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HomeBoatBoat Buying Guide - Budgeting for Slip Fees and Hurricane Storage

Boat Buying Guide – Budgeting for Slip Fees and Hurricane Storage

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Now that you have a ballpark idea of how much to budget for insurance, it’s time to figure out where you are going to put your boat – and how much it will cost.

Slip options for most of us, those who don’t live right on the water and have our own dock, break down into the following categories: dry storage, moorings, private moorings, marinas, and slips or moorings that are available to yacht club members.

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Dry storage (racked or on the hard): Dry storage means that your boat will be kept in a rack on land or on a trailer on land.

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Advantages: (a) Security: It is more difficult to steal a boat that is 15 feet in the air than it is to steal one that is in the water. (b) Cost: It can be cheaper to rack your boat or store it on a trailer than to keep it in a slip. (c) Portability: A boat on a trailer is moveable over land, provided you have a vehicle that can tow it. If you have enough of a yard, you may be able to store your boat on your own property. You can also drive your boat to an area you would like to explore. (d) There is no need for bottom paint, in most cases. (e) Ease of maintenance: It is easier to work on a boat that is on a trailer – you can even drive it to the mechanic.

Disadvantages: (a) Accessibility: If your boat is racked, you are at the mercy of the rack owners – and their vehicles. Their hours may not mesh with yours; their vehicles may be broken-down when you want your boat splashed. (b) Same with a trailerable boat: If the yard is using its vehicle to splash, and it is not working, you are out of luck. (c) Limited splashes included in monthly fee. Make certain you know how many times per month you can have your boat put in and taken out of the water before you have to pay extra. (d) You may have to buy a trailer … one more expense to budget for.

Moorings: A moored boat is one that is not in a slip or tied to a dock. Sand screws, or some other device, are attached to the sea bed, lines run from the screws to a float on the water’s surface, and the lines you tie to your boat are attached to those lines. Moorings can be bow only, allowing your boat to swing with the wind and current, or fore-and-aft, preventing your boat from moving side-to-side – handy in a crowded area.

Advantages: (a) Cost: Keeping your boat on a mooring is usually less expensive than keeping it in a marina. (b) Availability: Marinas, at least in the Caribbean, are filling up faster than mooring fields. You might have better luck finding a vacant mooring. (c) Mobility: No waiting in line for your boat to be splashed. You can drop the mooring lines and go, and you don’t have to navigate your way out of a congested marina. Returning can be easier, too: if you miss your pick-up stick you can go around again; if you miss your slip in a marina, you are likely to hit the dock or another boat.

Disadvantages: (a) Access: You will need to buy a dinghy, as well as have somewhere to keep that dinghy. Some marinas and waterfront areas are dinghy-friendly; others are not. (b) Mooring maintenance: Lousy maintenance is bad news for your boat. Find out who maintains the moorings and how often the company services the moorings, and then check the company’s reputation. (c) Gear maintenance: Often, you will be responsible for all lines and chafe gear from the mooring ball to your boat. This means that you have to check those lines and gear often. If you are going to be away, it is smart to have a boat-savvy friend check these items for you. (d) Boat maintenance: It can be tough to work on a boat that is bobbing up and down over wakes, as well as swinging back and forth in the wind. If you forget a tool or need a part, you can’t just walk from your boat to the car.

Private Moorings: If you can get the permits from your local government, you can put down a private mooring. You won’t have to rent it from anyone, but you will have to maintain it yourself – or pay someone to do it.

Marina: Marinas range in size from small with few amenities, to huge, multi-million dollar facilities that offer everything from boat detailing to an on-site hotel complete with swimming pool.

Advantages: (a) One-stop everything: Whatever you need or want – parts, provisions, bar, hotel, boatyard, business center, restaurant, boutique, fuel – depending on the size of the facility, is in your “backyard.” (b) Security: Most large marinas are well lit and employ security guards; some have security cameras. (c) Camaraderie: Lots of boaters around – lots of great people to get to know. (d) Harbor master: There is one person, sometimes more, responsible for running the marina. Office staffs monitor the VHF radio and can be called upon if you need assistance. (e) Accessibility: No need to buy a dinghy when you can walk right up to your boat. Loading provisions for a weekend away becomes a snap.

Disadvantages: (a) Cost: The fancier the marina, the higher the price tag. While many things are available, all amenities – including water and power – are metered. (b) Minimums: Many marinas charge a minimum fee for their slips. You can put your 28-foot boat in a slip, but you’ll pay 40-foot prices. (c) Navigation: Getting in and out of a marina slip and then a busy marina, can be a nightmare for new boaters. (d) Fine print: Marinas can have lots of rules – make certain you understand what is allowed and what is not. For example, can you keep your dinghy in the slip with your boat? Will you have to move your boat if the marina hosts a boat show or major regatta? Just how late can your dock party go before security shuts you down?

Yacht Clubs: Some yacht clubs have mooring fields or marinas. Be aware that slip and/or mooring fees will not usually be included in your membership dues.

Advantages: (a) Security: Even if there is no formal security at your yacht club, there is usually someone around. Boaters tend to keep an eye on all the boats, not just their own. (b) Camaraderie: Generally, a yacht club is full of boat owners – what better place to meet other boaters? (c) Events: Yacht clubs sponsor and run their own regattas, as well as participate in larger, island-wide – and sometimes international – events, offering lots of ways for you to use your boat. (d) Tender service: If your yacht club runs a tender, you won’t have to buy a dinghy.

Disadvantages: (a) Cost: Sometimes yacht clubs – membership dues and all – can be cheaper than marinas … and sometimes not. (b) Accessibility: Your access to your boat might be restricted by yacht club or tender hours. (c) Maintenance: Yacht club rules may require you to move your boat to a yard for anything more than minor repairs. (d) Waiting lists: Caribbean yacht club facilities can be smaller than those of marinas. You may be accepted as a member and then end up on a waiting list for a slip or mooring.

So how much will it cost to keep your boat? Listed below are marina rates from various islands. If an island is not listed, that does not mean they don’t have a marina – it just means that I was unable to obtain their rate information by press time. All prices are on the basis of a yearly contract for a 40’ boat, except where noted, and are estimates only. Always contact a marina directly for up-to-date rates, space availability and information.

Bahamas: $0.45 to $2.45 pf … ~ $21,000 per year

Bonaire: $0.30 to $0.75 pf … ~ $6,000.00 per year at the marina; for small boats, between $55 and $225 per month at the town dock; and around $200.00 per month – for live-aboards only – on a town mooring

British Virgin Islands: $0.40 to $1.30 pf … ~ $12,000.00 per year

Curacao: $0.15 to $0.18 pf … ~$2,1000.00 per year

Grenada: $0.31 to $0.51 pf … ~$4,500.00 per year

Puerto Rico: $0.42 to $0.75 pf … ~$6,000.00 per year; dry storage for a 30’ or smaller boat is approximately $3,400.00 per year

St. Kitts: $0.42 to $0.50 pf … ~ $6,500.00 per year

St. Maarten: $0.45 to $2.80 pf … ~ $6,500.00 per year

St. Vincent: $0.55 to $1.00 pf … ~ $8,000.00 per year

Trinidad: $0.40 to $0.57 pf … ~ $5,800.00 per year

Turks & Caicos: $0.55 to $0.95 pf – about $8,000.00 per year

US Virgin Islands: $0.50 to $1.20 pf … ~ $9,000.00 per year in a marina; to rack a 30’ boat is about $3,600.00 per year; a mooring from DPNR, including permits, runs about $450.00 per year

Venezuela: $0.27 to $0.33 pf … ~ $3,800.00 per year

As you can see, the cost of slipping your boat varies from island to island. You can spend as little as $2,100.00 or as much as $21,000.00 per year for a boat slip … and you pay extra for metered water and electricity. Those figures do not include dues and fees associated with yacht club membership, if you decide to go that route. Neither do these prices reflect rates for a catamaran, which can be as much as three times the fees for a monohull!

None of those numbers include the cost of hurricane storage if you are required to vacate your marina or mooring during a named storm. That’s right – you may not be able to stay in your slip or on your mooring if a hurricane is headed your way. If you must move your boat, options for the survival of your boat include:

1. Renting a relatively secure wet slip, assuming you can find one. Some marinas have slips available in the off-season, but in order to reserve the slip for your use during hurricane season, you will often have to pay for a whole year, whether you keep your boat there or not. The cost varies from place to place.

2. Putting your boat on the hard: some boatyards will haul-out and block your boat each time a storm approaches; others will haul-out and block your boat for the hurricane season, and you’ll have to pay extra to use it during that time. Most yards have limited space and waiting lists, and if the yard is owned by, or run in conjunction with, a marina, the marina’s boats will usually have first priority for haul-out.

3. Running for a designated “hurricane hole.” These are few and far between, and they fill up fast. If you choose this option, be certain that you have multiple anchors, lines and chafe gear, as well as a ride back to shore.

4. Hanging on your own storm mooring, which will require obtaining permits, ground tackle, and chafe gear, as well as finding a place to put your anchor. The cost of obtaining those items and maintaining your storm mooring needs to be factored into your budget.

If you plan to keep your boat in or near the area where you buy it, ask the owners what they did when a hurricane was on the way. You might be able to take over the boat’s hurricane spot. Don’t forget to discuss your hurricane plan with your insurance agent! A storm mooring is a useless investment if your insurance policy requires your boat to be on the hard.

Investigate your hurricane options early. Don’t approach a boatyard manager for the first time two days before a hurricane is due and expect him to haul your boat – if he responds at all, it will be with laughter. If a hurricane hole looks good to you, explore the area before you need to take your boat there, making certain the hole – and its approach – are not too shallow for your vessel. Plan to use a storm mooring? Don’t wait until a hurricane is on the way before you put it in place. Get the job done – professionally if you don’t’ have the right skills and equipment – well before the storm season.

Next month: Budgeting: Maintenance and Fees

Boat Buying Tutorial

Guide Tips for Buying a Boat

J. Summer Westman took an in-depth study into How To Buy a Boat. I think it is a tour that each of us in the Marine Industry needs a refresher every now and then – especially before you buy or sell your next boat. These same lessons are valuable for sail boats or power boats.

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  1. Hi,
    Great research !
    May I ask which marinas you refer to in Curacao since I a thinking of keeping my 37 longterm in that area !




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