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Skipper’s Corner – So You’re Looking for Dock Space?

As I write, winter is in full retreat. Today will top out at 70 degrees and it’s not even mid-March. Boat covers are already coming off and boatyards are active. You just bought your first boat or you’re looking for a different dock this year because you argued with the owner of last year’s dockage.

The reality of the situation is that in this and the coming years it is going to become more difficult and expensive to find that perfect finger slip. The reasons are many. Firstly, many marinas sold off to condo and private home development. Actually, this dynamic has been accelerating slowly then speeding up since the 1950’s. The next green fly in the cabin is the number of boats being sold. Last year, after years of slumping, boat sales came in at an all time high and so has the average size of boats. The equation results in a lot more vessels, a lot less dockage and higher costs for your yacht, A friend of mine told me his marina went up to $145 per ft. for his 23 ft. Grady for a grand total of $3,335, exclusive of winter layup and any extras. He is looking for less perfect space and now has a bit of anxiety which he bought the boat to float away from. Some folks who bought boats last and even this year are promised the first year’s summer dockage to make a sale. After the ‘Perfect summer” they are suddenly smacked in the head with reality, what a bummer!
So, what approach should you take? If you can afford where you are and like it – stay put. If you live closer to the city, you may consider moving to a less crowded, less desirable marina. You can move East, but West of the Hamptons marinas tend to be less expensive, but more scenic. You could put in for lottery-based town marinas and if you are a member of the political party in power, you may luck out. But to give an example of how long it takes to work through the “Lottery System”- waits of over twenty years are not unheard of and once people have a slip that costs only $60 per ft., they rarely give it up. One boater died 15 years ago, and his family duct taped him to the seat next to the helm. They still dock the boat in the Hempstead Marina in Pt. Lookout!
You may consider changing to a marina that provides less convenient moorings in a bay. These accommodations are more popular in north shore harbors like Little Neck Bay, Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Huntington and points east.
Patrolling neighborhoods that have waterfront homes and looking for signage stating “Dock for Rent” is an option. Many owners like the extra money and develop long-term relationships with their boat tenants. Many dock seekers leave cards and notes at my doorstep begging for my extra dock space but we prefer our privacy. Recently several towns have clamped down on renting a person’s private dock space. Also try the classifieds and web sites Long Island Boating World, Long Island Fisherman and other publications as you can get lucky there.
One thing is a given, if you are really into boating you will find a way. On the other hand, while Covid and other mitigating factors have driven boat sales way up, you can expect a shakeout as less committed boaters sell or default on their boats thereby reopening more dock options.

Safe boating, Captain Eddie