What Does the Typical Boater Want in a Marina?
Bellingham Marine interviews a group of average boaters to see what they look for in a marina.
Megayachts may be among the fastest growing segments of the boating world but ownership of mid-sized boats still trumps the market. Statistics published by the NMMA in 2011 reveal that boats 30’ to 50’ in length dominate the U.S. market making up over 77% of total registered boats.
Although it’s difficult to accurately state the average slip size of the over 12,000 marinas in the United States a best guess would put it somewhere in the 35’ – 40’ range. Given these numbers, it’s easy to see that the 30’ – 50’ boat is the bread and butter of most marinas.
So, what do these boaters want? Determined to find out, Bellingham Marine reached out to a group of average boaters to see what they look for in a marina. All were seasoned boaters; all had a lot to say about what they’re looking for.
After talking with a variety of boaters, one thing is clear — all boaters, regardless of the length of their vessel, want to be treated like they matter, they want to have access to modern amenities, they want a safe, stable place to moor their boat, and they want a friendly experience. These wants and desire are just as true for the owner of a 30’ boat as they are for the captain and crew of a superyacht.
Herein lies the challenge though for the marina that caters to both large and small boats. A balance must be found between providing megayachts with the extra conveniences they’re willing to pay for and showing the average boater that they matter – a task not easily done when both deserve VIP treatment and preferential moorage. Nothing rubs the average boater the wrong way more than being pushed aside for the bigger boat.
That being said, among the things most important to all boaters is service. An engaging, competent and courteous dock staff can make all the difference in a boater’s experience. Reach out to your boaters with resources and services. Engage your permanent tenants – send out a regular newsletter and schedule activities for both genders. For your visiting boaters, provide transportation to nearby businesses, whether it is by shuttle or bike rental. Also provide a list of businesses in the area that have services visiting boaters may need – repair facilities, laundry (if not on-site), grocery stores, shopping, restaurants, etc…
Next on all boaters’ lists of things that matter, is access to modern amenities. Among the top amenities most important aside from power and water are access to internet and cable TV at the slip and convenient sewage pumpout also preferably at the slip. One of the top complaints from boaters is spotty Wi-Fi service. Some marinas are spread out over a large area or have a number of big boats up front. If this describes your facility, it is likely that without proper equipment your Wi-Fi coverage will not reach all your berths. If you offer Wi-Fi it’s important your coverage reach your outermost slips with a strong reliable signal. If not, some of your boaters will leave frustrated and dissatisfied.
A safe and well maintained floating dock system is also important to boaters. Boat docks that present a danger to the vessel, are hard to get on and off, and are cluttered with equipment and personal belongings are always a problem. A well maintained, sturdy dock system with wide, clear walkways and appropriately sized freeboard will ensure your facility is one that boaters rave about. Full length fingers are also a must. They provide a safety and convenience factor that all boaters appreciate.
Beyond the marina’s services, its docks and its amenities is the cleanliness of the facilities. Spotless bathrooms and showers, orderly laundry facilities, well-kept grounds, and clutter free docks show boaters that you take pride in your facility and they will too. Building a sense of pride among your boaters is important. It will give them a sense attachment to your facility.
A few other items boaters mentioned were secure bike racks, ample parking, long and short term storage, a small covered work area on the hard, a convenience store, and good security throughout the facility. Sitting down with an experienced marina consultant during the planning phases of a rebuild or new marina construction will ensure that all these needs are appropriately addressed in the master plan.
In general, the comments of what boaters want in their home port marina echoed those of what they look for in the marinas they visit. However, to no surprise, use and services offered at the transient dock was a popular topic when the discussion shifted to transient facilities. Those marinas that standout as an exceptional experience to visiting boaters have a transient dock dedicated to visitors, it is not used for long term moorage. The best of the best also have a dockhand at the transient dock that can assist with paperwork and billing right at the slip. It’s a service not all marinas are equipped to offer but if you’re able to, it will definitely be appreciated.
Whether you’re planning a new marina or have a long established operation it’s good to check in with the patrons of your facility to make sure you’re providing the services and amenities they’re looking for.