Choosing a Marina (How to avoid ‘bad’ marina’s)

When sailing into a marina for a short stay there’s few considerations to make. When making a marina a full-time or long-term hub, however, there’s loads of variables to contemplate. Choosing a marina is not as simple as it might first appear to be. There are good and bad marina’s – read this to make sure you know how to choose a good one!

The considerations for a long-term marina stay all depend on how you plan to use your boat in regards to the marina.

If you’re interested in finding a marina to house your boat full time but want to take the boat out for day trips and the occasional week vacation, there will be a different set of requirements than on plans for living on the boat in a marina full time.

Some boat owners put a boat in a marina and are rarely step foot on it let alone take it out. Others, however, use their boat as a stationary weekend floating vacation home. And there are some that visit the boat as often as possible taking it out as much as possible.

On one hand you have boat owners that just need a place to store the boat and on the other side of the continuum you have boat owners living on the boat!

Choosing A Marina

Choosing A Marina

1. So, step one in choosing a marina is to determine what you’re going to use the marina for.

If you’re just putting the boat in a marina and won’t be staying on it, you won’t care if there’s an overhead flight path, a loud tourist pirate boat exhausting terrible fumes or an annoying smell coming from random directions. However, if you’re going to live on the boat or enjoy the boat (in the marina) those things will be a big issue!

If you’re going to use the boat several times a month to go out and race or explore the area you’ll want a marina that is easy to get in and out of. You might also want quite a few restaurants nearby when the weather is bad and you have to stay put.

And as for liveaboards, there’s a long list of things to find out to ensure that the marina will be suitable. Perhaps there’s the need for clean hot showers, calm waters, quite surroundings, access to close supermarkets and more.

After you know why you’ll be using a marina you can then create a list of questions relevant to your needs.

2. Step two is to research marinas in your preferred area.

The first way to narrow down marinas is to determine what you can and cannot get to. If your keel is deep that might instantly help you to cross a few marina’s off the list. If the conditions to get into the marina are severe – perhaps only at high tide, that might also cause you to scratch it off the list.

Once you narrow down the available marinas then it’s time to get into the nitty gritty and compare and contrast things that are most important to you.

After we purchased our boat in Majorca we sailed her to Gibraltar. When looking for a mooring in Gib we wanted a safe place for our boat for the least cost. Our plan wasn’t to stay on the boat and once we returned we’d be leaving so the ultimate priority was to keep our boat safe and secure.

When we wintered in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily our list of requirements included:

  • a good price
  • walking access to supermarkets and restaurants
  • good showers and facilities
  • a welcoming live aboard community

When finding a location in America for a long-term stay our first priority was good schools for our daughter. After that we wanted clean facilities, a kind live aboard community and quiet surroundings.

3. Step three is to call the marina and ask as many questions as possible so to determine if the marina is the right marina for you…and if you’re able, visit the marina in person!

When we went to Gibraltar and Marina di Ragusa we didn’t have the ability to visit the marina’s ahead of time. We, however, did loads of research by asking the marina staff loads of questions, doing internet searches on cruising bloggers and visited many sailing groups.

For Charleston Harbor Marina, however, we were able to physically inspect the marina before deciding to stay long term. When we went to the marina office we asked our routine set of questions. My husband and I then walked around to check out the things that were important to us. We looked at the laundry area and the showers and bathrooms. We also walked the docks, looked at available slips and determined what would be best for prominent airflow.

While walking around my husband and I also went up to everyone that looked like they might be a live aboard. Doing so allowed us to ask even more questions. We asked what the level of service was with the marina staff. Additionally, how safe the area was. And whether or not the marina cared if you worked on your boat or not. We’d also ask if the electricity stayed on in addition to having ongoing access to running water.

Hands down you’ll get a far better picture about the marina by talking to tenants rather than the marina staff.

Due to the fact that my family and I have been to hundreds of marina’s over the past several years we’ve seen the worst of the worst and the best of the best. Staying at a bad marina for a couple days is okay. But signing a long-term contract and being ‘stuck’ in a bad marina is not a situation you want to find yourself in. Keep reading below the video to find out what I mean by a ‘Bad’ marina…

Choosing a Marina – Video

What makes a bad marina?

We’ve been to marinas where the docks are breaking apart from the marina (unsafe). There’s no electric, no water and no WIFI. A bad marina will have dirty unkept facilities – perhaps no shower curtains, or hot water,  or soap or toilet seats. Syracuse Marina in Sicily comes to mind as I write this list.

Bad marina’s will have major traffic causing waves and massive movement on the boat. Or a bad marina might be one where there’s a constant swell or movement. Movements can cause the boat to make never-ending noises not to mention it’s not good for your rigging!

There are loads of things that can make a marina ‘bad’ in relation to what you want to use the marina for. Make sure to first determine what you want out of a marina. Then research your options and finally do your research.

Here’s over 60 questions to ask a prospective marina…

Would you like to take advantage of our experience on marina’s? Would you like to ask ALL the questions necessary to make an informed choice? If yes, grab a copy of our Boat Owners: Choosing A Marina guide… (Click on the image of the guide below for more information).