Beware of Grubby Marinas and Boatyards

Sometimes a dirty, dangerous, poorly kept marina or boatyard is the only game in town. Well, if you can keep your boat at a better place 30 miles down the road, do it.

Asking for trouble: loose, sagging wires in the water, broken PVC conduit, splintery dock planks, untended fuel tank, and more.

Asking for trouble: loose, sagging wires in the water, broken PVC conduit, splintery dock planks, untended fuel tank, and more. It’s worth driving down the road to a better-run operation.

For what you have to pay to keep your boat in a slip at a marina these days, the place better be good. And by good I mean, at a minimum, clean and safe. Some well-run yards and marinas also offer – for a high price of “membership” —  swimming pools, lounge areas, restaurants with discounts, laundry facilities, and more.

Well, those are nice things, but more important is simple safety, both for you and your boat. Loose water lines, phone lines, and electrical service lines, trash in the yard, oil spills, docks that are falling apart – all these things spell poor yard management and risk for you.

What are the risks? Stray electrical currents in the water will chew up everyone’s zinc anodes, then proceed to chew up everyone’s running gear and metal through-hull fittings. And if the current is really bad it can be deadly to someone who ventures or falls into the water. Usually the problem comes from a boat’s shore-power connection and a grounding problem. Sometimes it’s the fault of the boatowner’s cable and equipment, and sometimes the problem starts on the dock. Either way, it’s a primary responsibility of the boatyard management to keep a very close watch on the whole electrical system.

Loose wires can cause all sorts of other problems, too – snagging and tangling props, pulling out dock fittings, and contributing to general squalor.

No matter what the docks are made of, the materials have to be maintained. Fasteners will rust and disintegrate, or work themselves loose and starting damaging people and equipment. Sprung boards lead to more problems.

Fuel and oil spills pollute both the ground in the boatyard and the water in the marina, creating dangerous conditions, staining gelcoats, and raising a stink. Old paint cans, overflowing trash barrels, dead batteries, and much more can contribute to ugly and dangerous conditions.

And it’s a funny thing – in a well-kept boatyard, the customers tend to pitch in and keep things nice. If you’re a slob, you stand out, and even slobs aren’t usually willing to go against the crowd. But if the yard managers are slobs, a sizable portion of the clientele will follow suit, and pretty soon things are bad.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Clean marina programs are well-established, and dovetail just fine with good business practices.  If your local yard manager hasn’t gotten the message yet, take your business down the road, even if you have to drive an extra distance and pay a little extra money, too. In the long run it will make your boating experience better – and maybe it will make your local slob shape up or sell out to someone who can do better.


Boat Trader has plenty of  Buying and Selling advice, but also check out the hundreds of articles in the Boating section, with tips on everything from seamanship to maintenance, how-to, where to find replacement parts, and much more.



  1. Jack Brawley says:

    I just came across your article and it so hits home. Last year I bought a 65 foot cruiser that is located in a marina that is so bad I could’t begin to list all its faults. And it is a shame, at one time this marina was almost full, with wonderful people and they offered a great value for their services, After being sold, it has gone down hill for so many years, very few people are left, no one cares and it is to the point that no one will ever invest in it to bring it back.
    I look forward to completion of my boat, formerly the Sarah Jane, and relocating. It may cost me, but the benefits out weigh the hazards and headaches of being in a marina that is unsafe and dirty.

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