As a sleek 25-foot boat dropped anchor at Montrose Harbor, the August sun slipped behind the skyline, its languid descent signaling happy hour. On one section of the dock, members of the Freedom Boat Club gathered over cocktails to unwind from the workday. Local singer-songwriter Bill Grady strummed an acoustic guitar and Buck, an old sea dog, made the rounds for head scratches and belly rubs aboard the club’s newest amenity: a floating party dock called Captain’s Quarters.
Founded in 1989 in Sarasota, Florida, Freedom Boat Club premiered in Chicago last year. One of the virtues of the club is that it’s exclusive without being country-club elitist; members don’t even have to own a boat. A onetime membership fee plus $99 in monthly dues allows members access to fleets at locations across the country. “We own the boats, we do the maintenance, the cleaning, and the fueling. You’re here just to have fun,” director of operations Michael Johnston says. Captain’s Quarters opened last month, giving members a place to hang out in the harbor. “Sometimes when it wasn’t conducive to go boating due to waves or wind, they wanted to just tie up at the pier,” Johnston says. “We decided to morph that into something more permanent.”
The dock includes a small stage, a 13-foot movie screen, and access to the water for swimming, as well as paddleboards and kayaks for rent. It holds about 50 people and can be reserved for private parties. Members can bring their own refreshments or use the club’s catering partner for a fee. Every Thursday evening from 5:30 to 8 PM, the club hosts live music on the dock; the public is welcome to watch and listen from a nearby walkway.
And while the stage is new, it’s already been graced by a rock icon. After playing last month’s Hot Stove Cool Music benefit show at Metro, which Freedom Boat Club sponsored, Eddie Vedder attended an afterparty where the dock served as a VIP section. The Pearl Jam front man signed the stage, which has now been nicknamed in his honor.