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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

My wife and I are new to sailing -- started out on dinghies last summer and got our basic keelboat certification in October. We are thinking about buying a boat at some point in the next year and are thinking ahead about a number of different issues we will confront. One such issue is how to choose a marina. We live in Fairfield County, CT, where there are several options, including full-service commercial marinas, municipal marinas, private slips (often rented by condo owners), and yacht clubs.

Question: what should we be on the lookout for in looking for a good place to keep a boat? Cost and convenience are obvious factors, but what other questions should we be asking?

Any and all thoughts would be much appreciated!
 

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Aside from the obvious location specifics like how close to home, how close to shopping, how close to sailing, here is what I would consider.

Amenities?
- Pump out, fuel, restaurant/bar, showers, laundry, service

What is included?
- Electric, water, pump out, parking

Security/protection from storms?
- From the water, from the land

Environment?
- Lots of parties, nice views, etc

Narrow down your choices by price/location and then ask some sailors who keep their boats at each of them to help decide.

The 2 main reason we chose our marina is that it is close to work(walking distance) and offers decent protection. Other pluses are parking, electric, water and cable included. Restaurant, laundry, showers, fuel, pump out on site.
 

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Location and location. That is, close to home and close to interesting uncrowded waters for weekend cruising. By far the most important factors to us.

Other than that, the bathrooms on shore, the market across the street, and a dumpster for the trash are nice amenities and about all we need.
 

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TLDR (roughly ordered):
* quick access to good sailing
* well maintained docks, boats
* clean bathrooms
* lots of sailboats
* price

Walk the docks and see how clean it is. You can quickly tell if a marina is well maintained and encourages tenants to be tidy or if it is full of derelicts or other problem boats.

A clean bathroom is a very nice feature to have.

Check out how the access is to where you want to sail. Nothing is more annoying then having to motor for 30 minutes down a long narrow access to actually start sailing your boat. Are the fairways wide enough to make your docking easy?

I went from about the cheapest moorage inside the city of Seattle ($175/mo for a 26' dock) to one on the spendier side ($315/mo for a 30' dock). That was an expensive move, but it got me access to better sailing, clean bathrooms, a cleaner and better maintained marina, and a huge sailing community. It was well worth it. The cheaper one was actually private, the expensive one is city-owned.
 

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I agree with all above and would like to add one more. A marina management that is not heavily into a rule book. I've been in marinas where you can't hang a wet towel on the lifelines to dry (let alone some laundry) and I've heard of some that require all boats to slip bow first, among other idiotic rules. Someone posted recently on here about a marina that requires single cord electrical hook ups, (a huge extra expenditure for what I can only assume is purely esthetic reasons). I've even heard of marinas that require rubber snubbers on dock lines; like the nylon I've been using for 50+ years just isn't good enough for their marina.
Nothing makes spending a weekend or residency in a marina worse than "condo commandos" in a marina, and a rule book as thick as War and Peace.
 
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Addendum:

Are you looking for a parking place or a club?

It is nice to know the neighbours in the harbour. Get some help (strange enough, one always gets advice), borrow tools and so on. And vv!

Also this you get a feeling for just walking around in the harbour.

/J
 

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I would also consider mooring vs. slips. When we first got our boat, we had a slip. Learned a lot the hard way about maneuvering under power, but I was always anxious at the end of the day.

We're now on a mooring at a marina with a launch. Easy out, easy back and sails are up 5 minutes after dropping the line.
 

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Check out how the access is to where you want to sail. Nothing is more annoying then having to motor for 30 minutes down a long narrow access to actually start sailing your boat.
Amen to that. My wife was wondering if we should change from our current marina, which is on our local naval air station (clean, inexpensive, basic amenities) to the marina across the river where we have all our work done. Even if our marina hadn't been less expensive, I just couldn't fathom motoring down about 20 -30 minutes just to get to the river which leads to the bay versus having the river be just outside our marina.

Also as Jaramaz asks: are you looking for just a decent place to keep your boat, or are you looking for a sailing community? Our is definitely the former, though lots of marinas around here (Southern Maryland) are really nice sailing and social communities. We weren't interested in that, but if you are, you will want to get a feel for how people relate to each other. Marinas, like other neighborhoods can have a sense of culture to them.

And you want to be in the right 'hood....:D
 

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If you are in Fairfield county, yacht clubs will be quite expensive...if you can get in. Moorings are few and far between, so that leaves you with marinas. Find the Brewer Marina most convenient to you and you won't go wrong. They are a top shelf organization.
 

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There are some details or sub-topics to the safety and security aspect.

Boat US and others have done some work on evaluating what kind of marinas protect boats best during storms.

Having attentive management/dockmasters and boat neighbors who know you just might come in very handy if there's ever a problem with your boat. Does the staff walk the docks? How often?

A very poorly wired or maintained marina electrical system could be bad both for your boat or for anyone who goes in the water; there are probably folks here who could advise you on how to check for that easily.

How does the marina control access and does that fit your expectations for the right balance of security vs. access for your guests? How does the marina control vendors; do you have to use their service providers/a very limited list of approved vendors or are there reasonable requirements for letting your favorite electronics guy, boat cleaner, etc., work on your boat?

How lenient or anal is the marina about what kind of work can be done on your boat? How does that fit the balance you want between convenience to fix stuff, and not wanting neighbors going hog wild doing heavy, noisy, or nasty work?

Would you be paying for a lot of services you don't use versus it not having much of what you want?

Does it feel like a nice neighborhood for you? On a busy Saturday as well as on a slow weekday?

Do employees/dockmasters/office folks tend to stick around or is everyone new to the place?
 

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When we got our first boat, my primary consideration was the access to a bathroom. We had a Catalina 25 with a port-a-potty, and I knew my kids would fill that thing in no time if we couldn't use the bathroom before we departed. We picked an inexpensive marina on Great Egg Bay in NJ. It was in the back bay, away from the other boat traffic, which made it GREAT for us when we were still figuring stuff out (not that we're any better now, mind you). Unfortunately, what I hadn't considered was the orientation of the marina with respect to the prevailing winds. The wind in NJ comes from the south through most of the summer. Our marina pointed almost due south, and all the slips pointed that way, too. The fairway ran east-west. When the forecast winds were 5-10 knots, the wind would pick up across the bay and we'd see 10-15 at the marina. That breeze pushed the boat sideways quite a bit in the narrow fairway. The first time we came in during strong(ish) winds, I tried to stay to the south side of the fairway, but it was tough. We wound up pinned against two pilings with our boat dangerously close to two 150HP outboards. We managed to get off with the help of one of the other boaters at the marina, but it was a scary experience none the less. That boat was totaled in a storm, but we had already decided that we weren't going to stay at that marina the following season. Our new marina is on a somewhat narrow, tree-lined river that twists and turns, and generally runs east to west. We don't typically see strong winds at the slip unless it's really howling on Barnegat Bay, and in that case, I'm going to hang out at the dock anyway.

Another big problem with the old marina was that there really wasn't anything within walking distance. We were in a busy shore town, but the marina was fairly isolated. If we wanted to get food, ice, etc., we had to get it before we got to the marina, or we'd have to hop in the car and go for a 15 minute drive. That made things a bit of a pain.

I still think amenities that meet your needs (clean bathrooms, shower?, cable TV?, pool?, laundry?) are most important, but also consider how protected the marina is from wind/weather, and its proximity to other things you might want/need.
 

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"A clean bathroom is a very nice feature to have."
In the original "What Color is Your Parachute?" job-hunting book, the author tells interviewees to go look at the bathroom first. If the company doesn't give a damn about the bathrooms, they don't give a damn about the employees, so just leave.
I've noticed over the years that the same thing applies to all sorts of businesses. If they can't take care of the bathrooms, they aren't taking care of business. Pretty much 100% of the time.
 

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Besides location, a lot depends upon what YOU are looking for. You probably don't need a laundry or showers, since you can do that at home. Are you planning to spend time on the boat in the slip, or will you be out sailing to other places and not actually spend much time there yourselves? Have you considered a mooring instead of a slip? Do you have children who need shoreside distractions? A dog that needs a walking/relief area? Where do you live? It can take more than an hour to go from one end of Fairfield County to the other, even outside of weekday rush hours. How big a boat are you expecting, and what do you expect to do with it? All these points will make a difference in the harbor and setup that works best for you. We've belonged to several clubs, depending upon what worked best for us at the time. We moor at our club, but overwinter at Captain's Cove in Black Rock Harbor because it's close by and less expensive than some others. There are lots of options and you have to decide what suits you best.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Wow - twelve replies on one afternoon -- I can't tell you how happy I am to know that I am not the only person sitting around on a frigid January day thinking about sailing! Thanks to all of you for the excellent advice!

Looks like the best approach will be to check out all of the options in person and chat with the people we meet there. We will use Active Captain as a resource for that.

We would consider a mooring, but as luv4sailin points out, there aren't many options in this area outside of the yacht clubs. By contrast, there are a number of marinas nearby, so that is where we will focus for now.

The comments people have made about a parking place vs. a community are something else we are going to need to consider -- I had not thought about that. Same goes for time/distance from casting off to raising sails. So much to learn!

Much appreciated!
 

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Some great advice in this thread. Something to consider is the marina dock's finger arrangement- many marinas use short fingers with pilings, other have fingers that run the full length of the slip. Think about the LOA of your prospective boat choices and your flexibility and mobility needs when looking at a prospective marina.
 

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Hey,

This is a good thread to read while I wait for a blizzard to arrive.

Before you make plans to start visiting places you should make a few phone calls and see what's available. Here on the south side of the LI Sound (north shore of LI) there are lots and lots of places to keep a boat. And lots and lots of WAITING lists for slips and / or moorings. So, while it would be nice to be picky and ask all sorts of questions about facilities, finger piers, hurricane plans and the like, the facts of the matter are that you will probably have to take what is available (at least for now).

I started sailing in 2003. I am close to Port Jefferson and Mt. Sinai. I called Port Jeff - no slips at the town dock (and a 10 year wait), moorings available in the sound but launch service was over $500 for the rest of season (Aug to October), Setauket yacht club had no slips, joining the yacht club to use the launch was too expensive). I called Mt. Sinai - no slips available at the town facility (and another 10 year wait), no moorings available. I didn't bother contacting the yacht club or the Fishing station. So for the rest of that year (August to October) I trailer sailed the boat.

The next year I sent in my mooring permit application on Jan 1 and was fortunate to get a mooring space in Mt. Sinai. Since then I have learned:
-That having the boat close to you is really great. I like having my boat 15-20 minutes from me. I'm fortunate that the town facility is close by and affordable ($150 for mooring permit, and around $400 to have the mooring dropped in the spring and hauled in the fall). This allows me to use my boat often. It's easy in the summer to go for a dinner sail, or a sunset sail, or just have lunch aboard.
-Being close to open water is great. In Port Jeff harbor it can take over 30 minutes to go from slip or mooring to the sound. During that trip there may be large ferries and lots of other boating traffic. In Mt. Sinai it takes about 5 minutes to go from mooring to the sound.
-I don't really care about shore side amenities. I don't need a shower, store, restaurant, or other facilities. I have my boat for those things.

That's enough for now.
Barry
 

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* Ask around about storm damage from the last hurricane. If boats were damaged, look further inside the creek. Often expensive marinas near the mouth (convenient) have horrendous damage tolls. Often storm surge lifts the waves clear over low jetties and wooden barriers.

* Are you going to join the social aspect, race or hang-out? Or are you going to jump on the boat and go out? Personally, I have little use for facilities, as my boat is well self-contained and the social scene means nothing to me. Determine which sort you think you are, to get the right fit.
 

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Have a look at the Shennacoset(sp) Yacht club, I hear good things about them, if a good basic marina is what you are after maybe Pine Island marina, its next door, both are over by Avery Point in Groton, Fishers Island sound and Long Island sound are right in front of both locations a five to ten minute motor and your sailing. Happy hunting.
 

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Also consider where you want to go when you sail. The sound is narrower w/ less wind in the summer on the western end.
If you want to cruise to Block, Buzzards bay and the islands you need a day sailing to get out of the sound from the western end vs. an hour driving to the eastern end.
Jim
 
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