Purchasing a boat is a tremendously exciting experience, but unless you happen to be a wealthy billionaire who own his marina, you’re going to need to find somewhere to store it. Unlike a car, which you can park anywhere, you need a specific dock or slip to store your boat.
That means you’re going to need to rent or buy a slip at a marina.
And unlike parking spaces, which can accommodate just about any car, your boat will require a slip suited to it.
So what do you need to consider when buying or renting a slip? Here are 14 factors to consider…
What Are The Slip Rates?
Obviously, you don’t want to purchase or rent a slip that exceeds your budget. Moorings are usually cheaper than slips, but your boat will also be at risk from weather and other vessels. Yacht clubs offer special privileges and amenities, but also tend to be quite pricey. Public docks are usually inexpensive but don’t typically provide tight security, and some are even open to the public. You’ll find the most options with private marinas, but also the most variation, so you’ll need to do further research.
How Strong Is The Security?
Security for your boat, yourself, and your guests should always be a significant concern. Unlocked facilities, parking lots that are not well lit, and dangerous neighborhoods should be avoided if possible. Yes, they may offer great discounts on rates, but it’s not worth it if your boat is damaged or someone is hurt.
Is There Significant Water Traffic and Congestion?
You should evaluate the amount of water traffic and congestion for several reasons. First, high traffic areas can be dangerous, with a real risk of collision. Second, power boaters are known to trail in the wakes of other boats, even if conditions are not ideal. Finally, heavy water congestion increases the amount of time it takes to depart from the marina.
How Knowledgeable and Helpful Are The Marina Operators?
The staff at the marina should:
- Be knowledgeable
- Practice safety
- Enforce cleanliness
- Instill confidence
- Consider the needs of the boaters first
- Provide security
If you settle for less than this, your boating experience may be less than ideal, to say the least.
How Accessible Is The Marina?
Ideally, the marina should be relatively accessible from your home. If getting to the marina requires hours of driving or sitting in dense traffic, you’ll use your boat far less. You may not be able to find a marina close to your home, but it shouldn’t be a prohibitive distance either.
Does The Dock Have Necessary Amenities?
There are certain amenities a dock must have. You always need both electrical hook-up to charge your batteries, as well as clean water to fill your tanks and wash your boat. There may be other things you want to consider as well, such as:
- Dock carts
- Waterproof dock boxes
- Private lockers
- Dinghy docks
- Private showers
- Laundry facilities
Of particular note is the importance of waterproof dock boxes for storing cleaning supplies, tools, extra gear, extra jerry cans, life preservers, and a host of other items. Most people only think about securing a place to tie up without realizing the value of having a place to store things. Once you have this storage, you’ll never want to go back.
The slip price will certainly vary depending on the amenities available. It’s just a matter of what you want versus how much you’re willing to pay.
Is There Shopping Nearby?
This may not be a concern if you only want to boat, but some individuals also want access to shopping. A quick internet search should reveal nearby shopping areas. You’ll also want to consider the adverse effects of nearby shopping areas. Some restaurants and nightclubs are open late, meaning you may hear noise and music well into the night.
Do You Want A Wet Dock Or Dry Dock?
Wet docks are more expensive than dry docks because they offer more convenience. When you want to use your boat, you only need to go to the dock and climb aboard. Dry docks are also less convenient because you must inform the dock rental company in advance that you want to use your boat. This decision will come down to your budget.
Can You Dock Easily?
A vital to answer is whether you can easily dock your boat. If it’s difficult to dock and depart, it’s going to significantly decrease the enjoyment of your boat. Additionally, it should be simple to hook up to power and water.
Consider these words from Kent’s Harbor:
"Generally, the longer the length of the boat slip, the more open water maneuvering space one has available to line up and drive the boat into the slip space. For example, the next dock behind your dock will be further away, allowing more room for you to steer as you get used to docking your boat."
How Strong Are The Wind and Current?
If you will be approaching the dock in relatively calm waters with little or no wind, you will want to dock on the approach side so that you slowly bump up against the dock instead of being pulled away from it. If you’ll be docking in a prevailing wind, you’re going to want the help of the current bringing you to the dock, rather than away from it. When purchasing or renting a slip, take a few moments to study the direction of the prevailing winds as well as the strength and direction of the current.
How Deep Is The Water?
Unfortunately, water levels in many lakes are falling, meaning that there may not be enough water for your keel and draft. If you need to dock stern first, you’ll need to ensure there is enough water at the inside end of the slip for your propellers to clear. You can test the depth of the water with a long pole. When testing, also look out for boulders or any other obstructions that could damage your boat.
How Long Is The Finger Dock?
The finger dock, which extends from the primary pier, must be long enough so that you and your guests can easily step out of your boat. If the finger dock isn’t long enough, you’ll need to back into the slip, which may not work for you depending on which side you want to tie up on.
How High Is The Dock?
The height of the dock is going to determine the ease with which you and your guests can step onto and off your boat. If a dock is high and fixed, you may find it simpler to get on and off from the side deck or the cockpit cockpit side. Depending on the height, you may need to add a ladder or stool to simplify getting into and out of your boat.
Is There Room For A Dinghy/Personal Water Craft?
If you also have a dinghy or personal watercraft, you’ll need to ensure that there is space beside your boat for it. If there isn’t room, you’ll either need to make other arrangements or find another slip. Don’t find this out after you’ve rented or purchased your slip!
The right dock for you will be based on a variety of factors, including price, convenience, amenities, size of your boat, and others. Take the appropriate time to make this decision because it will significantly affect the quality of your boating experience. If possible, ask others about their experiences and spend some time simply watching the activity near the dock. The more time you spend evaluating, the less regret you’ll have later.