Some cruisers, for some strange reason, think staying in a marina is taboo. We think otherwise. We stay in a marina when we can because the amenities are simply awesome. We can walk to restaurants, grocery stores, chandleries and markets. We meet neighbors and have made a ton of new friends whilst staying in marinas as it’s so easy to strike up a conversation on the dock or with the boat next door. The social aspect is really great. We don’t have to worry about dragging the anchor and waking up in the morning in a different spot. In fact, if we are tied to a dock we pay very little attention to weather or winds until it is time to leave. We can run air-conditioning 24-7 and enjoy a cool interior and sleep with a blanket, even in the tropics. We don’t have to jump up in the middle of the night to close the hatches when it rains. We don’t worry about wet dinghy rides or having to lift and lock the dinghy every night. Yep, we think life in the marina is pretty good.
We try to balance anchoring and marina stays but prefer the marina. As much as we enjoy staying in a marina once in a while, we still enjoy the remoteness of being on an anchor. We love it when we can find a little corner of the world all to ourselves and hang out for a few days. We also love it when we get to ride in the dinghy and zip about visiting snorkel spots and other boats. Yes, we are the people who will knock on your boat to introduce ourselves. I am the guy on the airplane who will say hello when you sit next to me. I will give you a chance to meet a stranger. If you chose not to, then that’s fine too.
Often we see cruisers stop into a marina for a couple of nights. They top off the water tanks if they don’t have a water-maker and will also catch up on the laundry. Rarely do we see them do an extended stay where they rent a car and travel inland from the marina. Renting a car and traveling inland on the island is one of our favorite things to do. We love to explore. While we have a car, we will also stock up on provisions. It is much easier to load the boat when at dock than shuttle stuff on the dinghy to the anchorage. We can drive to the larger discount stores and often find we can save enough money to offset the cost of the car for the day. We rent cheap tiny cars.
So at this point you are probably thinking staying in a marina is expensive. Perhaps this is why not all cruisers stay in marinas. Well it is and it isn’t. We tend to shop for a deal. In the USA, it was expensive because of the added extras. We had to really watch out for these and were burned a couple of times by marinas in the Chesapeake Bay area. If you sign a long term lease for the marina, the electricity is normally metered. But, for transient boats like us a daily fee for utilities are added. This fee in the USA is usually in the range of $20-30 per day. That equates to $600 -900 per month – ouch! On top of the dockage rate this can get pretty expensive quite quickly. In the very nice marina where we are staying now we are paying a little over $600 per month for everything (dockage, water, electricity, trash and Wi-Fi). In the marina before this one, the monthly rate was about the same but we had to pay for water usage and Wi-Fi. These extras really did not amount to very much.
We have found if we stay for a month the rate is much lower than the daily or weekly rates. More often than not, by the time we pay for two weeks, it is cheaper to pay the monthly rate and stay out the month. We avoid marinas for a daily or weekly stay. The short term rates are too expensive for our budget. Outside of the USA, we have found most of the marinas have metered electricity for transient boats. We think this is much fairer than flat rate charges in the USA. In Grenada at the peak of the summer heat with electric rates of $0.85 per kwh (very expensive), our average daily usage for Cream Puff was $17 with air-conditioning running; much lower than the daily add-ons in the USA. In Europe, some of the marinas have key-cards for the metered utilities. Boaters pay for their utilities in advance and can use the key card at a variety of marinas who subscribe to the same system. Dock the boat, swipe the card at the dock box and you’ve got metered power.
Now let’s talk about the best part of staying in a marina: Wi-Fi. When we are on anchor or a mooring buoy, we depend on Wi-Fi from nearby restaurants, fee based hotspots or we can set up a hotspot from our cell phone if we have purchased a local SIM card with data. It can get a little expensive if we pay for Wi-Fi à la carte. And, it’s usually not very fast. In most marinas, the Wi-Fi is decent. We can sometimes be Wi-Fi hogs. Okay, we ARE very much the definition of Wi-Fi hogs. We can work on the blog, use Skype or Google Voice to talk to friends. But best of all, we can stream. Cindy and I like to kick back after dinner and watch a show. We can stream using Amazon Prime or Netflix and enjoy a little Hollywood entertainment before bed. Granted the quality of the stream is not HD. We stream on the lowest resolution. But, it’s good enough for us on our 20” flat screen TV. We can play online games and entertain ourselves on rainy days by surfing. I can attend the University of YouTube for an education on repairs I need to make.
Today it is costing us only about $5 per day more to be in a marina than on anchor, or probably less. How can that be? As I mentioned, we are paying about $600 per month or $20 per day. Let’s look at the costs associated with not being in a marina. We need to run the generator about 3 hours per day to keep up with our electricity needs. Including the wear and tear (cost amortization of the generator’s lifespan) it cost about $6 to do this. Fuel for the generator would be about $3. We would need to purchase Wi-Fi at a cost of about $1.50 per day. Ground tackle isn’t free and doesn’t last forever (the anchor chain and windless used to raise and lower the chain). I figured the cost of chain and windless amortized over twenty years anchoring 180 days per year works out to be $3 per day. The dinghy, outboard motor amortized costs and fuel expense to get back and forth when exploring the land or buying provisions I figured to be about $3 on the low side. This all adds up to $16.50, only $4.50 less than the marina fee. Note: I didn’t include the cost of our solar set up to keep the expensive deep cycle batteries charged so we can have things like refrigeration and lights while at anchor. I also did not include the amortized cost of an $8,000 water-maker. Hmmm!
The conveniences afforded by a marina verses being at anchor are great. I really don’t know why more cruisers don’t pull over and stop in a marina more frequently. Perhaps they would if they did the math. We have found the expense isn’t horrible. The quality of life is good and the social environment is great. We even have a door-bell on our boat now so other cruisers feel invited to ring it and say hello. We had a hard time hearing people knock on the boat with the air-conditioning running. We hated it when we missed someone because we didn’t hear them yelling “Ahoy Cream Puff” from the dock. So, if you happen to been in a marina and spot Cream Puff please ring our bell and say hello. It’ll make our day.