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Old 06-14-2014, 10:34 PM   #1
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Searching for a marina

We are looking forward to a live-aboard life in a few years, at least on a part-time basis (~4 months or so out of the year, nice weather months in the PNW area.)

We'll most likely have a boat mid-30's. We are adventurous, but I would say until I developed a certain comfort level for the boats operations we would be doing day trips. Inside passage is on the bucket list, but down the road.

What do you look for in a marina? Are their "must-have" services? Is a car necessary?
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Old 06-15-2014, 01:16 AM   #2
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Here in the PNW, I recommend you look for a marina near some services, and avoid the more remote marinas. By this, I mean that there are some beautiful marinas such as Pleasant Harbor, Deception Pass, Kingston, Quartermaster Harbor, etc., that have minimal services, and wound necessitate having a vehicle.

I'd be looking for moorage in the greater Seattle area (Shilsole, up the Duwamish River, or Elliott Bay), Edmonds, Everett, and up north in either Bellingham or Anacortes. All these areas have access to public transportation, and groceries/supplies are relatively close.

We have a pump out service that comes to the boat twice a month- it's much easier than pulling the boat out just to clear the blackwater tank.
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Old 06-15-2014, 01:53 AM   #3
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A lot will depend on your particular requirements. Will you still be working? Location is critical in that case of course.

I'll flip it around a bit and tell you what makes our marina work for us. (Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River.):

Located beside a mall with a big box grocery store, various restaurants, a Canadian Tire (hardware), walk-in medical clinic, pharmacy, and most importantly a liquor store.

A chandlery (you gotta be able to pick up the boat bling & boat parts) and a full service boatyard.

Year round electricity and water at the boat - critical for a liveaboard.

The marina is not hot - i.e., the zincs last a long time, so haulout is minimized, at least for that reason.

A fuel dock.

Three hours to fabulous cruising (Desolation Sound) and beyond.

A small city that provides the amenities that one needs to live a sane life. Like going to a movie. (Your mileage may vary on the amenity thing!)

A car? Do you use one now? If so, you may still want one as a liveaboard for the same reasons you have one now.

Good dock neighbours - mostly folks who live in the area but visit their boats often. Relationships make everything.

Some thoughts.
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Old 06-15-2014, 02:06 AM   #4
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One other item I should have mentioned; the liveaboards on our dock have close by storage for the bulky but less used items. Close by means either at the dock or within walking distance. (Further away works if you have a vehicle I suppose...)
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Old 06-15-2014, 07:45 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by degidio View Post
We are looking forward to a live-aboard life in a few years, at least on a part-time basis (~4 months or so out of the year, nice weather months in the PNW area.)

We'll most likely have a boat mid-30's. We are adventurous, but I would say until I developed a certain comfort level for the boats operations we would be doing day trips. Inside passage is on the bucket list, but down the road.

What do you look for in a marina? Are their "must-have" services? Is a car necessary?

I am partial to La Conner (my home port). The town is a neat little community on the Swinomish channel with easy access to the San Juan islands. All restaurants and services are in walking distance from the marina. Most importantly, the covered moorage is reasonable (I pay $270 all in for a 30' covered slip). In the PNW, we will still get our fair share of rain in the summer months. As a live aboard, it's nice to be protected when the rain comes. You won't be cramped up inside your boat for a week. Although La Conner doesn't accept permanent live a boards, they will accommodate those who come up for the summer. Good luck in your search!
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Old 06-15-2014, 08:01 AM   #6
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We are looking forward to a live-aboard life in a few years, at least on a part-time basis (~4 months or so out of the year, nice weather months in the PNW area.)

We'll most likely have a boat mid-30's. We are adventurous, but I would say until I developed a certain comfort level for the boats operations we would be doing day trips. Inside passage is on the bucket list, but down the road.

What do you look for in a marina? Are their "must-have" services? Is a car necessary?
We all have different wants and needs in a marina so what I might want might not be what you want. For example, many people would want an on-site or nearby bar. I don't. I would like a swimming pool but many folks wouldn't care for or use a swimming pool.

Some marinas are in the heart of big cities, some are in the boondocks. Some have cable TV, some do not. Some are inexpensive, some are pretty pricey.

In the end, just like a house or apartment, it's you who will be living there and it's you who has to determine which marina suits your needs, wants and budget.
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Old 06-15-2014, 09:37 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by degidio View Post
We are looking forward to a live-aboard life in a few years, at least on a part-time basis (~4 months or so out of the year, nice weather months in the PNW area.)

We'll most likely have a boat mid-30's. We are adventurous, but I would say until I developed a certain comfort level for the boats operations we would be doing day trips. Inside passage is on the bucket list, but down the road.

What do you look for in a marina? Are their "must-have" services? Is a car necessary?
There're lots of marinas, within a day of each other within Puget Sound. Maybe put the new boat in Everett and from there you are less than 35 miles to La Conner to the north and less than 25 miles, to south, is Seattle. There must 15-20 marinas with a days trip of Everett. Explore the area by just doing day trips, in protected waters, till you find the "right" marina. At the same time you'll be sharpening your boating skills for that trip to SE AK.

A good resource is the Waggoner Cruising Guide. Home | Waggoner Cruising Guide
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Old 06-15-2014, 11:52 AM   #8
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Thank you for the replies and advise.

I'll be retired, and not working, except on the boat. Having some basic amenities within walking distance is sound advice. Medical facilities close by is high on the list for me.

We will most likely have a car. Don't know if its smarter to buy something in the area, or just take a vehicle from NM.

As much as I would like to completely move, family ties would put a strain on us. We're attached to the grand kids.

I'm in the planning stages. I'm reading whatever I can to get an education. I will checkout the Cruising guide.

Thanks again for your thoughts.
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Old 06-17-2014, 10:46 AM   #9
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Live aboard

Most live aboard spots are limited in Ca . So it might be important to start looking early. Around here there is a surcharge to live aboard. If you are getting older the effort to walk from parking to your boat, and for that matter secure reliable parking can be a problem. Steep ramps or stairs with large tidal changes can be an issue with aging knees and hips when hauling groceries and laundry. Availability of near by shopping without driving 12 miles to the nearest big box or chain grocery is important as gas gets expensive. If you like to eat out, convenient good restaurants is nice. The community around your marina is just as important as it is with a home. Victorian or rural settings is far better than hanging out behind a warehouse or industrial complex. Highway noise can be a problem. I live in a rural Norman Rockwell community that unfortunately is a wonderful cruising ground for Harley's on the weekend. The noise can be deafening . Harvest time trucks run night and day, the nearby bridge has a metal grate deck and the noise starts around 5 am weekdays all year. Start looking early and hang out long enough to get a feel for the area. Oh another biggy is theft and vandalism, is your car and boat safe. Ask the other livaboards if they have lost electronics, outboards , or had gas stolen out of their vehicles.
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Old 06-17-2014, 12:22 PM   #10
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This is a very educational discussion for me.
Lots of parallels between finding a marina and finding a home on land. Seems location, location, location is a big part.

I don't know how to define my style. It's a new concept. I do need to work out logistics. I foresee spending time living on a boat for 4 months out of the year. The boat would be moored for the time we are in the area. We would dry store the boat for the rest of the time.

Security is a big concern; thanks for pointing that out Scary. I'm not sure how this is handled, but this needs to be addressed.

Ideally, I would like to find a marina that could do it all.

I will be traveling to the west coast a lot for business for the next year or so. My wife will be joining me for part of the time. We have some plans to start visiting areas. We thought of PNW because we've been there many times (and love it), but I would not rule anything out.

Looking on the web, I was surprised that most marinas have waiting lists, and a charge to have the privilege of being on the waiting list.
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Old 06-17-2014, 12:41 PM   #11
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This is a very educational discussion for me.
Lots of parallels between finding a marina and finding a home on land. Seems location, location, location is a big part.

I don't know how to define my style. It's a new concept. I do need to work out logistics. I foresee spending time living on a boat for 4 months out of the year. The boat would be moored for the time we are in the area. We would dry store the boat for the rest of the time.

Security is a big concern; thanks for pointing that out Scary. I'm not sure how this is handled, but this needs to be addressed.

Ideally, I would like to find a marina that could do it all.

I will be traveling to the west coast a lot for business for the next year or so. My wife will be joining me for part of the time. We have some plans to start visiting areas. We thought of PNW because we've been there many times (and love it), but I would not rule anything out.

Looking on the web, I was surprised that most marinas have waiting lists, and a charge to have the privilege of being on the waiting list.
Based on the above bolded text, I wouldn't worry so much about being classified as a liveaboard. Many marinas cater to desert dwellers that do exactly as you are describing- visit their boat and area for a period of time, then head back to the terrestrial home.

Security: in the PNW, I (as a marine insurance guru ) have not seen or heard of many problems with regards to liveaboards. The majority of theft claims occur on trailered boats at an insured's residence, where it's thought to be more secure. Nor have I heard about rampant car prowl problems or gas thefts.

Been onboard for 5 years,and haven't had any problems. Collectively, my neighbors and I have almost 50 years or living aboard, and there has been 1 car theft and 2 vehicle break-ins in that time frame- and no boat break-ins.
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Old 06-17-2014, 12:57 PM   #12
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desert dweller - love it!

Security would be a concern for the time we're away. I'm not familiar with the operations of a marina, but would assume that various levels of security exist. The key would be to find a place that has a good balance.

Your perspective from the insurance side is reassuring. I appreciate the comments.
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Old 06-17-2014, 01:02 PM   #13
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As the boat is hauled and put to sleep on the hard, it should be properly winterized and in a secured yard (such as North Harbor Diesel). That's about as secure as it gets.

I have a client who lives in the Midwest; he owns a 55' Selene wide body, value $1.1M. He does exactly as you're contemplating and has had zero problems.

As for marinas, the best security is the combination of physical deterrence (locked gates, cameras) and the liveaboards who know who should be on the dock - and who should not.
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Old 06-17-2014, 01:15 PM   #14
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Security would be a concern for the time we're away. I'm not familiar with the operations of a marina, but would assume that various levels of security exist. The key would be to find a place that has a good balance.
Our marina has probably a typical security setup.

There are video cameras located everywhere, monitored 24 hours, plus 24 onsite security personnel whom I see patrolling at all hours of the day and night.

The gates are locked overnight but generally left open during the day. Other marinas often have the gates locked 24 hours.

Getting to know your dock neighbours also gives a huge comfort level.

There are marinas that have easily accessible web cams so that you can view your vessel yourself at any time. Don't know how prevalent that practice is though. For that matter there are systems available today that allow you to remotely monitor your boat for a variety of parameters.
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