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Finding The Right Marina

boat marina
Photo courtesy Dustin Woods

How to Search Out the Best Fit for You and Your Boat

Much like searching for the right boat, there are many elements to consider when looking for the best place to keep it. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have your own dock or a boathouse, and don’t want to launch then reload onto a trailer every time you go out on the water, you may very well be looking at a marina. Budget, proximity, and availability aren’t the only factors that will come into play; the size of your boat may limit your options, be it length, beam, height, or draft.

1) Proximity is Key

Perhaps you’re interested in access to quiet inlets or sandy shoals for anchoring, or possibly areas that provide a wealth of waterways and locations to explore. The kind of boat you own and the sort of boating you want to do are paramount to where the ideal marina will be located. Also consider the distance from where you live and where you plan to do most of your boating, so that you’ll be inclined to get the most enjoyment from the experience possible.

2) Services Provided

Is having on-site bathroom and shower facilities, a restaurant or a store important to you?

In addition to water, electricity, and Wi-fi, marinas will often provide fuel and black water pumping services. Some go above and beyond by offering a full suite of mechanic services on-site. If they don’t, consider the time and cost associated with either trailering or calling in a mobile mechanic.

Depending on the size of your watercraft, you may have a trailer which will require a ramp to load and unload your boat. Is there one on-site, or at the very least, nearby? Some marinas have large slings or railways to satisfy this purpose. You may want to keep your boat and/or trailer on site which will also likely incur additional costs.

Based on the marina’s location and your level of comfort, you may also take the level of security provided into account. Is there restricted entry, video surveillance, and security guards on site? If you boat solo, it can also be very helpful to have marina staff assist with docking when the wind kicks up. Speaking of which, having a breakwater to protect boats from large waves should also be a consideration, particularly on large bodies of water. Depending on where they are located, some marinas may also be more likely to have structures that shelter boats from heavy rain or harsh sunlight.

3) Cost of Entry

The costs associated with keeping your boat at a marina – be it on land or in the water – will differ drastically depending on a variety of factors, not the least of which is the price of real estate and property tax in that area. Rate and payment structures also differ. Some memberships involve an initiation fee along with monthly or annual dues, while others may require you to lease the space. Others may also require minimum spends at the bar or restaurant.

Charges will also depend on the cost of facility upkeep like gardening and garbage removal, but also the amenities offered. Similarly, to the maintenance fees you’d pay a condominium corporation, you’ll pay for some of these amenities whether you make use of them or not while others may be ad hoc like boat detailing or ice delivery. You may want to compare the price of using the boat lift or pump out station between marinas as they could vary. So will the price of fuel, which at the current rate, adds up quickly!

Membership fees are often calculated based on the size of boat and electricity requirements, as well as whether the slip is covered, or if it is a secured or floating dock.

4) From Casual to Country Club

Boaters are a diverse bunch. Unified by a common hobby, they come from all walks of life. Some want to spend the summer days in board shorts or a bikini and bare feet, while others are looking to network over fancy meals and cocktails in crystal glasses. Some are looking for family-friendly fun while others are single and looking to mingle once the sun sets.

If you plan to enjoy meals at the marina, you may want to consider the amenities offered. Some will provide BBQs and picnic tables while others feature fancy restaurants with dress codes.

All experiences are valid, but it helps to know the kind of general vibe a marina offers to ensure that you’re most likely to find friends with shared interests, aside from boating of course.

Final Thoughts

When doing research or a site inspection of marinas you may want to join, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Does the marina have motorized or manual carts? Is parking included? Are there areas that are quieter or more rambunctious than others? You may even want to visit one evening to see for yourself if it’s the vibe you’re looking for. The community and the management will play a role in your enjoyment.

Some marina associations require members to fulfill volunteer hours. Much like community service, it may only involve landscaping duties or cleaning, but I bought a boat to maximize my relaxation, not be put to work. Particularly when I’m paying large sums of money for the privilege.

Marinas come in all shapes and sizes – from cheap and cheerful to fancy and expensive. What are your priorities, and what can you live without? You may simply be looking for a place to keep your boat, or perhaps you like the idea of restaurants, pools, and clubhouses. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what is best for you, your budget, and your boating needs.

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