Choosing a marina for your boat is one of your biggest decisions after deciding which boat to buy. Where you keep it will massively impact the enjoyment you’ll get out of your boat, how often you use it, and its safety and maintenance. There are thousands of marinas to choose from – in fact there are more than 12,000 in the United States alone – so what should you be looking for? Of course, the option of a swinging mooring is the most cost-effective, and definitely something to consider if you’re on a budget or don’t need the services provided by a marina, but here we’ll take a look at how to choose the right marina and berth to suit your boat, lifestyle and budget.
The Location of the Marina
We start with the actual location of the marina, which is probably the factor which makes the biggest impact in your enjoyment of your boat. It goes without saying that having to drive a long distance to get to your boat will limit how often you get to use it. Having said that, it’s quicker to drive a car than a boat, so if you prefer blue water cruising, deep sea fishing, or whale and dolphin watching and want to be closer to the open ocean then you might want to consider a marina with closer access and drive that bit further to it. If, on the other hand, you prefer to cruise around the harbour and stay much more coastal then you’ll be looking for a marina with a sheltered bay and plenty to see and do nearby.
The key to choosing the right location is to pinpoint exactly what it is you like to do on your boat (check out our guide to rip-roaringly fun boating activities) and make sure the marina you go for one that offers those opportunities, whether it’s wild seascapes, harbour restaurants, good fishing, safe swimming spots or a lively atmosphere. It will make a huge difference to your overall enjoyment.
Is the Marina Sheltered?
Historically, a marina’s main purpose was to offer seafarers shelter from the elements and today is no exception. When choosing the best marina you’ll want to consider how much protection it offers your boat from wind and waves, as well as other boat traffic. A constant wind or surge is not only wearing on lines and fenders, but it doesn’t make for a comfortable experience if you want to spend to time on your boat in the marina. It can also make docking trickier if you’re battling against surge or there is a lot of other boat traffic around you.
Other important factors to consider are the flow of tides and currents and whether the flow of water makes it difficult to get in or out of the marina. Some tides are very strong and, especially for inexperienced boaters, can make docking a challenge. In areas where there are big tides, you’ll need to consider whether your slip or berth will make you boat inaccessible for big chunks of the day and therefore hinder when and for how long you can use your boat. Make sure to ask the marina whether there are any tidal restrictions (this could include bridges or sand banks) which will limit the use of your boat.
The Size of the Marina
The size of the boat you have will impact which marina or berth you can use, and marinas will advise you on your options, with owners of smaller boats having considerably more options than those with larger vessels. It’s always best to choose a berth that is slightly too large than too small – you can never have enough room and it makes docking that much easier if there’s a bit of wiggle room! Make sure it’s not only long enough but wide enough too, and take into account fenders when making your calculations.
Facilities and Services Available to You
Marinas come in all shapes and sizes and with varying levels of facilities and services. In general the larger the marina, the more it will offer you, but of course the fees will reflect the extra level of service. If you prefer to keep things low key then you’ll want a smaller, simpler marina, but for those who like to everything on hand look for somewhere larger. Facilities you might want to consider include:
Parking on Land: Is there enough parking? It’s frustrating to arrive at your marina and not be able to find anywhere to park. Is the parking close to your boat for easy unloading of guests and supplies?
Operating Hours: If the marina is gated make sure you ask about the operating hours and make sure it doesn’t impact when you’d like to use your boat.
Electricity and water: As a minimum you’ll be wanting water and electricity available to you so you can run appliances, charge batteries, use the air conditioning, hose down your boat and fill your water tank. Ask about rates and ensure the dock meets your voltage requirement.
Fuel: How close is the nearest fueling station? Some larger marinas have fuel pumps, but if not you need to check where the closest one is so you’re not travelling big distances every time you need to refuel.
Maintenance Services: Does the marina offer maintenance services, or is there somewhere nearby? Whether it’s something as simple as having an oil change or when you need a larger maintenance project completed – or worse, in an emergency - it’s very convenient and time-saving having it on the doorstep. Some marinas offer discounts to members too.
Store Rooms: Does the marina offer somewhere to store items when you’re not using them?
WiFi: With widespread 4G, having WiFi isn’t essential, but it’s a good thing to have, so be sure to ask whether it’s available and how much it costs.
Safety and Security
Your boat is one of your biggest assets and you want to make sure it is safe in the marina you choose. Be sure to ask what security measures are in place to ensure it’s being well looked after. These might include CCTV cameras, electronic gates, 24 hour security personnel, security lights and more.
The Staff and Community
The marina you choose should reflect you and how you choose to use your boat, and the people around you will be a big part of that. From other boaters to the staff at the marina, try and get a feel for the general vibe and friendliness. You might enjoy taking part in monthly BBQs, sailing races or social events, and are looking to make friends with neighbouring boat owners, in which case a livelier marina will be better suited to you. If you prefer the quiet life then consider something smaller and more laid back. Chat to the staff, ask who works there and how easy it is to get in touch with management. Also spend a bit of time talking to other boat owners and see what they feel about the marina.
Of course we all have a budget and you need to find the right marina to fit your boat budget. The more services and facilities on offer and the best locations will of course have the higher price tags, but consider carefully before dismissing something as out of your budget. It might be wise to cut back elsewhere if a particular marina will ultimately offer you more enjoyment from your boat. On the other hand, if you don’t think you’ll use everything on offer then don’t pay over the odds and choose somewhere more suited to you. Ultimately, choosing the right marina starts with identifying your needs and going from there. Try to tick as many boxes as you can when making your final decision and you’ll find you enjoy your boat to its fullest.
Are you ready to buy your first or next boat? Head over to Rightboat.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for new and used boats, and get in touch with private owners and professional brokers in your area. Your boating journey is about to begin!
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