Tips for choosing a liveaboard marina

Once you’ve made the decision to live on your boat, the next thing you need to consider is where you are going to keep it once you’re living aboard. Finding liveaboard space at a marina in the Puget Sound is tough, but if you are diligent and willing to make some sacrifices, it is possible […]

Once you’ve made the decision to live on your boat, the next thing you need to consider is where you are going to keep it once you’re living aboard. Finding liveaboard space at a marina in the Puget Sound is tough, but if you are diligent and willing to make some sacrifices, it is possible to live on your boat in the marina of your choice.

The first thing to do, though, is to figure out what you need in a home marina. Here are a few things to consider.

How many amp power service does your boat require?

Most boats come with either a 30-amp or 50-amp connection, but not all marinas offer both. If your boat requires a 50-amp hookup, you’ll need to make sure the marina you keep your boat in can accommodate that. Some marinas, like ours, only offer 30-amp connections, which is a problem for larger boats.

Do you prefer a lively marina or a quiet marina?

When you live on your boat, your marina is your neighborhood. You might be looking for a community where liveaboards spend time together, have evening get-togethers or regular social activities. Or you might be looking for peace and quiet away from others. It is important to know what kind of social atmosphere your potential marina provides before committing to living there.

How close to town do you want to be?

One of the draws to the marina where we live is that it is right in town. We can walk from our boat to restaurants, stores, coffee shops, whatever we need. We love that we are close enough that we don’t have to drive anywhere. But there are drawbacks to that as well. There are always people milling about and we have to walk through the public parking lot to get from our boat to the port’s facilities. For us, this is a fair trade-off, but if you prefer peace, quiet and solitude, a marina farther outside of town might be worth the drive in when you need to access shops, restaurants, etc.

How many cars do you have?

If you are a couple living on a boat and you each have a car, parking will be something you need to consider. For us, living in the middle of town, parking is almost always a challenge, especially with two cars. Other marinas, usually farther away from downtown areas, have ample parking and even offer multiple spots for tenants with multiple cars. Ask potentials marinas what their parking is like before making a commitment.

Will you need to commute to your job?

In an area like the Puget Sound, many people have jobs in the bigger cities, like Seattle or Tacoma. Commuting to these cities may require some planning, but living on a boat outside of these cities doesn’t mean you can’t commute to them for work. In fact, between ferries, buses and the light rail, you can get to almost anywhere you need without having to take your car. There are so many beautiful marinas outside of the cities, don’t let fear of your commute keep you from considering one of them.

Do you have pets?

Not all marinas allow pets. Some allow some kinds of pets and not others. Some allow up to a certain size pet, and some have specific rules and fees associated with having a pet. Be sure to check with potential marinas before you assume Fido will be as welcome as you are.

Once you have narrowed down your search, consider the following about each marina:

What kind of storm protection does the marina have?

Most all marinas have some type of breakwater to protect boats from damage caused by storms, but when you’re talking about living aboard, you need to be concerned with more than just damage. Storms can be particularly disruptive to sleep. Between the wind whistling through masts and clanging lines, potential swell in the marina and the occasional heeling over in your slip, the more wind protection you can find, the better you’ll sleep during those nasty storms.

Is the marina publicly owned or privately?

While this shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker, it’s a good thing to know going in. Publicly-owned marinas have a board of elected commissioners who make decisions regarding port policies and procedures in a forum where the public can come and watch or even offer input. The policies and procedures of a privately-owned marina are made by the private owners of that marina and are not subject to any kind of input from tenants. There are pros and cons to each, but when you’re talking about living on your boat, it’s good to know how your “neighborhood” is run.

Are there additional fees for being a liveaboard?

Most marinas charge a liveaboard fee of some sort. Some charge per person, some charge per boat, and a few have no fee at all. The fee is at the discretion of the marina, and it can range from as low as $50 per month to as high as double your moorage rate. In addition to a liveaboard fee, some marinas charge for parking or for a second vehicle pass. Some have a lump “utilities fee” and others break their fees down and charge separately for things like electricity, internet, cable, etc.

How safe is the marina?

Like choosing a home in a neighborhood, safety is something to consider. Does the marina have a locking gate? Security cameras? A staff member who walks the docks and keeps an eye on things? Is the parking lot secure? Check into these things as well as history of thefts and other crimes in the area and at the marina itself.  

What kind of amenities and services are included in your moorage?

How much parking is available and how close is it to the dock? Are showers free or do you need to start a collection of quarters? Is there laundry on site? How clean are the facilities, including restrooms, showers, laundry room and docks? Is there a space where you can hold meetings or host parties? What kind of plan does the marina have for maintaining docks, restrooms and other facilities?

These are some of the major things to consider when deciding where to moor your boat when you plan to liveaboard. It is by no means a complete list, but each person is different and has different requirements when it comes to choosing a place to live. If you have any other suggestions for new liveaboards, please leave them in the comments below.

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