At 71, I AM young people!
    John in Va.

  12. jim g
    jim g says:

    Hey Matt. Thanks for posting the kids paint a boat form the Hartwell boat show. If it wasn’t for the ACBS there would be less boat shows. As the ACBS provides a very good liability insurance policy to the chapters at no charge.

    Also if anyone is interested in the paint a boat to restore. Its a 18′ Sportsman. Bought new by a women at Colony Marine in Algonac. Shipped from the factory with her name on the back. I have the original bill of sale for the boat and most of the hardware.

    • Wilson
      Wilson says:

      No question, ACBS has done much to promote the hobby with chapters that sponsors rendezvous and boat shows

  13. Jeff N
    Jeff N says:

    This is a great topic for a story. Not so sure if it’s worth it, I joined the century boat club and the ACBS right away when I got my boat at the end of March. I did receive a membership card and a few goodies also the magazine from the century boat club thoroughbred. I’ve got on the website and I don’t see much activity but maybe I’m not looking hard enough. What I did find is there are plenty of other Century enthusiast on a Facebook page which is more of what I was looking for like a message board type deal to ask questions being the rookie that I am. I don’t have a Facebook so I can’t read the comments or interact but there are plenty of questions I have so it looks like I will be getting a Facebook soon.
    As far as the acbs goes I’m a little disappointed in not receiving anyting from the club besides a few emails. I know the website is great and there are tons of information in the members only part which contain tons of photos and a bunch of great videos. But there again I was looking for it to be a little more active as far as chatting with other members like a message board type format. I went to the Arrowhead show and got a member directory but haven’t received anything in the mail. No magazines, stickers etc.. that I can think of. So this story does make one think.

  14. Jeff N.
    Jeff N. says:

    I got cut off earlier…. in closing I would say its worth it still to join these clubs. I am all about the traditions of clubs, I just wish there was more activity , workshops etc. I guess where I live has to do with it. Not a ton of wooden boat folks in southern California.

  15. susan bullington
    susan bullington says:

    I like the statement about the culture of helping others. We have scholarships for trades training. There needs to be a presence in the school districts? The teachers will say they don’t have the money for supplies. The individual chapters could maybe help with that. Help with the class too!

  16. Harlon Parchment
    Harlon Parchment says:

    For a membership to be attractive there needs to be an “exclusive edge or advantage”. Meaning, something unique and tangible that only a member can have or access. I think the ACBS Registry is really cool and sort of fits the bill somewhat, but I don’t carry it around or wear it to patronize my membership. I don’t know what the perfect thing would be, but I know exclusive shirts or medallions are something that makes one want to be a part of the action. I think the $50.00 if reasonable and might even be on the low end but I think there is something missing. I even forget that I’m a member from the missing “bling” thing to show my exclusive membership support. I know there is lots of merchandise available but its not the same as the “members only” commodity. If you want to attract the younger folks, you have to have that edge. For me the Sunnyland show is the reason I joined and look forward to this event to really enjoy what my membership offers. But then again, I could do that without my membership. So, having that membership only status “thing” whatever it may be is the opportunity to really show pride and recognition of any membership.

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