It’s not what a marina has—but how it makes you feel—that matters most.
It’s funny but I’ve met a lot of boaters who obsess for years, sometimes decades, over what type of boat they want to buy. I’ve also seen the same people give so little thought to where they keep their boat and simply slide it into whatever marina is closest.
To me, where you keep your boat is one of the most important decisions a boater can make and is perhaps one of the biggest factors that contribute to how long you stay in our sport.
I’m extremely fortunate in that regard; as a kid I grew up in a great marina surrounded by people that I think of as family to this day. I learned at a relatively young age that I wanted to find something similar when I had a boat of my own. When I first moved to Connecticut to work for Power & Motoryacht nearly 8 years ago, I dreamed that one day I would have a boat at Essex Island Marina.
As a kid, we would visit Essex every few years. I’ve written about the nostalgia I feel towards the 13-acre parcel of land in a previous column. A picture hangs in my office of my brother and I dressed up like pirates on the island as part of an Egg Harbor rendezvous in 1997.
It’s amazing how fast something you dream of and work so hard towards can be taken for granted but that’s what was in danger of happening early last summer as I toiled between my Bertram’s engines. I remember one hot, frustrating summer afternoon where I sent Karen, Connor and Salty off to the playground while I worked. After a while they returned, trying to judge my success level (read: mood) from the dock. I knew I needed to cool off, so I took Connor for a quick dip in the pool just 50 yards from our slip. It’s amazing what a quick dunk and 5-minute swim lesson will do for the soul.
Just as rejuvenating were the occasional nights where Karen and I would sit by the propane-fire pit at the end of the dock after Connor went to bed. Have you noticed how so few people just sit out under the stars anymore? I never regret nights like that. Only with your phone away and Netflix off can you really connect.
Essex Island has just about everything you could ever want from a marina: A restaurant, an office space, a playground, a pool, shuffleboard courts, corn hole boards, grills, fire pits, you name it. It even has something only a toddler would love: A shed where you can laugh at the echo of your own shrieks for an hour without tiring.
There’s also a great staff that takes the time to learn your name. Connor is always greeted with enthusiasm and Salty with a treat or two. Where else can you go these days where everyone seems genuinely glad to see you and offers a free snack?
Most of the boaters at our marina are seasonal; we don’t know too many by first name yet but I suspect that will change over the years ahead. It’s nice to see familiar faces on the weekends. And there are also enough transients to keep the place vibrant. Transients used the slip next to us most of the summer and we enjoyed meeting almost all of them.
A marina, at its most basic level, is a place to keep your boat. Most have electric, water, bathrooms, showers, maybe even a space to do laundry. Good marinas have amenities, like a restaurant, pool, playground, lawn games. Great marinas, don’t need any of those things or even great access to a major body of water. No, great marinas posses something much more important: a feeling; they’re the ones that you leave your house to go to and you arrive feeling like you’re home.
I’m thankful to have found a marina like that. If something is missing in your boating life, perhaps it’s time to make a change?
See ya on the docks,
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This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.