Whether you're storing your watercraft at the end of boating season or traveling the ICW on a trip down south, having a space for mooring and docking your boat is essential. However, as most boaters know, finding a place to secure your vessel and figuring out how much it costs to dock there can be challenging.
Luckily, practical modern boating tools like online dock space reservation platforms help make the process of finding and renting a slip much easier.
Even so, there are several important factors you'll need to consider when it comes to deciding on the best place to anchor down or tie up.
Before purchasing a new or used boat, sailors must determine where and how they want to store their vessel between uses. Mooring your boat at a public dock and reserving a slip at a marina are two of the most common ways to secure your vessel while on the water. In this article, we'll offer more information about:
Regardless of whether you're securing your vessel overnight or stowing it away for a few months, having reliable boat storage is a crucial part of protecting your investment. Depending on where you plan to keep your boat and for how long, certain types of dock space reservations may be better suited to your needs.
Many boaters choose to secure their craft to either a mooring or a dock. A mooring requires you to tie your boat to a fixed anchorage such as a mooring buoy before heading to land via another smaller vessel. Docking, on the other hand, involves using ropes, lines, or nautical knots to fasten the length of your boat (from bow to stern) to the dock itself.
Both these options have their pros and cons, but the decision often comes down to what is available at your public dock or marina. Mooring your boat is usually the more affordable choice, though the cost can change depending on whether the mooring is always available or only accessible during low or high tide.
If you're planning a longer stay and want direct access to the land, consider docking your boat. Along with allowing guests to board and disembark more easily, docks make performing maintenance, cleaning up, and loading and unloading your boat much simpler. Docking a boat typically costs more than mooring since you’ll have to rent a slip for the entire duration of your stay.
When looking to rent a slip at a marina, you'll often have to choose between a seasonal slip or a transient slip. Renting a seasonal slip involves signing an annual contract stating the length of time you plan on storing your boat and the included services your vessel requires. Seasonal slips are usually available during the winter or summer. Indoor storage may also be available as an alternative.
A transient slip rental offers temporary boat storage for stays lasting less than thirty days, so it's the perfect option for those visiting the Chesapeake Bay for a few days or enjoying a week-long Hilton Head vacation. After renting the slip, you can choose to stay in town or on your vessel. Most marinas also offer amenities like showers, on-site laundry facilities, and restaurants for transient boaters.
Most boat owners choose to rent a slip so they can travel and keep their boat in whatever affordable space they can find. However, buying a boat slip may be the more convenient choice if you want a permanent, always-available spot to store your vessel. While boat slip rentals tend to be the less-expensive option, buying a slip can protect you from any increasing rental rates in your area.
Costs for docking your boat vary depending on when, where, and how you plan to do it. Wintertime seasonal slip rentals in the northern United States typically cost more than summertime slips. Factors like the length and square footage of your vessel and how long you plan to stay can influence the cost of docking your boat as well.
Slip rental costs vary by marina, so you'll need to compare prices to find the best rate to fit your budget. Buying a boat slip at a marina can cost tens of thousands of dollars. However, many locations offer rentals at a flat rate based on the size of your vessel. Depending on the cost and available amenities, you might consider securing your boat at a:
Due to a recent nationwide increase in boat sales, more marinas and private dock owners are turning to digital dock space reservation platforms to help manage boat slip rental requests. Boaters can use these apps and websites to arrange convenient, affordable watercraft storage whenever they need it. Consider some of the following platforms next time you need accommodations for your vessel.
Since 2015, the online boat slip reservation service Snag-A-Slip has offered its services to boaters across the United States and internationally. "Our goal is to connect boaters and marinas more seamlessly," says Izabella Dickson from Snag-A-Slip. "We want it to be an easier process with the same fees and policies boaters would find if they went directly to the marina."
Snag-A-Slip users can access the service through the company website or mobile app. "You can search available slips by region, city, or a specific marina name, then book the slip online with us," Dickson says. "There’s never a booking fee, and we offer the same rates and policies as our marina partners." Also, the company has a 24-hour customer service team available for assistance.
Boaters use the service as a point of contact for all their reservation inquiries. Snag-A-Slip works directly with the marina to ensure your trip is easy to manage. "When you sign up to become a Snag-A-Slip member and include your trip itinerary, Snag-A-Slip sends you all the booking details and additional information you need about coming into the slip," Dickson says.
While their service primarily involves transient and short-term slip rentals, Snag-A-Slip also lists private slips on their website. Private slips allow homeowners to list their private docks for rent, similar to an Airbnb-style service. Each marina or private dock owner on Snag-A-Slip dictates the cost of booking their dock.
Snag-A-Slip offers several different perks for website and app users to enjoy. Boaters can access the company's blog to discover helpful information on activities and amenities near their rental slips. App users can also enroll in Snag-A-Slip's Dozen Dock Challenge and earn credits toward a free dock reservation after their twelfth booking.
Also founded in 2015, Dock Skipper lets boaters rent a mooring or slip at a marina or private dock. Those who use this online platform can also list their own dock, slip, or mooring for rent, discover dry storage or find and purchase a slip to own. You can search for rentals and properties for sale by location, boat size, listing type, price, and search radius.
Dock Skipper’s mission is to promote the maritime community through dock sharing. We’re passionate about building a directory of docks, moorings, and marinas to better facilitate worldwide travel on our magnificent oceans, lakes, and tributaries.
Launched in 2014, Dockwa is a dock space reservation platform headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company partners with nearly 900 marinas across the United States, including locations along the east coast, west coast, and in the Pacific Northwest. "We want to be everywhere that you want to go as a boater," says Meghan Keaney Anderson from Dockwa.
On the free Dockwa app, boaters can research marinas offering short-term stays and long-term storage. "For the boater, the app simplifies the process of finding a marina and planning a trip. It also streamlines the arrival, check-in, and check-out processes for the marina," Anderson says.
Dockwa automates the process of renting a slip by having boaters e-sign digital contracts from their marina partners. Dockwa users can also receive reminders about bills and invoices, upload their insurance information, and communicate with the marina through the company's messaging tool.
Booking through Dockwa is free for boaters. "We don’t want to put up any barriers to getting out on the water, so we offer the same rates you would get if you were calling the marina yourself on a CB Radio," Anderson says. With Dockwa, users save their payment info as a touchless wallet that covers the cost of fuel, the rental slip, and other transactions at the marina.
A lot of boaters today want to book digitally. They’ve grown accustomed to booking things like Airbnb stays and making reservations online, so they want that same kind of seamless, touchless experience while they’re boating," Anderson says. "We make it easier for them to plan their trip, see what amenities marinas have available, figure out stops along the way, and so much more.
Meghan Keaney Anderson, Dockwa
Boaters can use the Dockwa app or website to find discounts and deals on slip rentals in their area. There is also a boater feedback and review section on the platform that helps users determine which marina best suits their needs. "This is a space that is growing and is going to get better and better as the slip rental process becomes more digital. We’re just excited to be part of that," Anderson says.
While trying to pick their daughters up from camp in Ocean City, Maryland, Dockshare founders Gina and Nate Young discovered a missed market opportunity in the slip rental industry. While trying to find a place to dock their boat, the husband and wife ended up having to trespass onto private property so they could get their daughters home as quickly as possible.
"It felt like a super sketchy situation that didn’t necessarily have to be sketchy. We started brainstorming and thought it would be great to pay the owner just to use the dock for a little bit," Nate Young explains. Thanks to his experience in the real estate industry, Young was able to see the value in unused docks and realize that homeowners could earn extra income renting them to boaters.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people began to take up boating as a new hobby. To accommodate this surge of new boaters, the Youngs created the Airbnb-style platform, Dockshare, in 2020 to help boaters find private docks with seasonal and short-term boat slip rentals. Currently, the still-growing Dockshare app has listings in the Maryland area as well as in Florida.
Dockshare is helping to modernize the low-tech boat slip rental industry by streamlining the process for boat owners and those listing their docks. "We try to eliminate as much friction as we can for both sides," Young says. "We’re trying to expand boating for everyone." Offering rental slips at private locations allows boaters to dock and explore areas where there are no marinas.
According to Young, today’s boaters prefer the simplicity of using an online app to plan their trips. Managing your voyage through Dockshare reduces the risk of being unable to find a place to dock once you arrive at your destination.
Our service essentially lets you dock wherever you want, whether it be close to family, amenities, or restaurants. We do our best to offer flexible booking options and services across the board.
Nate Young, Dockshare
PierShare started in 2017 as a secure platform that automated the task of renting private dock space for a seamless boater experience. After a dock owner lists their empty slip on PierShare, boaters can browse the area they plan to stop in and make a reservation request. Owners then pre-approve the request and take the boater's insurance and payment information.
Although most of PierShare's profile listings include Florida-based locations, boaters can use the platform to find available rental slips all along the eastern coast of the United States. These listings make it easy for boaters to find transient and short-term slips in popular vacation spots like Hilton Head Island and Miami Beach.
Before you book a dock reservation, it's important to research the marina and the location where you plan to rent your slip. Asking the right questions and observing the area before you arrive is a smart way to avoid unwelcome surprises like excessive water traffic or poor security. Here are some questions you should ask yourself and the marina workers before making a dock reservation.
Whether you plan to secure your boat at a public marina or a private dock, you'll need to choose the best slip for you, your boat, and your budget. By helping boaters find affordable slips for rent and for sale in various locations, dock space reservation platforms make it easy to plan fun, relaxing boating trips.