Next to choosing the perfect boat, picking the right marina is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a boat owner. Some new boaters don’t realize the effect their marina will have on their overall boating enjoyment and end up changing locations down the line. But if you do your research and follow some of the tips in this article, you’ll end up with a great home base for your boating adventures.
There are over 12,000 marinas in the United States, and the right one for you depends on what kind of boat you have and what you like to do with it. However, there are certain qualities that all good marinas should have — it’s more than just a berth. Just like when you’re looking for a new home or apartment, the little details matter, and their effects only amplify as time goes on.
Here are some tips and considerations to keep in mind to help you select the right marina for your boat:
While being close to the open ocean is convenient for getting out of the harbor quickly, you want to be sure to choose a marina that has enough shelter from the wind and waves. When your slip is too exposed to ocean conditions, it can make docking difficult and staying aboard your boat a less comfortable experience.
If you want to start the day with friends and drinks aboard your boat, it’s better to be in a marina with calm water, so you and your guests can enjoy the day without bobbing around too much. Additionally, if your boat is always being pushed around by wind and surge, it puts more strain on your equipment and can cause damage and chafing to lines, fenders and the side of your boat much faster than in a calm harbor.
If you can, consult with other boaters in the area about the prevailing winds and how strong the surge and waves can get.
A sheltered marina location also means being out of the way of boat traffic. If you’re trying to leave your slip on the weekend or a holiday with a constant stream of boats behind you, it can be a little tricky. If possible, it’s best to pick a marina that’s out of the main channel.
Depending on water levels, some slips in a marina may not be suitable for all sizes and types of vessels. In some harbors, boats will be resting on the bottom when the tide goes out. And while this can be alright for a small vessel, it could cause damage to a bigger one — not to mention the fact you couldn’t take your boat out.
Also, you’ll want to be sure there aren’t any tide-dependant restrictions to the use of your boat from that marina. Some passages through harbors go under bridges or through shallow areas that become impassable when the tide is too high or low, respectively. Not only can this be dangerous to you and your boat if you forget about the tidal restrictions, but it also limits when you can leave and return to your slip. Be sure to ask the marina staff about any limits to passage in the area.
Also, the speed of the current due to a dropping or incoming tide varies from harbor to harbor. Especially if you’re an inexperienced boater, it’s a good idea to make sure your potential spot in the marina doesn’t have too much current because it can make landing and leaving more of a challenge.
Slips often have a maximum size limit for vessels. Make sure your boat is within the recommended limit for size, and keep in mind that extra room is always a plus — if you have extra dock length, you can use it to tie up your dinghy or as a spot for friends.
You’ll also want to make sure your slip is wide enough to leave room for fenders and to keep your boat from continually rubbing against the dock if there’s action from wind and waves. Plus, having a little extra wiggle room helps keep your landings smooth.
Be sure to look at the channel leading up to your slip, too. Do you have extra room to maneuver if you need it? Is it close to other boats? According to the size of your vessel and your comfort level, play it safe and avoid slips that’ll be challenging to enter and leave in less-than-ideal conditions.
Do you like to head out into the ocean to fish and look for whales and dolphins? Or do you love just cruising around the harbor with good friends and good food?
Whatever it is you like to do on your boat, it’s important to make sure the harbor and the marina’s location are close enough to the action. Does the harbor have quality restaurants and bars? Will you have to travel several miles in the ocean to get to the spot you like to anchor? While these things may not be an issue for a short stay, they can make all the difference in your long-term enjoyment.
In some large harbors, a marina that’s twenty minutes closer to the ocean can be substantially more expensive — because it matters — especially if you use your boat a lot. Paying for added convenience can sometimes be the difference between wanting to use your boat all the time and not going out much.
Easy access from land is essential for an enjoyable boating experience. When you have a lot of guests, water toys and food to load, you want to have a short and easy trip to your boat, as well as enough parking for guests. Some marinas have designated parking spaces for you and your guests, which saves a lot of time and headache on the weekends and holidays.
If your marina is gated, make sure they’re open early and late enough so that it doesn’t affect your boating plans or your access to your boat.
Especially for a larger vessel, having access to water and power is a must.
When you dock your boat, one of the first things to do is to connect it to shore power — this not only keeps your batteries charged, but it allows you to keep your systems like air conditioning and lights running as long as you want to stay aboard — without the use of your generator. Make sure to check that the power supply on the dock meets your vessel’s voltage requirement.
Easy access to external water makes washing down the boat after saltwater excursions much faster. Quality marinas have a hose right on the dock.
Some marinas even offer WiFi, so you can stay connected and relax on the water with your favorite show after a satisfying day in the sun. Or you can head down to the boat to get some work done — if you like the idea of having a second office on the water.
When your boat needs routine maintenance like an oil change, or you need to refuel and pump out, it’s great to have these types of services close by and easy to access. Take note of the nearest service station — is it a one-stop shop? Is it on your way out of the harbor? Do they offer any discounts for members?
If the marina you’re in has everything to maintain and repair your boat, you’ll be able to avoid time-consuming and costly transfers to a better-equipped harbor. Also, when you can get repairs solved quickly, you can have your boat fixed while you aren’t using it and avoid down days. This is one advantage of choosing a larger marina — they often offer all the services that boaters need.
Your boat is a valuable investment, and you want to be sure it’s safe when you leave it unattended for a while. Besides asking boaters about the security of their vessels in the marina, you can ask the attendants about what measures they take to ensure safety — peace of mind is essential. A few considerations to check on include:
You want to trust the staff at the marina you choose — they can lend an extra hand and offer valuable advice about boat maintenance and best practices. Some marinas have a designated VHF channel or phone number so that you can call them for assistance.
Having a well-trained staff to assist members and watch after their boats can be invaluable in case of a medical emergency or fire. It’s a good idea to ask an employee if they have procedures for emergency situations. Good marinas are equipped with life-saving equipment like defibrillators and oxygen, as well as fire-fighting systems.
The best marina managers are boat lovers themselves, and their passion is often reflected in the state of their marina — if you get a chance, ask them about their boating experiences.
If you can, try to meet the marina members near your prospective slip. Besides avoiding loud neighbors, you may make some long-term boating friends, and it’s great to have a sense of community in a marina. Plus, it’s nice to be able to help each other with docking from time to time.
A marina can be more than just a place to tie up your boat — it’s a great place to socialize and make like-minded friends. Some marinas will offer monthly BBQs and events for the members to get together. Boating is all about having fun, and your marina should only enrich your experience.
Some marinas and harbors aren’t as lively as others — if you like a lot of action on the weekend and holidays, ask around about special events. Are there weekly sailing races or holiday parades? On the other hand, if you like having a more quiet and peaceful home for your boat, a smaller marina may be a better option.
If you plan on spending a lot of time on your boat at the marina, be sure to check out what they offer on land.
Is there a market where you can pick up supplies and food? Are there lounges for guests? How about bathrooms and showers? Extra perks like these can make your stay much more comfortable if you spend a lot of time on your boat.
Most quality marinas are equipped with ice machines and large carts for loading and unloading your gear as well.
You’ll also want to check to see if your marina has adequate garbage disposal. There’s a surprising number of marinas where getting rid of your trash is inconvenient — receptacles are either too small or too far away. While it may not be a deal breaker, it’s a nice convenience if your marina has proper disposal. It makes cleanup after a full day of fun quick and easy.
The right price depends on more than just the marina fees — you have to consider what qualities are important to you. Marinas don’t offer extra amenities for free, so if you don’t think you’ll use all they have to offer, you may be able to find one that is a little more modest. Or, you may be willing to sacrifice certain amenities for a better location — it all depends on you.
Some marinas have partnerships with other nearby harbors that offer slips to members without additional cost. If your marina provides this type of service, it may be a handy perk if you like to take your boat on overnight trips.
Your perfect slip is waiting — there are about 1.1 million in the United States alone. Take your time and choose your marina carefully. Finding a quality, conveniently-located berth is an essential step to enjoying your time on the water.
One of our favorite places to start marina research is with boating friends — they give the most honest and unbiased opinions, and you can get the answers you’re looking for right away.
Here at Formula Boats, we’re boat lovers, too, and we want to share our passion for the open water with all of our customers — that’s why we do our best to equip our family of owners with the knowledge to have the best experience possible.
No matter what marina you choose, there’s nothing more vital to a great boating experience than a quality boat. Superior design and materials ensure you and your passengers are safe, while industry-leading design gives you the performance and functionality to maximize fun.
Our customers keep coming back because we only sell top-of-the-line products — products we’re proud to call our own. Owned by the Porter family since 1976, Formula Boats is a family brand for families who don’t compromise. If you love the water, then there’s no reason to limit yourself with any watercraft that’s less than the best.
If you have any other questions about quality marinas in your area or would like more information about our boats, contact us today.