In my short time owning my boat I am finding that there are a lot of different 'levels' of Marina. I've made some stops in various Marina's in the general vicinity of Annapolis. Some are very bare-bones, some are strict and uninviting, some are out of my reach price wise.
I also have to admit I kinda' ruined myself to start with. The marina I settled on is very nice. It's like a small country club without the golf. Herrington Harbor North in Deale, MD. Their amenities have amenities.
When I purchased my boat very impulsively in December of 2020 I didn't have a marina lined up to take her to. The gentleman I purchased her from gave me some ideas of Marinas to call but it was winter so I wasn't shocked when a few places I called were less than eager to pick up the phone or return a call from my voicemail.
I was excited and nervous. I purchased her from a local non-profit in Annapolis CRAB (Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating) who helps individuals with disabilities get access to boating. They had a building and slips that used to be a marina that they were getting ready to renovate to serve the needs of the non-profit. They were kind enough to allow me to keep the boat there for a few weeks while I lined up a marina. But the clock was ticking, the dock and slips were about to be demolished so I had to hurry.
I quickly learned that searching for a suitable marina is not that simple. I searched google maps for all the marinas I could find, but I started to learn that there are parameters I needed to consider. So I thought I would put down some of those considerations in the off chance it could help someone else completely new to this crazy endeavor of owning a sailboat.
Draft of my boat. I draw 6 feet of water and not every marina can handle that.
Length of my boat. It's a Pearson 36' so even though the marina may have deep enough water and available slips, those available slips may not be long enough.
Liveaboard vs. a hard no. Some marinas will tell you no liveaboards but allow an occasional sleep over, while others are rather adamant that only the boat stays the night. Others are more geared towards cruisers. I fell in between. I have a home 2 hours from the marina but when it's time for me to spend time on the boat, I like to stay for a bit.
Boatyard. Can you work on your boat? My boat was a bit of a dumpster fire when I got her.. and I'm still putting out the flames. (I didn't know how dumpstery she was but that's another story.) The ability to haul out at a proper boat yard to do the necessary work on my boat was critical. I didn't want to be sneaking around a boatyard where the rules are super strict and they don't let you do your own work like bottom jobs etc.
Location. If the only thing that's happening at the marina is the marina, that can get pretty boring. I needed a location that offered convenient basics. A nearby hardware store, a grocery store, a chandlery. And a sushi restaurant (OK, that's a bit much but I got lucky). A few good bars to saddle up to doesn't hurt either... got lucky there too. There were some options in marinas that were in some pretty remote spots and their price was less but the remoteness and lack of local life would have bummed me out, as well as the commute.
Slip Location. Being a newbie and having a 36 foot boat can make the idea of docking an anxiety filled mess. So when they told me the slips that were available I immediately got on Google Maps to see how tight of a situation I would be in for docking. I checked the currents as best I could to see what I would be dealing with on an average day. Fortunately, because my boat drafts 6 feet, they had to put pretty far out on the dock so when I leave or return to the slip I don't have to navigate a herd of yachts that are all a potential for me to smack into. For me, the farther out the better.
Amenities. I'll break this down to needs vs. wants.
Needs: Good shower and restroom facilities with privacy. It's a no brainer. A clean shower and bathroom makes all the difference in the world. A place to do laundry. Also a lounge with decent internet. I work in tech so that's kind of important to me.
Wants: My marina has amazing facilities and amenities so unfortunately the bar is going to remain high for me with certain things. I'm ruined. A good gym, multiple lounges, a large selection of vending machines, wi-fi in all the buildings and slips, a pool (with a bar), bikes for use on property, well stocked ice freezers that work on the honor system, and quality water for drinking.
Security. I am learning an important lesson I wish I didn't have to but the things I'm doing/adding to my boat are expensive. New electronics, batteries, solar, anchor, etc. All this stuff is very expensive so having a marina that keeps a good eye on my boat while I'm not aboard is important.
Friendly. On the flip side of security, not hassling me about silly things is appreciated - like forgetting to unplug my boat when I leave it for a few hours on the hard. Or if they do, a friendly reminder as opposed to being nasty about it is preferred. (I'm speaking from a little experience on that one) Basically a friendly marina staff that care about the customer. For the most part the staff at Herrington Harbor are friendly.
So my boat has been in the marina for almost two years now, with a majority of that time on the hard. They put me back in what I call "Death Row" and initially I was offended. (read that article here) But it turned out to be the best decision both for the marina and me. I am way back in the yard hidden among the derelict boats where I can work on my boat in peace without a ton of other people or marina staff to have to bother with me. I was also placed near a few other misfits that I have become close with and look forward to long friendships with. We stick out from the rest of the 'country club members' but that's alright. Every country club needs a little Bill Murray.
The marina has become a haven for me. Even while my boat is in chaos during her refit, I can always slide the tools and materials aside to find a space to crash.. to lay there and envision the future of cruising her to far off places. And any amenity I need is available on site. I can work on her until the late evening, have a drink with my fellow misfits, sleep, and wake up to get back to working on her again. Shower, coffee, gym, whatever I need to start and get through my day is on site.
I have a proper slip and she will be going back in the water very soon. The marina with its amenities and location fit me well for the time being. In the future I will likely try to secure something closer to Annapolis as my personal situation changes.. more nightlife, closer to friends.. but for now it works and any location I look for will have big shoes to fill.
When I get to proper cruising I can definitely see that I will want to stay on the hook where possible, but for now, I'll take the country club lifestyle my marina has to offer ~ sans golf. (I don't like golf that much anyways).
Mike D. is the founder of Sail Junky Magazine. Striving to find more purpose in life, Mike writes and shares about his journey to rediscover his passion for living a fulfilled life, especially through the medium of sailing. email@example.com