When we first decided to live on a boat, we spent some time visiting various marinas to help us decide where to keep our boat. Because we both have office jobs, a marina is a necessity for us. We could certainly save some money by keeping our boat at anchor and taking a dinghy to shore, but I'd prefer not to show up at work each morning covered in salt and smell. So, for as long as we are chained to a regular work environment, we will be keeping our boat at a marina.
So, how do you choose a marina? Some selection criteria are easy enough: what neighborhood we'd prefer to live in, for example. Indeed, in many ways, choosing a marina is no different than choosing a house or condo. What is within walking distance? How is the commute to and from work? Crime? Cost? You get the idea.
Other criteria are specific to living on a boat, and in that regard, we really did not know what we were doing. In some ways we got lucky, and in other ways our situation is less than ideal. Here are some things to look for:
1. Docking: How do you get the boat in and out of the slip? Is there enough room to turn around? How much room for error? How strong is the tidal current?
Because we had no experience with a 54' boat when we moved aboard Sea Gem, ease of docking was very much on our minds when we picked our marina. We have more than enough room to turn the boat into the slip and dock. However, our marina has a very strong tidal current at times, and we need to time our exits and entries accordingly. Tidal current is not something that was on our minds before.
2. Boarding: How do you get on and off the boat? Is there a finger pier? Is it long enough to reach your gate? Do you need to back in?
We picked a slip that we could pull forward into and have the finger pier on the side of the boat with our boarding gate and entry into the cockpit and cabin. Seems simple enough. But our finger pier comes at least ten feet short of the entry way, so we need to step over the lifelines and we cannot attach our boarding ladder where we board. Measurements are important.
3. Comfort: How protected is the marina from prevailing winds? From boat wake?
We visited marinas in the summer, when winds are calm and from the south, and boat traffic is minimal. At that time, our marina seemed well protected from wind and waves. Now that it is winter, however, we realize that we were a bit myopic. In the winter, winds are strong and from the north, and boat traffic is heavy. Although we were well protected from south winds, we have almost no protection from northern winds. The result is that, when the wind picks up, the boat can get pretty uncomfortable at times. Know the local conditions.
Overall, we like our marina. The location is great, we have covered garage parking, and everyone is friendly. But if we had to do it over again, we'd probably be elsewhere. Of course, one of the biggest advantages of living on a boat is that it is easy to move... Nothing planned for the immediate future, but stay tuned!