By Bruce Claflin, Scuttlebutt Magazine
As boaters, we are all faced with a number of decisions that all impact our boating experience. Many boaters are fortunate enough to be able to keep their boats on (or very near) their own property. Many others cannot. It may be the size of your boat, or your proximity to water, or your proximity to the water of your choice, but many boaters must find a marina to house their summertime retreat.
Just like buying a home or a cabin, a big part of the decision will be based on location. Is there a specific body of water you want to be on? It’s a commute, so how far are you willing to travel to get to your boat? Once you have isolated an area where you want to spend your time, you can start to narrow down your choices.
The size of your boat may or may not make finding accommodations less of a “choice”. The size or type of boat you own may dictate which marinas in the desired area have what you need to accommodate your boat. Some marinas are customized to certain vessels, while others are simply not able to handle larger boats. Many marinas offer winter storage, is it important to have a place you can leave your boat season to season? Affordability is another key question that must be looked at as part of the value proposition that is part of this process. Slip sizes may be an issue and do they have a qualified mechanic on staff that can care for your boat should problems arise? Most boat owners will require freshwater availability for clean up at days end and electricity to power all the onboard systems. These are baseline services that you will require. Once those questions are answered, the rest of the decision revolves around you and what you feel you ‘need’ in a suitable location.
Conditions of the area
Most boaters will readily agree that where you keep your boat matters. They’d like to keep their boat in an area that is clean and safe. Not just inside the marina, but also in the immediate surroundings. Safe, crime free surroundings that are close to shopping and services are often the most desirable. How ‘social’ is the marina? Many folks want a place that’s quiet while others prefer an environment with more activity. The choice is yours. One of the most common complaints about marinas is a lack of cleanliness. Look for general upkeep issues. Is the area free from trash? Broken electrical boxes? Is all the safety equipment required in place? Is all decking in good shape and free of obstruction? Your boat represents a significant investment and you should be mindful of its security at all times, not just when you are onboard. Does your marina employ security cameras with 24/7 surveillance? Is it well lit? Are there security patrols? How easy is it to access your marina? Many marinas are upgrading their security by restricting access through the use of card readers, key codes, and the like. Thieves and vandals are not the only danger to your boat. You would also be wise to look at marina–and slip—location. Is the marina in an area that offers protection from wave action and the wind? Does the available slip offer deep enough water to accommodate your boat comfortably? Many marinas are deep water marinas, but not all. Also, please look to see if the marina you are considering is involved in a ‘Clean Marina Program’. Many states (Minnesota and Wisconsin among them) have certification available to marinas who comply with fundamental best practices in the operation of their businesses. Marinas who, by certification, are members of these groups have shown a serious commitment to the safety of recreational boaters and to the protection of the environment.
Amenities and more amenities
These are often the most important element that go into choosing the best marina for you. As we mentioned earlier, most boaters prefer a marina with crime free surroundings that are close to shopping and services. Marina amenities that are absolutely essential include showers, laundry facilities, wifi, dependable electrical services, and freshwater for cleaning and tanks. Many marinas offer restaurant and beverage services on site, as well as picnic areas, pet walks, and access to bike/walk trails. Membership based boat and yacht clubs may also offer tennis courts, swimming pools, hot tubs, basketball courts, and more. The time you spend on your boat is very valuable. Wherever you decide to keep your boat, make sure it has all the amenities you’ll need either onsite or nearby. Boaters here in the upper Midwest are fortunate to have a wide variety of services available near the water. Whether on an area lake or one of the rivers, there is a choice to serve every taste and budget. Meet with a marina manager or staff member. Do your homework, and take a walk around. Find your waterfront ‘home’ and the family fun that awaits!