Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marina Musings

Magothy River Anchorage, MD
Deciding to go cruising is a long process. Most people who decide to go cruising don't know anyone else doing it personally and have never been out cruising with friends, so the picture of what cruising actually is is pretty indistinct. This was certainly true for us as was evidenced by the fact that we never even thought about the ICW in our planning. We thought about long ocean passages, we thought about weather, we thought about equipment as related to passages and weather, but the idea that we would motor down the ICW some 1000 miles just never even entered our minds.

One of the biggest things we've learned about cruising in general this past year is that it's important to think about what kind of cruiser you want to be, and to be honest with yourself about whether you have the abilities and characteristics to be that kind of cruiser. It will impact the way you prepare to cruise, the things you purchase, the things you bring from your land life, and your expectations. We've said often on this blog in recent months that we always pictured ourselves as blue water cruisers, taking long passages and rarely sitting for long periods of time. This reasoning came as a result of our long passages around New England and with John Kretschmer in the Bahamas, passages where there was adequate crew to ease the load of passage making. The reality of it was that we suffered more from sea sickness than we thought we would, and sail changes at night in bad weather were more stressful than we were comfortable with. We simply didn't enjoy it when we were short handed.

Broad Creek Anchorage, NC
I never really began to think about what kind of cruiser I wanted to be until our friend Kacey came to visit for two weeks. He wanted to spend a prolonged time out “doing it” and toward the end when we had some long, ranging talks about his experiences he said he had decided he was more a liveaboard than a cruiser. It really got me on this train of thought and with every passing month, and with every additional experience, our “kind of cruiser” is being better defined.

So what does this have to do with the title of this blog post? Because for the last month we've been parked at a dock in a marina. It's a nice marina with great reviews on Active Captain, beautiful landscaping, a view of some incredible yachts, good dock mates, and all the conveniences of home. So why do I hate it? Because Kintala can't swing into the wind and the sun doesn't do its ripple reflection thing on the ceiling in the morning, the water is disgusting, there's no dolphins and I've gotten hurt not once, but twice getting on and off the boat at high tide. One kind of cruiser I definitely don't want to be is a marina rat.

Pungo River Anchorage NC
This is not to say that being a marina rat isn't a good thing. For some people. There are a half dozen people here who live full time in the marina, most of them on trawlers of some sort, although a few are on sailboats. If being a liveaboard is your thing then a marina is the place to be. A continuing flow of ice and clean clothes and long showers is not to be taken lightly, and we've been in a few really exceptional ones like Oak Harbor and Barefoot. But would I trade it for a mooring? In a heartbeat.

We've spent a good bit of time on the Vero Beach mooring field, and it's called Velcro Beach for a good reason. Great protection, excellent dinghy dock and lounge/shower/laundry facilities, free bus service, and a beautiful beach. The best beach, though was at Treasure Cay, Abacos. The moorings there are reasonable at $20 a day, and the facilities are great. St. Augustine was one of those places where the mooring field sucked because it's so exposed and the dinghy ride to the dock is long and wet, but the town made up for it with rich history everywhere. More recently we spent quite a bit of time in Coconut Grove at the Dinner Key Mooring Facility. As far as moorings go, the actual mooring field sucks like St. Augustine because it's so exposed. The exposure does give you a fantastic skyline view of downtown Miami and oncoming thunderstorms, fresh air and a nearly constant breeze abound, and the mosquitoes are few if you're out far enough. The reason we would go back there, though, is the staff. Patrick and his staff are without any doubt the most talented customer service division we've seen on a mooring field anywhere. They are helpful, polite, prompt, knowledgeable, and make you feel like you're the only reason they're there. And yet...

From the dock at Oriental, NC
We would still rather anchor out when given the choice. We are almost always happier when we are cozied up in a cove somewhere either by ourselves or with a couple other boats. It's best if the water is clear, the bottom sandy, and the weather warm, but we've equally enjoyed some cold, gray, stormy anchorages with cups of coffee and warm sweatshirts. We've anchored up rivers in Maryland, in inlets in South Carolina, in bays in North Carolina, along long stretches of beach in the Abacos, in a tiny cove in Egg Island, Eleuthra, in Middle River, FL, and right smack dab in the middle of Nassau. Each one has had its own flavor, each one serves to meet a mood.

Camp LeJeune Anchorage

After a year of thinking about this all, here's my Pros and Cons list for each. What kind of cruiser are you?


Pros Cons
Air conditioning in hot climates, heat in cold. Noise: other boats, road and city traffic, neighbors
Easy access to groceries, trash, water, electricity, laundry, and sometimes (if you're very lucky) wifi Wifi rarely works
You get to meet more people You have to put up with people that you may not care for
Easier to work on the boat Harder to go sailing since you're established in one place
Ice Cream Access: 10 Wakes from passing power boaters

You spend WAY more money because everything is so accessible
No need for a dinghy dock Hard to get on and off the boat when docks are not floating. Easy to get hurt.
No running the generator. Power at the dock is low quality and we've had two shore power cords burn in 7 years.

Services vary wildy for the same money. The best marina we ever stayed in cost 1/3 of our current dock.

Charleston, SC anchorage


Pros Cons
More stable ride since the boat always swings into the wind Sometimes exposed
Good ventilation since the boat swings into the wind Sometimes relatively expensive. Quality is inconsistent
Less worry about dragging in high winds You need to know the quality of the mooring
Relatively accessible to services like groceries, banks, laundry, etc., depending on the mooring You spend more money than anchoring
You can run the generator but... Some people don't want to hear it
Most mooring fields have cruiser nets to facilitate getting to meet people For some reason jet skis feel it is their personal duty to run high speed through mooring fields. Honestly. Every one we've been in.
Dinghy dock available

Ice Cream Access: 8

South Beach Miami Anchorage

Pros Cons
Freedom. You rarely have anyone telling you what to do, anchoring well is a challenge and builds skill You're totally responsible for your safety
You pick the view Services vary depending on where you pick
Free Sometimes harder to meet people
Ventilation is good since the boat always swings into the wind Sometimes people can anchor too close or be obnoxious
Did I mention free? Ice Cream Access: Dependent on location, but usually around a 4
4G cell internet available in most populated areas, even in the Bahamas. We were rarely without it Wifi is rarely available without an extender, and even with one most wifi is password protected now
Privacy is excellent Dinghy docks are hard to come by and usually cost
You can run the generator whenever you feel like it

No-Name Harbor, FL
Hatchet Bay, Eleuthra Anchorage
Dinner Key Mooring Facility, FL


Alex Rooker said...

Nice presentation.
Diann and I will be living "on the hard" in Oriental while having some pre-trip maintenance done. Living in the work yard on a gravel parking lot with a tarp under the boat should be interesting. I'll be sure to pass on the insight.

Today Diann will finish painting our two stern berth fabric walls. I have to admit it sure looks good and has eliminated the faint mildew smell which was there.

I'll try Gorilla glue and pieces of bicycle tire inner-tube to close a pair of small holes in the outdrive bellows. The bellows will be replaced in Oriental as I'm not about to try over the water at our current dock.

Hope the Bear Necessities wind down for all of you and swinging in the wind is not far off.

Skipper Hawk said...

Awesome article. I'm on a 6 year plan finishing my 24' footer for final escape at 52. Really good reality-check stuff, thanks for sharing.

Rharriscpa said...

Both of you write so well sure hope a book will follow one day. Or maybe contributing writers for a waterway guide. Thanks for the great post. Has the light moved another day. Removed 300 feet of chain cleaned anchor lockers over the weekend cleaned it flipped it and re stowed it. A long messy process. Kind of like cleaning a garage you feel better for it. Anyway have to look for projects when there is no wind. Take care. Looks like you are officially Florida residents now.