Many newly-minted liveaboards are surprised to find out that it’s much easier to find a boat to liveaboard on than it is to find a marina to liveaboard in.
For reasons passing understanding, a lot of communities and marina owners just don’t like liveaboards. Sometimes it’s an insurance issue; sometimes it’s jealousy; sometimes it’s just plain misinformation about the liveaboard lifestyle.
Whatever the reason, it’s a fact that in most parts of the country there are far fewer places to legally live on a boat than there are people who want to live on a boat.
The phenomena tends to vary from region to region, and you’ll have to do some digging in the area you hope to move to in order to find out how easy getting a liveaboard slip will be. In some places, there might not even be any such distinction as a “liveaboard slip.” Any old slip might do. In others, liveaboards might be tightly restricted to a small percentage of the slips in the marina, and there may be a wait list for moving into any of them.
Finding a Liveaboard Marina
Liveaboard scuttlebutt is of limited use in identifying good marinas, since there is often competition for those spots. By the time you see information about a possible liveaboard marina online or hear it through the grapevine, chances are the information is already out of date!
Instead, the best way to identify them is to do it the hard way: get out and walk the shoreline and get to know marina managers.
If there is no regional list of marinas for your area, you can make your own either by driving around and looking for signs along the waterfront, or by using Google Maps to pick them out from overhead. Few small marinas have websites and when they do, they have very little information. But at this stage, you just need to make a list of places to check out.
When you are ready, don’t just call. Pick a nice day and go out to visit each possibility. Make sure you dress decently and, if you own the boat already, bring along a picture showing that it is clean and in good repair. All marinas would prefer well-found, well-maintained boats with tenants who are clean and sober and can pay the moorage bill on time. Do your best to demonstrate all your qualifications in those respects.
If there are no spots open, ask about getting on a wait list. Ask what sort of tenants the marina is looking for and make sure your boat can be accommodated at their docks in terms of length, beam, and depth. Showing some interest in the place is always a good idea.
If possible, get to know people already living at marinas that you might want to live at. If you can get character references from folks who already live there, it will help your case with the manager. Networking before you need to find a slip is always worthwhile!
Choosing a Liveaboard Marina
If you are lucky enough to have a choice of marinas, you can be a little picky about where you want to live.
Check out the restroom and showers and other common areas for cleanliness and good repair.
Find out how many liveaboards there are and make sure there is enough parking and public facilities to comfortably accommodate everyone.
Look around the neighborhood. Are there amenities and services nearby? Is it a place you would want to live?
That includes checking out the other tenants. Do their boats look like fire hazards? Do they clutter up the docks with personal gear and dog crap? If you see anyone hanging around down on the docks, strike up a conversation. Some places are friendlier than others and you can learn a lot just by asking.
Find out what Internet and other utility services are like—again, talking to the current tenants can reveal many details that won’t otherwise be apparent until you move in!
You may not have a lot of choices in liveaboard marinas in your area at first, but getting your foot in the door at one is a big first step! After you have a place to live, you can take your time looking around or getting on waitlists for a marina you might prefer.