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What to Look for in a Marina

Some marinas combine wet and dry storage.

Some marinas combine wet and dry storage.

Readers who own a waterfront home with a great dock offering convenient access to awesome fishing, cruising and waterfront dining can stop reading here. Likewise those trailer boaters who live close to their favorite launch ramp and have the necessary space and friendly city/subdivision regulations that allow them to keep their boat at home, handy for adventure.

For the rest of us, the lure of the marina is large, and there are many benefits — the first one being Location. A marina is an opportunity to put your boat where you'll use it most, whether that is just minutes from home or many miles away at your favorite cruising or fishing spot.

Once you've chosen your preferred location, it's time to do a comparison. Marinas range from simple rack-and-stack, dry storage-only enterprises to those with wet and dry slips, covered and open storage, service and parts, fuel, a pumpout station, bait shop, clubhouse, WiFi, and even onsite restaurants and bars.

Yet the key factors remain the same for all. Find out the marina's hours and accessibility during off-hours. Likewise, check out the level of security, which can range from fences with automated gates to 24-hour guards in golf carts. Ask how security affects access. Many boat owners who move to another marina after their first year's contract is up cite access problems as a major reason, though this is more common with dry storage, where they lock up the buildings at night.

Next, eye the condition of the docks, the overall facility and other boats being kept there. Be sure to check out the parking. Is there sufficient parking for guests? Note how far away parking is. It can quickly get old having to schlep gear a quarter-mile each time you set sail. Make sure there are enough dock carts.

Meet the staff to make sure they're friendly, knowledgeable and experienced. If possible, talk to other boaters at the marina to see how responsive the employees are to requests.

Crowd Control
Try to check out the place when it's busy to see how it truly operates. What may seem positively perfect on a quiet day may become a madhouse on a holiday weekend, with no empty spaces in the parking lot. We speak from experience, having come home from the end of a three-day weekend to find boats rafting up two and three deep on the launch docks as they awaited return to dry storage — and someone had taken the liberty of leaving their boat in our slip.

Is it a well-maintained establishment? Hoses should be conveniently located and of sufficient length for handy washdowns. Fire extinguishers and other appropriate safety gear should be readily accessible and current. If the marina is in a windy, choppy location or on a highly trafficked waterway, make sure it is protected by sufficient breakwaters.

Boats will always need something that isn't at hand. Is there an onsite boat store? Is it comprehensively stocked? Even with the largest ship's store, it's good to note how near the largest marine retailer is.

Another factor of the boating life is repairs. Does the marina offer work racks? Is there a charge for being put in/taken out of a work rack? Are you allowed to bring in your own outside contractor, or do you have to use their people? Are you allowed to work on your boat yourself? If you opt to go with one of the marina's people do you get a discount for being a marina resident?

If you're going into dry storage, ask exactly where your slot will be. Lower racks lead to dirtier boats, as the diesel dust from the forklift engine settles on them, not to mention drippings from boats above. Check out the building's storm rating.

Whether in dry storage or at a dock, ask how the marina handles storms. Some places make boaters remove their boat before a major event. Others expect your boat, if left at the marina, to have appropriate insurance coverage should it damage the docks, etc., during a storm. And speaking of insurance-related matters, check out the facility's coverage regarding accidents, fire, theft, vandalism or other damage your boat.

If you're a trailer boater, does the marina have provisions for storing your trailer as well? What is the cost of trailer storage? And while we're on the topic, does it charge each time you wish your boat loaded onto or off of its trailer?

If you're in the water and are one of those boaters who likes to be hauled into dry dock over the winter, can they accommodate?

Don't hesitate to ask all the questions you can think of before signing on the dotted line. Now is the time.

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