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Old 07-27-2016, 03:11 PM   #1
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Marina Reservations

The most recent Active Captain newsletter addressed a new attempt to set up a marina reservation service.

I was wondering what other cruisers think of this idea.

I have mixed feelings. I always say "the most dangerous thing you can have on a boat... is a schedule." I do this for relaxation. I hate the thought of having to book months in advance to get a good spot. I hate the thought of rushing to reach a destination I'd planned out days or weeks ahead of time. I'd rather see what the weather brings each day, and decide where (and if) I can go that day.

On the other hand, I've called places the day of, or the day before, and been very glad I did, because other boats were turned away. And a reservation makes sense if you're staying at a place for more than just a night or two.

Add this to the Florida anchoring debate, and the discussion about good anchorages filling up with "destination" moorings, and I wonder what the future of cruising will look like. Will we have to plan each day of each trip months in advance? Will there be no spontaneity left?
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Old 07-27-2016, 03:46 PM   #2
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In Southern California there are very limited amounts of marinas, especially those that have guest stocks. If you don't call in advance, often months in advance around here, you are not getting in.
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Old 07-27-2016, 04:04 PM   #3
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We do have a schedule at the start of trips and do make reservations. However, the schedule is always in pencil (actually it's in keyboard and easily erased). Now, I have no interest in a reservations system. I prefer speaking directly with the marina, confirming exactly what is available and what we're reserving and also explaining that our schedule is subject to change and we'll notify them as soon as we're aware of any change. When it's well in advance we just talk about a time period and what's available.

As a result, I've never encountered any issues. We have always been able to adjust schedules with no problems. The key we find is that we establish communication early so they are aware of our boat and our needs and we've spoken.

Now, understand we use marinas 99% of the time so different than most here.

As to why I'm not interested in a system, I did a lot of business traveling and have done very little hotel traveling personally by comparison. I never used the chains website or 800 number as I found much better information in speaking directly to the hotel and better pricing. I'll give an example and how I think it would work on marinas. Making reservations in NY at the Marriott Marquis, I averaged a savings of $50 a night by making them directly. They would look at bookings and decide. I've had times I got huge discounts for certain nights and then paid full for the last night. Similarly, I use to travel regularly to the Atlanta area and stayed in one specific Holiday Inn. I'd negotiated a corporate rate. But you could call the 800 number and they'd have no rooms. Meanwhile I could call the hotel and speak to an older lady, Mary, and always get a room. Why? They knew they'd have some no shows and rooms available after 6. She would advance use one of those for a regular customer she knew. One other thing. I never got a room on the side of the train tracks.

We also confirm our reservations several days in advance and on the day we expect to arrive. If you read AC you'll often see notes as to which dock is preferable and we'll discuss that.

There are some booking sites out there, but we don't use them.

Here is a rather typical situation for us. This Friday we're heading to a location two days earlier than planned. We just made the change of schedule a couple of days ago. We'll be there two nights. It was no problem changing and we confirmed our needs. It gave them time to plan who goes where as well.

We wait to book until we have a pretty good idea, at least within a day or two. Even then though we speak to them in advance so when we call to book they remember us.

In answer to your concerns, we never let the schedule rule. We do like to allocate time to various places though and have some sort of plan. Plans are made to be changed, but we also know the impact of changes. I can tell you where we plan to be docked on October 25, but I can almost guarantee there will be changes. Regardless we've spoken to the marina to know they will be open. There will be no problem getting dockage, not in Kentucky in late October. We haven't made a reservation. Right now we have actual reservations for the next 17 days. I can guarantee some of those will change, but none by more than two or three days.

Marina reservations aren't non-refundable like discount hotel rooms or flights. They are more of the nature if I arrive on those dates, you confirm you will have dockage for my boat.

I know all the opinions about no schedule. I don't agree with that completely. I like to schedule. I agree that you don't let the schedule control you.
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Old 07-27-2016, 04:07 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Fletcher500 View Post
In Southern California there are very limited amounts of marinas, especially those that have guest stocks. If you don't call in advance, often months in advance around here, you are not getting in.
I found that in all of California from Sausalito to Marina Del Rey to San Diego. We had reservations well in advance and they all changed slightly as we got closer to the dates. If you're already on their bookings then a lot easier to change than it is to make last minute.
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Old 07-27-2016, 04:22 PM   #5
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If Active Captain wants to setup a reservation system to guarantee me a space in my favorite anchorages, I'm all for it!

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Old 07-28-2016, 01:56 AM   #6
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On our current trip, I made one reservation. Turns out that weather forced me to cancel the day of. I called them to tell them. Because it was weather related, and because they are just nice folks, they gave me a voucher for another stay at some point in the future. We will definitely use it as we like this location. We might even use it on the way back home from this trip.

I like to be able to make reservations, but usually only a day or two in advance. Most of the time I am calling them from a cell phone while on the boat so a computer based system wouldn't get much use from me. Like BandB, I like to be able to talk with them directly if I can.
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Old 07-28-2016, 05:24 AM   #7
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If Active Captain wants to setup a reservation system to guarantee me a space in my favorite anchorages, I'm all for it!

With a Bahama style pair of anchors , most anchorages will hold 4 -5 x as many boats.

It will happen naturally if anchoring pressure is high.
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Old 07-28-2016, 09:45 AM   #8
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I just returned from a two month cruise. I got turned down twice because the marina was full. I usually call that morning or sometimes the day before. As many have posted, I don't usually know when I will get to a certain place, weather being the most important factor.


I found just a very few places demanded a credit card number to hold a reservation. Most were much more casual about it.


This was on the AICW and Chesapeake Bay.
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Old 07-28-2016, 09:55 AM   #9
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Obviously certain stretches of water deserve respect.

But huge segments of the Atlantic ICW are passible all of the time.

I have only lost a couple weather days in dozens of trips in boats over 35 feet.

If I want to be at a particular marina at a certain time plus or minus a day or so...I will make reservations up to 2 weeks out. Only 1 marina has ever asked for the credit card up front with a strict cancellation policy. Several marinas during the holidays let you come and go on the honor system, calling them with a credit card when they open back up.

I have already made reservations for Ft Pierce City Marina for a month stay this winter. It's where I want to be at a given price and a certain stretch of time. They recommended that I call as soon as they start accepting reservations. Every year they have slips available on a daily basis most of the time, but if staying longer than a few days, you may have to move slips....and that's not always fun depending on your schedule and weather.
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Old 07-28-2016, 09:59 AM   #10
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Quote:
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With a Bahama style pair of anchors , most anchorages will hold 4 -5 x as many boats.

It will happen naturally if anchoring pressure is high.
I was ignorant about various types of anchoring growing up and knew nothing about the Bahamas even existing. However, on the lake when I did anchor, it was always two anchors. Just seemed logical to avoid swinging and stay in place.

Fast forward to coming to the coast and finding out how people anchor, one anchor and swing. Seemed to the math side of me to be a horribly inefficient use of space. Now, I do understand the reasons. However, no question anchorages would hold more boats with Bahama anchoring. I would not say 4-5 times as many but at least twice as many.

One caveat and that is do I want more boats in an anchorage? I don't, even if I did Bahama anchor. Crowded anchorages already have too many boats for the escape many look for in anchoring. Doubling or tripling that number doesn't seem like an attractive prospect. I still like the idea of Bahama anchoring as it would maintain a greater separation.

How common is it really to encounter nowhere to anchor? Even if not your first choice, isn't there generally another nearby option?
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:40 AM   #11
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Last night there were 24 boats anchored in Laura Cove and room for a few more. I never would have believed it if I hadn't have seen it. Yes it is way too crowded for the sense of getting away, but in many ways this location is like staying in a resort location. Lots of people but you put up with it to be at the location. I still enjoyed going to Hawaii even though there were other folks there.

Here is where we are.

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/f...HfeoxH9qFZrY4I
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:22 PM   #12
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If Active Captain wants to setup a reservation system to guarantee me a space in my favorite anchorages, I'm all for it!
Just so it doesn't get confused, ActiveCaptain isn't setting up any reservations. We're currently saying that Dockwa is the only online reservation app with a model that doesn't charge the boater or the marina (other than taking the credit card charge). They also mimic the cancellation policy of the marina unlike most of the other online reservation apps who don't allow cancellations at some point.

There's nothing exclusive about our relationship with Dockwa. Nearly every one of those app companies have come to us asking for collaboration. Most of them charge a big percentage to the marina for taking the reservation. We wouldn't endorse that because there's no margin in marina financing for commissions. It would only drive the costs of slips up. Since Dockwa doesn't do that, they got our vote of approval.

As of yesterday, ActiveCaptain reviews show up on the reservation page in the Dockwa app. They used our developer API to integrate ActiveCaptain data into their product. We'll likely be adding some new capabilities from this because we can now detect "verified" stays through their app.
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:29 PM   #13
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I am not familiar with dockwa. Do you have a link?
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:52 PM   #14
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Here on the West Coast of BC Canada Most Marina's are for transient people staying for a day or two on their way North and it's not uncommon that you have to book 1>2 months ahead and always with a credit card.
Farther up North destinations like Dent Island | BC Salmon Fishing Lodge you should book 3 months ahead There are lots of places up the coast like Dent Island https://activecaptain.com/quickLists...C&i=4127765892
Pretty fancy
Been there and all I can say is that got to do it at least once in your life
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:54 PM   #15
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I am not familiar with dockwa. Do you have a link?
Let this play out:
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=dockwa
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:09 PM   #16
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Just so it doesn't get confused, ActiveCaptain isn't setting up any reservations. We're currently saying that Dockwa is the only online reservation app with a model that doesn't charge the boater or the marina (other than taking the credit card charge). They also mimic the cancellation policy of the marina unlike most of the other online reservation apps who don't allow cancellations at some point.

There's nothing exclusive about our relationship with Dockwa. Nearly every one of those app companies have come to us asking for collaboration. Most of them charge a big percentage to the marina for taking the reservation. We wouldn't endorse that because there's no margin in marina financing for commissions. It would only drive the costs of slips up. Since Dockwa doesn't do that, they got our vote of approval.

.
So, Dockwa doesn't charge a commission. How then do they make their money? Answer, which I just found. For the basic booking only feature they charge 2.5% for the credit card processing and 1% service fee. For the premium service they're trying to promote, they charge $299 per month additional.

And nothing you've just said really impact the opinions we and others have expressed here. The opinions weren't aimed at AC but at the concept of online reservations for dock space. I just walked through the entire process on Dockwa and it felt so cold and impersonal as opposed to me just picking up the phone and calling.

In the hotel industry you'd die without the various online travel sites. They do too things. One is they will buy and block spaces at special prices. The other is they get the same standard travel agent percentage as anyone else. They need that to meet their occupancy goals. All their business is transient.

Marinas may or may not need that. Right now it's a very small part of ther business and the concept isn't big enough to force their hand. At this point there is no online booking site that can say they will increase a marina's business. Now, the day may come that will have changed.
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:40 PM   #17
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My posting was due to this being posted by someone else:
"If Active Captain wants to setup a reservation system..."

My point was that ActiveCaptain is not setting up a reservation system. We license our data to Furuno too but that doesn't mean we're making radars.

If you don't like what Dockwa has created, don't use it. They have the best financial model and their system is quite good technically (my opinion). Most every other company doing this type of thing charges marinas 20-30%. Dockwa charges 3.5% but handles the secure credit card transaction part removing those fees from the marina. They make their money from marinas by providing optional services. If the marina doesn't want those services, they pay nothing. This is very similar to ActiveCaptain's model which has worked exceptionally well and hasn't caused dockage fees to increase.

There's no devil here - you don't have to use Dockwa - you can always call the marina.
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Old 07-28-2016, 04:24 PM   #18
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Thanks for the link Jeffrey and for the clarification.
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Old 07-28-2016, 06:16 PM   #19
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I am brand new here today so I should probably intro myself in the proper forum, but this thread just caught my eye so I'm posting here first. Lol, I have to say it's quite a coincidence.

Btw, the 2015 thread on Stand up engine rooms was fantastic!

I saw the Active Captain newsletter about Dockwa and checked it out. Why should I care what their business model is or how they make money? What I care about is how does the service benefit me? It's not nearly as good as MarinaLife.

I'm presuming if it's okay to mention Dockwa it's okay to mention MarinaLife. You will not find a better service for online or mobile marina reservations. I don't work for them, and I gain nothing by saying this other than passing on to fellow boaters my opinion about the excellent service I have used for years. Marina slip discounts, fuel discounts, reviews, etc etc., you can speak to them personally and they are always great. Again, MarinaLife is a fantastic service.
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Old 07-28-2016, 08:36 PM   #20
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Here's why the business model matters...

If a business charges the marina 20-30% for the reservation you make, the marina obviously receives less money. From working with thousands of marinas, I can tell you, their current pricing does not include the ability to shave 30% off the top. They'll do it here or there as a test to see what happens.

So let's say one of them (some having tried this for 15 years), become successful and marinas start receiving a larger percentage of reservations through these online systems. What will happen?

Marina owners tell me directly that they'll be forced to raise dockage fees just to get the money they're already getting pre-online reservations.

For me, if dockage rates go up, I want the marina to get the income so they can put the money toward their facility. Better yet, I don't want the dockage rates to go up. If the website deserves the money, then they should charge the boater directly for the service they're providing to the specific boaters using the service.

All of this is much different from the hotel marketplace. There, hotels have been paying travel agents for decades. Their pricing already reflected the 30% fee paid to the organization bringing the reservation. Travelocity slid into that model to collect the fees without changing the basic costs to anyone. It worked there quite well - Travelocity, Expedia, airbnb...all hundred million dollar companies and bigger. This same success (relative to the boating market) has avoided anyone who has tried to create an online reservation system for slips. The reason? Their business model.

Now we're seeing startups realizing that it was their business model that wasn't working. So they're figuring out ways to try something new. And I fully admit, some of the ideas for these new models came from me after discussions with nearly all of them. We receive no income, fees, commissions, or any money whatsoever. I just think these models are better for boaters. Me.

Coincident with our newsletter release yesterday morning, SlipFinder removed their fee to boaters by the afternoon (how about fees to the marina?). Others are looking at reducing their fees because they see that this new model Dockwa is using knocks them out.

There's nothing exclusive we're doing with Dockwa. But it takes guts to change everything and try again. It takes some technology talent too which seems to be lacking in some of these companies. There again, Dockwa's software developers, who I worked with directly, are some of the best I've ever shared code with.

The business model matters. Of course it does. Always follow the money.
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