The team at VY Nieuwpoort have created this helpful and comprehensive guide to selecting a marina for your boat. From road access to yard services, this covers how to assess all those important factors to ensure a better boating experience!
You might already own a boat or have a dream of buying one, great! Acquiring the boat is the first step, the second one is deciding where you’ll leave it for the boating season. Everyone will have their own preferences, but in this article, we sum up the most important things you need to consider before deciding in which marina you’ll spend most of your time.
It’s important to decide what you want to do with the boat: do you like cruising on a lake/canal or do you want to sail on the sea? Canals and lakes are ideal for smaller boats or for a family trip with younger children. On the sea you’ll face tides, currents, waves so this may challenge you more. The type of boat you own will also play a part in the nature of your future boating waters.
Another question you need to ask is: How accessible is the marina? Is the marina located far away from your home? You may want to assess the levels of traffic between you and the marina, particularly for the days/time you can afford to get away. If you’re looking to stay multiple days on your boat, marinas further away are also options; this way every visit to your boat actually feels like a “holiday”. If your plans are more related to day sailing, you’re better off with a marina closer to your home. Check the availability of other marinas within a reasonable day’s sail.
The matter of accessing a boating area from the marina may also differ from one marina to another. Does the marina have access at all tides, or do you be careful about tides in order to come in safely? Is there a lock or bridge which you need to go through, or can you enter without passing obstacles?
Last but not least, you’ll need to look out for a marina with parking possibilities in or around the marina for your car. Some marinas include the parking space in their berth prices, in other marinas you’ll pay extra for a parking space in the marina.
Internal factors of the marina
Probably one of the most important things to take into account is the price of your berth.
In most cases you’ll pay for a season, but there are marinas where you can buy your berth or take a concession for a longer period. In most cases the berth prices will correspond to the number of services and quality of the marina. The calculation of the berth prices will most likely differ between multiple marinas. Some marinas will offer prices for an annual berth; others will calculate your price based on seasons (winter/summer). Always make sure you’re looking at the same periods if your comparing prices!
The type of berth also might change the price. Is your berth on a floating pontoon with 1 or two fingers on the side or do you have to moor with mooring lines? When the berth is on a hammerhead or against a main pontoon there’s a big chance you’ll pay extra. Make sure to check out the pontoons or quay as well to evaluate if these are being maintained properly.
The vast majority of marinas provide access to water and electricity at the berth. It’s good to know if the usage of water and electricity are included in the berth price and if not, the amount you pay extra for these services and how this is calculated.
Finally, you may encounter some marinas who charge an extra entry fee, the first year you take a berth in the marina. Others may offer a special deal for new berth-holders.
One of the most important facilities in the marina are showers and toilets. Having a well prepared and clean area to refresh yourself is a must! So is having an area where you can sit down after your sail trip to have a drink or a bite to eat. Most bars and restaurants in marinas have a good reputation and are accessible for everybody.
Activities in the marina such as regattas, sailing trips, social events, etc., can be an agreeable way to get to know the local waters and have more contact with marina staff and fellow boaters. Your pontoon neighbours can become new boating friends, and a great source of advice on boat maintenance, local anchorages, etc.
Winter storage and maintenance possibilities
Maintaining your boat properly is essential, with the hull in particular requiring some extra attention from time to time. Depending on the location, most boats will be hauled out of the water for the winter season for maintenance works. Check if there’s a possibility near the marina to lift the boat out of the water. Some marinas have their own yard and hoisting facilities, in other marinas you’ll have to contact an external company for the winter storage, or you may even have to go to another marina nearby.
It can be very useful to store the boat inside a hangar for the winter. For sailboats you’ll have to take down the mast first. Most service companies or marinas will be able to provide this service as well.
If you don’t like working on your boat, check out maintenance companies nearby the marina. Companies that can service the engine or carry out general repairs are the most essential. For mast and rigging checks or repairs, the availability of machinery to take you aloft safely can be very useful.
Management of the marina
Staff who have undertaken marina management courses, such as the Global Marina Institute management levels: Intermediate (IMM), Advanced (AMM) and Certified marina manager (CMM), can indicate a good level of professional operation, with the presence of a CMM at your marina marking a high standard.
Besides the staff, the philosophy and purpose of the marina can be very different between marinas. There are marinas run by yacht clubs (some might even be a non-profit organisation); some are public city or regionally managed marinas, and others are privately managed. Have a chat to resident boaters to hear their views and levels of satisfaction.
Opening hours and the availability of a harbour master or dock staff to help you when needed are very important! We assume you’ll spend a good amount of time on your boat on the weekend. The presence of somebody to help you with your questions on weekends or bank holidays is essential. Some marinas even provide a 24/24h service in their office or security surveillance at night.
Quality labels for marinas
Just like hotels, marinas have their own quality labels. Hotels can obtain stars (max 5 stars), and various certification levels also exist for marinas. One of these is the Gold Anchor scheme developed by The Yacht Harbour Association (TYHA) in Britain. They give marinas a complete evaluation based on a numerous service and safety-related factors in the marina. The result is a rating in an amount of gold anchors. Another is the IMCI Blue Stars system. In France, one such option is the Label Qualité Plaisance.
More related to environmental certification, many marinas opt to obtain the Blue Flag. More commonly seen on beaches, the Blue Flag for marina offer reassurance that each facility that flies the flag observes particular criteria related to safety, health and environmental management.
A few extras are always welcome! Most marina will provide their berth-holders with (often free) wifi. Please take into account that the marine environment and layout of the marina mean that it may well not equate to the power and speed of your average wifi connection at home.
If you own a motorboat, or indeed a sailing yacht, a fuel station either in or near to your home marina is essential. Check whether the marina also offers a pump out system for your waste tanks as this is also often located at the fuel station.
If you plan do a lot of work on your boat, you must check the waste disposal possibilities in the marina. This includes contaminant waste, such as used oil and filters, old paint containers, batteries, etc. The surrounding area should also be clean and tidy.
Some marinas will provide an extra service for their boaters by having a pool in the marina, a tennis court, gym, or watersports activities. These extras are not essential for boaters but depending on your and your crew’s interests, can be an additional attraction.
If you’re new to sailing, a real bonus is having a sailing school in the marina to learn all the necessary skills related to owning a boat. Having a competent crew on board will also assure you of a more relaxed boat trip.
Last but not least it’s important that you feel comfortable in “your” marina and that the people who work in the marina are competent. In the marina there should be a holiday atmosphere and you should feel welcome and relaxed every time you visit. If these three items are missing, you should probably look out for another marina.
Good luck with your search for the right marina!
VY Nieuwpoort, Belgium