There’s a lot of heavy thought and decision making that goes into buying a boat. Most of this, of course, centers on choosing a make and model that will fit your needs and budget at the same time.
But there’s an end game to be considered, too. Once your take possession of your vessel, you’ll need to decide where and how you want to store it. Generally, that comes down to three choices: trailering, docking or mooring. Picking the right one for your boating circumstances and lifestyle can go a long way toward determining how much you enjoy being a boat owner.
Trailering for, example is ideal for those who don’t expect to be on the water every week during the boating season. It’s also great for those who love to fish, explore new areas or need to keep expenses in line. The ability to simply drive over land to wherever you wish to put in can be a tremendous time saver. In a state like Florida you can easily trailer from your home base to the Gulf Coast, East Coast, Intercoastal Waterway or even the Keys. Long Island, NY, is similar in that you can cruise or fish the rocky waters of Long Island Sound, hit the south shore bays and beaches, or head out into the open Atlantic if your vessel is suitable for such waters.
Other pluses for trailering include the ability to pull your vessel from the water at a moment’s notice in the case of an approaching storm or should you need engine or hull repairs. There’s a satisfying feeling that comes with being self-reliant in such situations. Hate bottom painting? Then trailering is definitely for you. Since the hull dries out while above the water between trips, there’s really no need for an undercoat as nothing will be growing on your vessel’s hull.
Of course, that scrubbing thing adds a little extra time to the end of each trip. Any time you exit a body of water, you’ll need to scrub and washdown thoroughly, removing any sign of foreign matter such as mud, invasive weeds or tiny creatures like zebra mussels that are easily transported from one place to another. Still, it doesn’t take much extra effort to do a full cleaning after a day on the water.
Hooking up the trailer takes time, too, and it does require some strength in most instances. You may also have to pay launch fees at the ramp plus yearly insurance and registration fees. Trailer maintenance will cut into your wallet or pocketbook as well. Still these factors shouldn’t add up to the seasonal cost of mooring or docking, so if you are looking to save money trailering is definitely the route to go.
Docking is clearly more expensive than trailering, but it does offer a lot in the way of convenience for boaters of every type. The price per foot to dock for the season varies widely based on the number of local slips available, amenities at dockside, location and more. Some slips, for example, come only with membership in a boating or yachting club or resort marina, others can be located along a bulkhead in a private waterfront yard. In the most popular boating areas, it’s not unheard of to see docking fees top $4,000 per year even for small craft. In other places, you might pay less than $1,000. Some marinas also offer rack storage, which adds to the price but keeps your vessel high, dry and available during open hours with a quick call ahead.
With docking, things really boil down to ease of access and basic amenities. If possible, you’ll want to tie up in a secure location with as much protection from the elements as possible and access hours that match up to your boating routine. You’ll find it comforting to know that other boaters or facility staff will be around to notice if a knot slips, a line comes loose, a door is left open or your bilge pump fails, and you’ll likely have easy access to electricity, freshwater for washdowns, a dock box for storage, plus local restaurants, shopping, etc. For those who dock, ease of access for loading and unloading is another big plus – there’s no dinghy rides back and forth. That’s also a benefit when you want to get dressed up for a night on the town. Many boaters also enjoy simply hanging on their vessels while striking up conversations and friendships with nearby boaters. It’s a nice gig if it’s in your budget.
Think of mooring as “no frills” docking. It can cost as little as one-third the price of nearby docking but you’ll need to more self-sufficient. Essentially, you get to tie up to a predetermined mooring ball that is generally a short dinghy ride from a dock and once hooked-up, both you and your boat are on your own.
The big benefits to this approach over docking are the cost savings. In some areas mooring can cost as little as one-third the price of docking. Compared to trailering, it’s nice to have a home base on the water and there’s no launch ramp shenanigans with which to deal.
Many who appreciate mooring say they love the feeling of essentially being at anchor. They can sense the gentle roll of small waves in a protected harbor, get a great view in all directions from their vessel, and find being away from the pilings a quieter atmosphere that lacks the hustle and bustle of the dockside parade and constant slap of water against the bulkhead.
Getting back and forth from your vessel is the big drawback to this idea. In many mooring situations you can use a lunch service to ferry back and forth, but few such services run 24/7. If no service is available, you’ll be providing the power, either with oars or a small motor. The idea is to find a mooring spot that has access to a nearby courtesy dock where you can load and unload gear and passengers, use restroom facilities, have access to pump-outs facilities and freshwater washdowns.
Note that it makes no sense to rinse your motor out at the guest dock since you’ll have to fire it up to get back out to the mooring in any case – so you’ll need to keep extra freshwater on your boat flushing the motor is part of your regular routine.