Private docks on the Bay? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 29 Old 08-25-2010 Thread Starter
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Private docks on the Bay?

My wife and I are relatively new sailors, having just started last year. We love it, and have been thinking about the Chesapeake Bay as a possible place to eventually retire. We mostly sail a Dufour 365 on Lake Michigan, and would expect to own a 36-44' boat, possibly taking it cruising in the Caribbean in the winter.

I've poked around the web and looked at real estate, and I see that some beachfront houses have docks that project out a fair ways into the bay. My question is, are these generally usable for the size boat we're talking about? Or would we be looking at putting the boat in a marina anyway? They don't look all that well protected, but wondered anyway. What are these docks mainly intended for?

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post #2 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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My wife and I are in the process of buying waterfront property on the Bay. The docks are intended for private use. The trouble is finding a dock with deepwater access. "Deepwater" being defined as 5+ feet sufficient for a sailboat. Location is everything though. North Beach, for example, is pretty much out for sailboats. Wide shoal, hard bottom and average depth of 2 feet.

A good shopping criteria for waterfront property on the Bay is to look for the presence of masts. This usually indicates deepwater and a potential candidate.


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post #3 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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There are always exceptions but for the most part piers out into the main Chesapeake are fair weather piers. This bay can REALLY kick up at times. You will most definatly want to be on a creek. If you are looking to buy a place with deep water docking there are plenty to be had but of course the better the docking, the higher the price. Also price decreases as you go further from Annapolis. Marinas aren't a bad choice either, my wife and I often discuss downsizing and moving on the water but then figure keeping a boat at the marina is easier and cheaper. In MD as a waterfront property owner you cant nail two sticks of wood together without surveys, permits, pay offs, sacrafices, burnt offerings...well you get the point. Most of our friends who live on the water constantly complain not only about Government intrusion but about how most of their neighbors are idiots who will turn them in for ANYTHING! They warn me that if I bought a house on the water I'd probably wind up in jail. Anyway, even with all that I just might end up with waterfront one day.

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post #4 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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Having just gone through the pier building process, I can tell you it is a pain to jump through all of the hoops, but after a summer of having one, it's been worth all of the headaches. That being said, I would look for a house that already has one in place. There are quite a few on the market right now and the middle/lower bay will be the most reasonably priced, primarily because of the distance to any large metropolitan areas such as Annapolis, Baltimore, or the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach areas.
The piers that you see jutting out into the bay don't usually have a long life span, but the piers in protected coves can last a couple of decades, but will need TLC to make them last. Keeping the boat at the marina is definately cheaper if you multiply the slip fee times "X" number of years you plan on boating and you will come out ahead.

Good luck!
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post #5 of 29 Old 08-25-2010 Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info! I suspected as much on those piers (being for fair weather), but thought it was worth asking. Sounds like there will be no substitute for driving around and looking for masts near creeks. OK, a good realtor should be able to help. :-) Too bad that the view on a creek isn't as nice though!

Likely our best bet is finding housing near a marina instead of trying for a private dock. I know that there are plenty of condos around, if that's the way we wanted to go. Well, this is a long-term project anyway - but a man can dream!
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post #6 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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swamp has a point..the deeper, easier access to the bay, the pricier the property is going to be...although there are some real bargains on the Northern Neck of VA...$1M two or three years ago...well under $500K now..

In VA, there is the usual county/state confusion as to what is legal...then you have the chesapeake bay protection act that basically won't let you do ANYTHING within the first 125' of waterfront, measured from the high side of the mean high water debris line...then if any of the neighbors want to jump in they are free to do so if you are going to upset their "vista", then you get to deal with the Army Corp of Engineers, which takes years if you want to build a new pier or seawall or breakwater, months if you want to repair.

then you get to do clearing permits, then health dept applications, then soil work, then septic permits, then well permits, then site plans, then meet the county zoning supervisor for "siting" and setbacks, then building permits, etc..each step cost you money..even cutting scrub pines or poison ivy in the 125' zone can land you in hot water with the county...and they will try to tell you this is "virgin growth" butt...and you can not disturb the "understory"...they know little about what they are seeing

And if you are not a local or born here, then it best to find a local who speaks the language and knows who to go to for what.

In some parts of the state you can not build with SIPS, or build over the water, yet the majority of the site plan is to control surface runoff. And the state says it is legal to do..conflict of zoning...

Boat houses are a beast altogether...a prospective buyer of my 2.5 acre lot with pier wanted to build a boat house over the existing pier...merely had to get written permission from the property owners on either side of my property and he was set to go...

But you can not live in a boat house...I tried that...

Be real careful with "sail boat depth" water measurements...they may be only 12-18" when the wind is blowing a certain way and 2 feet the other way...Base all your offers on MLW (mean low water) or have it verified....a local realtor has a 10' piece of EMT with a foot on the end...and will walk the pier showing you just how deep the water is...creative realtors even call sediment ponds in the new developments "waterfront" along with small ponds and brackish creeks.

Truly Caveat emptor...
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post #7 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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Private docks on Chesapeake sucks for sailboat except on Severn River. But if you can afford it (2 to $10 MM home), it is doable. For me, I would rather get a house a few miles from the marina in Eastern Shore and save the money to buy a bigger boat and sail further.

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post #8 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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How about community marinas, such as the one on Swan Creek.


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post #9 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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I would respectfully disagree with a lot of what has been presented here. While I agree that keeping your boat permanently tied up at a dock in the bay is not a reasonable thing to do, there is are a very large number of privately owned deepwater (over 7 feet) slips on protected bodies of water in places other than the Severn River. Within a short sail of the Severn River there are privately owned deepwater docks on the South River, Mill Creek, Whitehall Creek, the Magothy River, the Chester River. But there are similar creeks and rivers all over the Bay from the Little Choptank to the Susquehanna.

Most of the creeks are perhaps 10-15 minutes from bodies of water that you can sail into and out of and which connect to the Bay. Much of the perimeter of the bay has small protected creeks and many are quite deep by east coast standards.

While the Chesapeake does have critical area laws that attempt to protect the shoreline, the setbacks vary with state and jurisdiction. In Maryland the standard setback is 100 feet but there are areas where this is reduced substantially as a part of Maryland's 'Smart Growth' policies.

It is not all that hard to get a pier permit on navigable waters but again this varies with jurisdiction. Many of us pier owners allow people to tie up at our piers and many rent slips. Before I bought my house and put in my docks, I lived in this area for nearly 20 years and only paid for a slip perhaps two of those years. The rest of the time, friends let me keep my boat at their docks or else I rented places that threw in dock usage.

I would not say that the views on the creeks are not as nice. What makes a view 'nice' is of course subjective but You can find creeks with long views to the Bay, or wilderness views, or working waterfronts.


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post #10 of 29 Old 08-25-2010
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I bought my waterfront house on the Bay (Cool Spring Cove on Magothy river) in Septermber of 2008.

I had to rebuild a bulkhead and a pier. I can not tell you the nightmares that I had with fines, permits, more fines, nosey neighbors that call inspectors, court appearences, ... did I mention the fines? For cutting wisteria? Yep. $1000 dollars for trimming wisteria off a tree. Yep. I needed a grading permit.. which wasn't too expensive, it just took weeks and weeks to get. I had to wait for a Federal forester to say "yep, you can cut that...Where do I sign?" Heck, they let me cut anything! I just needed Federal, State and Local agreement. In writing.

I started building a pier, had a dishonest contractor (he forged his license numbers). The state sued him, as did the county. Then I had to go to court as a witness for the county. (Which was great, because I knew right where it was from dealing with my own one point the prosecutor forgot that I was a witness for the prosecution this week and not a defendant...) No joke.

Ok. Where was I. Oh yeah. There is nothing better than walking out your livingroom down a flight of steps (Good luck getting those permits) and on to your boat.

There are great deals out there. I've had my boat at a Marina, that was great, but I prefer to have it at my house. If you're looking for waterfront property, visit it several times from the water. Check depths and remember that in the Winter when the wind comes from the North, the bay is empty and the low tides will be several feet lower than they are in the summer at low tide.

Here's a shot from a distance. It's the small house with the "brown" front yard. You'll notice how the vegetation completely took over the neighbors house? That's exactly what my house looked like. It's killing all the trees. That's what I was trimming.

Here's a closer shot showing the dock, bulkhead, and my stairs. I started this project in January 2009. The stairs were just finished three weeks ago. Construction is the EASY part. Paperwork is the nightmare.

My boat is a 34 with a shoal draft four feet. There are plenty of people with deeper keels on the bay. Once you get above 6 feet though, waterfront gets really pricey and is probably already really developed. That's my impression.

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Last edited by craigtoo; 08-25-2010 at 03:37 PM. Reason: TYPO
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