Whether you are searching for a new Chesapeake Bay marina for the season or returning to a tried and true favorite, there are many factors to consider and take stock of each year.

chesapeake bay marina
A marina can easily become your home away from home, so with that in mind, be sure to choose wisely. Courtesy of Haven Harbour Marina

What’s the Difference?

First off, you might be asking yourself what the difference is between a marina and a boatyard. While both typically offer storage and maintenance, marinas often have more amenities and are more geared toward luxury and convenience. Boatyards are generally a better option for those who are more focused on boat repairs and don’t want to spend as much on amenities. Though of course it varies by business. 

Choosing a Location

Know yourself. Is your goal to get to the open Bay as quickly as possible, or do you want a secluded marina tucked away upriver? If it’s the former, choose a marina or boatyard with easy access to the Bay, but make sure that it is still sheltered from high winds and waves. If the location or specific slip is too exposed, your vessel will experience more strain, and it will also make docking more difficult. If peace and quiet are your main priorities, then a secluded location that sees less transient boat traffic might be the way to go. 

When it comes to knowing yourself, you should also have a good idea of what amenities and/or services are critical for you to enjoy your time at the marina and consider it a worthy investment (because it can be a big investment). Some marinas offer a slew of resort-like amenities from a waterfront pool, private beach, to tennis courts and an on-site gym, while others are simply a place to park your boat. It all comes down to your preferences. If you want a home away from home, a place that you will be spending time on-land before and after boating, then consider amenity-heavy marinas. If you simply want to park your car, get out on your boat, and then go home, a marina with less amenities and a lower fee sounds like your best bet. You don’t want to pay for amenities that you don’t plan to use. 

Know your boat. If your boat has a deep draft, you’ll need to make sure the approach channel is deep and well-marked, and that both the channel leading up to the marina and the fairways between the rows of slips are big enough to let you get in and out easily, even on windy days. Also keep in mind how easy it is to maneuver your boat. If this is an issue, don’t choose the tightest slip in the marina.

Plan a visit. If you have a particular marina in mind, be sure to visit it in person—walk the grounds and docks and ask questions before signing the contract. Check out the slip you hope to lease and see how it looks from shore. Check to make sure you would have enough room to dock your boat comfortably (if possible, with the marina manager’s permission, try docking the boat in the slip). Also be sure to check that the piers and walkways are in good condition. Is there adequate security? Are the walkways lit at night? Do the grounds appear neat and tidy? Is the marina manager present and available to answer your questions? What’s the mix of sailboats to powerboats in the marina, and is this breakdown important to you? You should feel fully comfortable in your decision before entering into any agreements. 

chesapeake bay marina
If your boat has a deep draft, you’ll need to make sure the approach channel is deep and well-marked. Courtesy of Piney Narrows Yacht Haven

Marina rules and contracts. Again, it’s important to be clear on all the rules at the marina or boatyard in question. Regarding the contract, be sure to read the fine print so you know what your responsibilities are as a slip holder, as well as the responsibilities of the marina.

According to BoatUS: “A marina contract is much like any other contract, in which each party is responsible for something—you agree to give the marina money, and it agrees to give you something in return, namely a place to keep your boat. But it’s worth noting that such contracts are usually written by lawyers whose focus may be more aligned to benefit the marina than the customer. Discussions about legal liability and how it may be limited or shifted can be woven throughout the contract. What provisions are enforceable will vary, depending on your jurisdiction, and with that in mind, it’s important to be alert to how those provisions might affect you.” To learn more about marina contract basics, as well as what clauses to look out for, visit boatus.com.

Compare prices. If you have narrowed down a location, and made the decision regarding more or fewer amenities, compare prices at similar properties in the vicinity. See if anyone is offering an incentive or deal on slip fees and go over exactly what you will be paying for to determine if it’s a good fit. 

Take stock every few years. Your priorities may change, you may purchase a different boat that is not as good of a fit at your current marina, or you may find that you are paying a premium price for amenities you don’t use. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of where you’re keeping your boat against what you want to get from boating.

chesapeake bay marina
Are you looking for a resort marina or merely a place to park your boat? Herrington Harbour South photo by Angel Beil Photography

What Amenities/Factors Are Important to You?

Make a list of what amenities are a ‘must,’ which are a ‘like to have,’ and which amenities you don’t need (and thus don’t want to pay for).

  • Free WiFi
  • Swimming pool
  • Restaurant or dock bar
  • Picnic tables
  • Transient slips
  • Gear boxes
  • Showers
  • Dinghy storage
  • Adequate parking for you and your guests 
  • Maintenance on-site
  • Clean Marina status
  • Gas
  • Diesel
  • Pump out
  • Laundry
  • Marina store
  • Trailer storage
  • Electric
  • Slipholder events
  • Proximity to the Bay
  • Distance from home
  • Water depth
  • Travel lift tonnage
  • Security
chesapeake bay marina
If the ability to haul out is a must, be sure to check the marina's travel lift tonnage. Photo courtesy of Bowleys Marina/Facebook

Dockage/Storage Options

Choosing the location for your boat is just the beginning. Say you fall in love with a particular marina or boatyard, but they have multiple dockage/storage options, and you don’t know which one is the best fit for you? Each has its pros and cons as well as varying prices, but the decision will ultimately come down to your boat and your personal preferences. Here are a few options:

  • In a slip in the water. 
  • On a boat lift. 
  • In a boatel (indoor or outdoor boat storage racks).
  • On a mooring ball. 

For some perspective on this, we asked FishTalk editor Lenny Rudow about his decision to switch from an in-water slip to a boat lift after purchasing his new boat:

“I initially wanted to keep my boat on a lift for two reasons. First, because painting the bottom would knock off a couple of mph of speed and second, because short of a hurricane I’d never have to worry about the boat sinking in its slip. What I discovered is that there’s a lot more to love about a lift. Being able to adjust the boat’s height makes it much, much easier to load and unload gear. I never have to worry about adjusting lines or line chafe. I can bring the bow up a bit higher than the stern to assist drainage during washdowns. My fishfinder transducer and trim tabs don’t get any growth. And I don’t have to scrub off a nasty waterline mustache every week. Setting aside cost, I haven’t found a downside yet!”

chesapeake bay marina
A mooring ball might cost less than a traditional slip, but they also come with their own list of difficulties. 

We also asked PropTalk advertising sales representative Eric Richardson about his decision to dock his boat on a mooring ball versus using a traditional slip:

“The main reason I chose the mooring ball is cost. The city of Annapolis leases the annual moorings on Back Creek, Spa Creek, and College Creek. I kayak out to the boat from the Sixth Street bulkhead in Eastport, an easy 10-minute paddle. There are challenges with how much stuff I can take with me in the kayak. Additionally, there is no electricity or fresh water at the mooring ball, making maintenance and cleaning more complicated than they would be at a dock. One of the main challenges a mooring ball holder has is the question of ‘Where do I pick people up?’ The Annapolis Maritime Museum allows docking for members; however, you cannot dock at their facility after 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. This year the city made an addendum that now allows annual mooring ball holders to take their boats downtown to the slips by the harbormaster’s office to clean and do maintenance. I know there is a long waitlist for mooring balls in Annapolis. I got mine pre-Covid, but it still was a bit of a challenge.”

Again, it comes down to determining your budget, as well as your personal preferences for you and your boat. 

Dock Bars

Many Chesapeake dock bars are located at or adjacent to marinas all over the Bay. And for some people, having a dock bar in close proximity to where they keep their boat is a definite plus. Visit proptalk.com/dock-bars for a comprehensive list and interactive dock bar map to find a dock bar near you. Also stay tuned for our print Dock Bar Guide which runs June through September. Always be sure to take along a designated skipper on your travels. And if you don’t see your favorite dock bar on the list, email [email protected] for inclusion.

chesapeake bay marina
Having a dock bar onsite at your marina can be a definite plus. Courtesy of Turkey Point Marina

Clean Marinas

The Maryland Clean Marina Initiative recognizes and promotes marinas, boatyards, and yacht clubs of any size that meet legal requirements and voluntarily adopt pollution prevention practices. The department has certified 30 percent of Maryland's estimated​ 500 marinas as Clean Marinas or Clean Marina Partners aims to continue increasing this number moving forward. Boaters are encouraged to patronize certified Clean Marinas and to adopt clean boating habits. ​For more information on the program, visit dnr.maryland.gov/boating/Pages/cleanmarina/home.aspx or email Donna Morrow at [email protected] to seek certification.

Under the leadership of the Marine Advisory Program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), the Virginia Clean Marina Program (VCMP) was founded in the fall of 1999 to assist marinas in the Commonwealth with technical issues. The VCMP is designed as a voluntary program to address a broad range of issues related to the potential environmental impacts of marina operations. It was initiated as an implementation element of the Virginia Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program. The VCMP is a cooperative effort that brings together public and private interests through the Marina Technical and Environmental Advisory committee (MTEAC). It provides information, guidance, and technical assistance to marinas, local governments, and recreational boaters in Virginia on how to minimize their impacts on water quality and coastal resources. To accomplish this task, a Marina Technical Advisory Program was established. The Marina Technical Advisory Program also focuses on working with marinas to achieve voluntary designation as a Virginia Clean Marina. Learn more at vims.edu/research/units/centerspartners/map/vacleanmarina.

chesapeake bay marina
MTAM asks marinas to consider joining its annual effort to keep shrinkwrap out of landfills. Courtesy of MTAM

Maryland Shrinkwrap Recycling Program

Once again, the Marine Trades Association of Maryland (MTAM) is partnering with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Clean Marina Program and Chesapeake Materials to help keep shrinkwrap out of our landfills.

Here’s how it works:

  • MTAM will sell and distribute bags that hold up to 40 pounds of clean shrinkwrap to participating marinas, boatyards, and marine service companies. MTAM can also sell to individual boaters who are living in Queen Anne’s County.
  • The cost of each bag is $15, which includes the pickup/transportation and recycling of the filled bags (hese are the hard costs to make this program work).
  • Critical to the successful recycling of boat shrinkwrap is keeping it pure and clean. All straps, zippers, doors, and vents must be removed in order to be made acceptable to any recycler. Dates for pick-up will be sent out to you early in the season so that you will have time to prepare and plan to get the wrap bagged in time. Only one pickup per location will be arranged.
  • Only bagged wrap will be accepted by Chesapeake Materials.
  • MTAM ran a test of putting the wrap into one of the bags and was able to fit the shrinkwrap from a 35-foot boat into one of the bags. By condensing the wrap, you may get more in the bag, but MTAM asks that you keep the weight to 40 pounds maximum. For a demo video, visit youtube.com/watch?v=SSqL3Zs8NtA.

If you have questions or need to order bags, email John Stefancik at [email protected]. Bags will be delivered to you by March 15. You can also visit mtam.org/shrinkwrap-recycling-for-2021 to place an order.

What’s New Around the Bay?

Anchor Yacht Basin

Anchor Yacht Basin by Sagamore Blue will be taking delivery of a new 75-ton Travelift in February. The marina also has a brand-new fuel tank dispenser, a new 40-ton trailer, and a 12-1500 square foot marina-adjacent office space that is now available. Stay tuned to sagamoreblue.com for more details.

chesapeake bay marina
Courtesy of Anchor Yacht Basin

A New Option for Catamaran Owners

Yankee Point Marina in Lancaster, VA, is the newest option for catamaran owners in the Chesapeake Bay region looking to haul out, whether for work or dry storage. Working closely with Brownell Systems and Marine Hydraulics USA, Yankee Point Marina CEO Todd Patterson designed a specialty hydraulic trailer to pull catamarans out using the marina’s existing boat ramp with minor modifications. The trailer can accommodate catamarans measuring up to 60-foot LOA with a 28-foot beam. Learn more at yankeepointmarina.com.

chesapeake bay marina
Courtesy of Yankee Point Marina

If you're ready to start searching for a marina, check out PropTalk's interactive Chesapeake Bay Marina Directory