How Marina Pricing Works
For those unfamiliar with boating, the first look at a marina rate sheet can be confusing. Even for the more experienced, it can be a surprise when you arrive someplace far from home and find that they do things just a little differently.
Since I’m in the United States, I’m going to use the terms “dollars” and “feet” in this article, but you can substitute in the local currency and length units, and it’s equally valid.
Length-based Fees 🔗
Almost every marina has a fee based on the length of your boat. This is because:
- Often the number of boats that can fit in the marina is proportional to the lengths of the boats, so they need to charge a bigger boat more to make any money.
- Their expenses (water, electricity, etc) are roughly proportional to the size of the boat.
- Really, these things tend to scale with the volume of the boat, not the length, so they could actually be losing money to charge larger boats in this way – we’ll talk about other ways of billing utilities later on.
- They believe (often correctly) that owners of bigger boats have more money and fewer options for where to dock. The law of supply and demand says they can get away with charging more.
This fee is quoted in dollars per foot, or whatever the local currency and length units are (e.g. euros per meter).
When you’re a transient (visiting) boater, usually the given price is going to be on a per day basis (e.g. $1.50/ft/day), so it’s a simple matter of multiplying the rate by your boat length by the number of days you’re going to stay to calculate the total cost.
total cost = rate * length * number_of_days
But if you’re staying a longer time, perhaps a week or a month, the marina may give you a less expensive rate. This is where the confusion can begin: this reduced price could be quoted as a lower per-day rate, but often it will be quoted as a weekly or monthly rate. For some reason, many marinas don’t make it clear; you have to guess from how big the number is. So if that same marina above says “Weekly: $6/ft”, they means $6/ft/week, but if they say “Weekly: $1.25/ft”, they mean $1.25/ft/day.
Seasonal contracts are usually for either 6 months or a year and are always quoted for the whole season (e.g. $120/ft/season).
Some marinas, particularly in popular destinations, have a tiered pricing system where the $/ft rate will increase if your boat is above a certain length threshold.
Width-based Fees 🔗
Some marinas charge extra for wide boats because they take up more dock space, and thus reduce the number of boats the marina can hold. “Wide boats” usually means catamarans and trimarans. If you own one of the few catamaran and trimaran designs that is narrow or has retractable hulls, be sure to point this out to the marina when booking so they don’t charge you extra!
The practice of charging this extra fee, which can be a doubling of the usual length-based fee, is more common in marinas that have finger piers. The fingers are usually spaced for every other slip. For monohulls, each boat will have a finger on one side and another boat on the other side. This arrangement is referred to as “double load”. When a catamaran (or trimaran) gets put in those same slips, it is “single load” – the boat is so wide that it has a finger pier on both sides and no room for another boat.
It’s less common for Mediterranean-style (stern tied to dock, bow tied to a mooring or anchor, no fingers) marinas to charge extra for catamarans. This may help explain the popularity of catamarans in places that typically have Med-style mooring.
Flat Fees 🔗
Flat fees are the same for every marina customer, regardless of boat size. They’re often charged on a per-day basis, but sometimes per-season. Common examples include:
- electrical connection
- there may be an upcharge for multiple or higher-power connections
- cable TV
- liveaboard fee
- usually only charged to seasonal slip holders, not transients, this fee is to cover extra wear and tear on the marina facilities from people who live full-time on their boats
Metered Utilities 🔗
The higher the price for electricity or water, the more likely the marina is going to measure your usage and charge you accordingly. This can be a benefit for boats with high-power connections but low actual power use (e.g. European boats visiting the USA that need 240V), because you avoid the upcharge for the connection and only pay for what you use. But watch out – it’s metered for a reason, and it’s probably going to be easy to run up a large bill.
How to Estimate Costs 🔗
SailsGoal can automatically estimate your marina costs with only a little help from you. When you visit the cost models page, you’ll see length-based and flat-fee fields for the summer and winter seasons. Examine your marina’s rate sheet, find the length-based fees that would apply for each season, and plug them into the “per-length fee” boxes. Then add up all of the flat-fees you expect to incur and put them in the flat fee boxes. If your marina meters utilities, you can take a guess at what they’ll be and include that in the flat fee section. If your marina only has one season (i.e. you live someplace where it doesn’t get cold in the winter), you can fill out the Summer fields with the whole-year rates and enter zero in the Winter fields. Now, when you add a boat to your Short List, SailsGoal will calculate your personalized marina cost estimates.