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New Marina Design Trends & Tech

There was a time when marinas were just a place to store your boat. It’s hard to imagine that’s not the case now! Today’s marinas are destinations unto themselves, each with their own unique draw and boater experience. Modern marinas are not only aesthetically pleasing and environmentally neutral, but they have every imaginable convenience for boaters and their boats. You could say that marinas have come a long way - and they’re still evolving. With so many exciting new marina design trends and technological advancements, we had to share a few with you.



Marinas are changing for the better

Luxurious, user friendly and boater-centric is the best way to describe the new marina design trends. Marinas have upgraded finishes, pay attention to every detail, and not only accommodate, but anticipate, a boater’s every need and desire.


Numbers show that boating is appealing to a younger and more active demographic. Because of that, marinas are incorporating amenities like stylish kayak stands and bike racks, miniature putting greens and floating playgrounds. And in addition to an inviting pool, many marinas have added outdoor sitting and meeting areas, as well as clubhouses with spas, salons and restaurants making a marina a true destination that encourages boaters to spend more time on-site.


Down at the dock itself, new bells and whistles include accent lighting, rounded dock ends, and personalization like naming docks after boats or owners. And since the average boat size has increased, many marinas are reconfiguring docks to create larger slips to accommodate the larger vessels.


Accessible boating and ADA compliance

The joy and exhilaration of boating should be available to everyone, regardless of their abilities. For that reason, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents discrimination on the basis of disability – and that includes marinas. As expected, marinas are rising to the occasion, making changes that open boating up to all. Here are a few modifications that give everyone a clear and easy path to their boat:

  • By definition, gangways are sloped pedestrian walkways. However, older designs couldn’t properly accommodate a wheelchair. Simple modifications to existing gangways, or new designs, offer appropriate slope, proper width, and grip. Additionally, adaptations like transition plates and handrail extensions at the end of the gangway make a world of difference. Improved gangways are just one way marinas are providing more independent access for persons with disabilities.

  • Elevators and platform lifts are also being added to improve approachability. To complete the full marina upgrade, facilities are adding accessible boat slips, with at least 60 inches of width (the full distance of the slip), to improve safety and enjoyment for people of every ability.


Dock materials are changing

Ever wonder why all marina docks aren’t simply made of wood? As it turns out, over time, wood is actually not very buoyant. Eventually the cells in wood become saturated with water, causing it to sink. Plus, wood is vulnerable to many different marine creatures that like to bore into it. In addition, treating wood with chemical preservatives to protect the material puts those chemicals into our delicate marine ecosystem, which is obviously not ideal.


More and more marinas are turning to floating concrete docks for these reasons and several more. First, floating concrete docks don’t release toxins into the water and is benign to the health of marine life, fostering a healthy community of marine organisms. In addition, the non-skid surface will far outlast any wood, plastic, or composition deck material. And, even in the roughest weather, concrete is stable and safe to walk on.


Technology is benefiting boaters

There isn’t one area of our lives that technology hasn’t influenced, and that includes boating. The boating industry has spotted the enormous potential and benefit in recent technological advancements. In short, the industry has harnessed and applied available technology to improve the boating experience both at the dock and in the water. Here are just a few advancements sure to pique your interest:


Plan a trip and reserve a slip from your phone

Like everything else, reserving a slip has gone digital. No more phone calls and leaving messages. Not unlike Hotels.com, boaters can now go online, or to a mobile app, to a reputable company like Snag-A-Slip and explore great boating destinations across the United States, find awesome marinas, and reserve boat slips. Swipe or click and you’re set!


The rise of Beacons

Beacons are small tech devices that send messages to smartphones within their connectivity range. If you’re one of millions of boaters who enjoy looking at the newest models at a dealer, or an annual boat show, beacons can take your shopping experience to the next level. With a beacon installed in a boat on display, you can receive detailed information about it on your smartphone as you walk around and check it out.


One of the most intuitive beacons for personal use is the BoatGod from Boatpilot. It receives the data from your boat’s onboard devices and allows you to manage them, basically turning your boat into a “smart home”. It also supports AR-devices for “synthetic vision” allowing boaters to navigate in bad and low visibility conditions.


Wearable Technology

There are fitness trackers and smart watches, and now smart clothing which is why it should be no surprise wearable technology is playing a role in our boating experience. Wearables make information handy when needed - especially out on the water. One exciting example is the Afterguard system - an advanced sailing heads up display that looks a bit like large sunglasses. “Like a fighter pilot, the system makes all of your boat instrumentation available at a glance.”


Tracking devices

We live in an age where almost anything can be tracked - a mobile phone, a vehicle, an airplane, and a boat. It means that the position and movement of a boat out on the sea can be monitored from land. One boat tracking system that has made its way to the forefront is the Automatic Identification System. It uses GPS technology to establish communications between a boat and the marina. Boat owners can be alerted when their boat is not safely in its slip, protecting it from theft and other undesirable activities.


Self-Sailing Boats are on the horizon

It’s only a matter of time before self-sailing boats will be on the market. A few manufacturers are integrating this technology as we write this. It’s the same technology as the auto pilot that airplanes currently use to fly with little or no input from the pilots. One version developed by MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions is the Roboat. Check out their website and video – it’s a peek into tomorrow.


Written by: Jo Montgomery

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