Choosing the right marina for you, your crew and your boat is a big decision. It’s right up there with choosing the perfect boat, and arguably one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a boat owner. The truth is, marinas are much more than a place to park your boat. For most, the marina becomes a vacation home, a safe haven for you and your prized floating possession, and where dock mates become lifelong friends.
New boaters may not realize the impact the marina they choose will have on their total boating enjoyment. And if not well chosen, boaters end up changing locations down the line. Now all boaters are different and have their own unique preferences, however there are some qualities all good marinas should have. Just like when you’re looking for a new home or apartment, the small details matter, and they tend to matter more as time goes by.
Sound intimidating? It doesn’t have to be. If you do your research and follow our tips for choosing the right marina, you’ll snag yourself a great home base for your boating adventures.
8 tips for choosing the right marina
Here’s what you’ll need to consider when making that important decision:
1. Location, location, location
If you plan to enjoy your boat every chance you get (and you should!), your first location consideration must be how far the marina is from your home. If you have to drive two or more hours to get there, you certainly won’t go as often as you’d like. You should also consider your favorite local boating destinations. How far of a cruise is the marina from your favorite coves, beaches and fishing spots? As much as we’d like to deny it, convenience is fundamental. Also consider and obstacles and time suckers, like drawbridges and high traffic areas.
The other location you need to take into account is the location of the actual slip. For instance, if you have an extra-beamy boat, your slip, the fairway and the channel must be wide and deep enough for your boat type and your maneuvering skills. You want to be able to get her easily and safely in and out. If possible, motor to the marina to see for yourself what the approach channel is like, and how difficult it is to get to your slip. Do this activity more than once to be sure you don’t miss anything.
The final location to think about is how well-marked the channel is. You want it to be easy to head out for a cruise and get back to your slip. You also want a well-lit channel and fairway for evening cruising, so you can find your way in after dark.
Northwest Creek Marina, New Bern, NC
2. Ample shelter from boat traffic, wind and waves
It may be more convenient to be close to the open ocean, so you can get out of the harbor quickly. However, you’d be smarter to choose a marina that has sufficient shelter from the wind and waves, and is out of the main channel. This is even more important if you boat and live in an area that gets hurricanes and strong storms! If your slip is too exposed to ocean conditions, it will make staying aboard your boat a less relaxing experience, and will make docking more difficult. Frequent boat traffic will also cause constant waves, plus a steady stream of boats can make it tricky to leave your slip. You’ll soon realize that drinks with friends aboard your boat is much better when you’re in calm water and not rocking and rolling.
3. The right amount of amenities
This is very personal and depends on what you need and want – and of course what they will cost. Some amenities are “must haves”, like shore power hookups, fresh and drinkable water for your boat’s water tanks, fuel and pump out services, finger piers, well-placed cleats and line hangers, dock carts, gear boxes, dinghy storage, and shore showers and heads. Others are more “nice to haves” like picnic tables, grills, a swimming pool, security and restaurant or clubhouse. What you will ultimately consider deal breakers depends on you, your boat and your crew, and what you’re willing to pay for.
Westshore Yacht Club, Tampa, FL
4. Reasonable rules
All marinas have rules. The key is to find a marina with rules that fit your boating lifestyle. Some common rules revolve around parking, charcoal and gas cooking and where to toss your trash. Others may vary from marina to marina, like rules around pets, loud noises and maintenance in the marina. Take the time to thoroughly read the marina’s rules and regulations to be sure you’re 100% comfortable following them.
5. Plenty of nearby services, entertainment and attractions
When you take off your boat shoes and feel like rubbing elbows with the landlubbers, you’re going to want the things you’re looking for to be close by. For instance, can you walk to town from the marina? If not, is there some type of shuttle service or ample Uber service? You’ll want a grocery store where you can stock your gally, restaurants, shops and maybe some fun outdoor activities. Whatever you and your crew enjoy doing on the weekends, make sure your location can give it to you.
6. Parking (really!)
As strange as this may seem, ample parking and easy access from land is paramount to a great boating season. When you’re transferring, luggage, food, drinks and water toys – not to mention guests – you want a short and easy trip to your boat. And it’s never more important than on busy weekends and holidays. Also, if your marina parking lot is gated, find out if they open early enough, and close late enough, for your boating schedule.
7. Plenty of friendly and knowledgeable staff
You want to be able to trust the staff at the marina you choose. You’ll quickly come to count on them. They can lend a much-needed extra hand and offer priceless advice about marina best practices and boat maintenance. Many marinas have a designated VHF channel or phone number that lets you call staff for assistance. Also make it a point to get to know the marina managers. They are almost always boat lovers themselves, and their passion is absolutely reflected in the condition of the marina. When you meet one, go ahead and ask them about their boating experiences. They’re sure to have some fascinating stories to share.
8. A sense of community
Just as important as anything else we’ve listed here; you need to meet the marina members near your prospective slip. Marina slips are close quarters and a loud or overly-friendly neighbor can leave you not wanting to poke your head out from your saloon. On the other end of the spectrum, great neighbors can make your time in your slip so much more enjoyable – many becoming lifelong friends. Good neighbors are more than fun to be around, they can lend a hand with docking from time to time, and look out for your boat.
It’s clear that a marina is more than just a place to tie up your boat — it can be a very social community of like-minded people. Great marinas hold social events like monthly BBQs, special get togethers and live music on-site. Any boater will tell you that boating is all about having fun. That’s why your marina should only enhance your experience.
There you have it! Just 8 easy tips for choosing the right marina for you. And if you’re wondering where to start looking, we suggest you ask your boating friends. You know they’ll give you a boatload of honest and unbiased opinions. And if you want to experience remarkable at your next marina, we suggest checking out the Oasis Marinas managed properties here :)
Written by: Jo Montgomery