By Maddy Vitale
It’s a beautiful day. The seas are calm, and you decide to take your family out on the boat for some tubing adventures.
You pack up your cooler filled with sandwiches and icy-cold drinks, head to the dock and hop in a 19-foot a Yamaha 190 FSH Sport boat.
You don’t have to fuel up. There’s already gas in it. Forget cleaning it. It’s pristine. All you have to do is get in and drive away.
That is the dream experience that doesn’t usually accompany boat ownership.
But what if you had all the benefits of your favorite water toy, without the hassle?
That is exactly what TJ Heist, 25, of Ocean City, has in store for anyone yearning for the fun and excitement of boating, without the headaches of ownership.
Heist is opening Jet Drive Exchange at 228 Bay Avenue June 1, where you could buy a boat membership, leaving behind the hassles, maintenance and high costs of ownership. The season will run through September.
Heist, whose love for boating and the business was evident. Through much of an interview with OCNJDAILY.com the young entrepreneur smiled as he spoke of his love for boating and enjoyment he hoped members would get out of his new venture.
“The whole idea is they get all the perks of ownership. We are providing the fun aspects of boating. They can take it out to tube off it, wakeboard, waterski or fish and they don’t have to purchase a boat,” Heist said. “We fuel it. We clean it. We winterize it. They don’t have to pay for a slip.”
When it comes to water safety, Heist is an expert.
Not only does he have his captain’s license, but he is the owner of Totally Tubular Water Sports at 314 Bay, a boat rental business, where he specializes in water sports instruction.
Just like at Totally Tubular Water Sports, which Heist opened six years ago, he will teach members of Jet Drive Exchange a host of pertinent information about boating safety.
He will also provide instruction on navigation and give members the best places to go for their specific water activity, whether it be fishing, wakeboarding or jet skiing, as well as information on the back bays.
The cost for a membership varies, but a one-time activation fee ranges from $1,500 to $3,000, Heist said. There are boat and jet ski packages. Normally it would cost $1,600 to rent a boat or two jet skis, for the season. With the grand opening of Jet Drive Exchange, members would get 50 percent off, so the cost would be $800 for the year, Heist said.
And the ease of a membership is worth the initial fee, he explained.
“After you sign up and show up, the boat will be fueled, cleaned and you go out with your friends and family and enjoy it. You come back and tie it up and walk away,” Heist said. “Our crew comes in and cleans the boat, fuels the boats and gets it ready for the next group.”
On average, a yearly boat slip costs nearly $2,000. Adding that to maintenance, gas and storage, it costs 55 percent more than doing a membership, Heist said.
Members must sign an agreement, have a boating safety certificate and boating license and everyone aboard must sign waivers.
Response to the new business has been positive, Heist said.
Second home owners in Ocean City were the first to sign up.
“A lot of people who own a home in Ocean City are signing up saying it is too far away from their primary house to take care of a boat here,” Heist said. “With a membership they can come down for a vacation, enjoy their boat and leave it.”
A membership also could be geared toward a person thinking about buying a boat, Heist said.
“You should know what you are getting into,” Heist, who holds a business degree and a certificate in insurance risk management, said. “You could join the club for three or four years. It could be a trial run.”
Heist said three people have supported him throughout the years in his love for water sports and promoting a business that allows others to enjoy it as well, parents Tom and Jennifer Heist and Ocean City’s Bayview Marina owner Wally Middleton. Heist began working for Middleton when he was 17, which grew into a lifelong career.
As for his parents, Heist said, “They have always been very supportive of all my different endeavors and businesses and I really couldn’t have done any of them without their support. They have always been the people to give me feedback to help me improve it.”
Promoting water sports in South Jersey while running a successful business, have been Heist’s focus for years.
Now he wants to provide something unique to visitors and residents.
“I don’t think anyone else does it. Sometimes yacht clubs offer boat use, but it isn’t the same as what we are offering. Down in Florida every city has a boat club. Besides that, there is no difference,” Heist said. “South Jersey should have the same thing. We have the same people. The same water and the same equipment. A lot of people said, ‘We’ve been looking for something like this.’”
For more information visit www.jetdriveexchange.com or call (609) 224-1773.