Buying a boat is one hell of a ride. Believe me, I am working in the business and with nearly 100 yachts sold myself, I know the roller coaster ride that a future owner is embarking on when signing a contract. I also know it from the “other side of the table” as I am an owner of boats myself, having signed a purchase contract for my new boat only recently. With all that excitement and the zillions of topics connected with your new boat, like certifications, equipment and such, there is one major park of the journey I haven´t talked about in depth: The future home of your yacht – the home port marina.
Depending on the use case of your particular boat, this is a decision of utmost importance. Since statistically the boat will sit in its berth for longer periods of time than it will be sailed around by its crew, choosing the right marina is a delicate matter. I´ve decided to move out from my “ancestral” home port and look for a new place. Why? Well, here we go …
What is the perfect marina?
First of all, when looking for a berth, of course, the overall situation regarding general availability is a big thing. Due to Covid, at least here in Germany, we´ve seen that hundreds of boats owner by Germans berthed in neighboring countries like Holland or Denmark “returned” home. Also, the boom in boating with sharp increase of new boats entering the market caused a shortage in berth. The Baltic Sea is completely “occupied” berths-wise and for many marinas a friendly: “We are sorry, but no berth available” is the standard answer. This may be or not the case for your area too.
Another general fact to be checked is – above everything else, maybe – the price. There are so-called “5 star marinas” which will indulge you in maybe unnecessary or fake amenities. And even if real, you may ask yourself if you need the spa experience and New York City style Steak BBQ restaurant. I also find important to check the travel time to and from your marina: If it takes you half a day fighting traffic jams to reach your boat, you will trade one full day of your precious boating weekend. And, of course, another general thing is your feeling: Does this marina somehow “fit” your personality, your style, your kind of boat as well?
A berth that fits your boat
Here it gets interesting. Maybe in your area the variety of marinas (with berths available) isn´t so big. You want to take what you can get. Often that’s the fact with many owners I know. I hear stories of waiting lists where it takes 25 years (!) to be considered for receiving a berth. Praised be the one who can choose from many harbors. Such like myself: The Luebeck Bay area may be one of the two main hotspots in Germany´s Baltoc coast, yet I did never had any problem in getting a berth. For most part, this has been Ancora Marina in Neustadt for me. But I wanted a change.
For my new berth, after having ticked the other boxes, I especially looked for a berth that would fit my boat. What does this mean? Well, my new boat, the Omega 42, is almost 13 meters long and has no bow thruster. Since most of the time I will be alone, it was imperative for me to have a berth that was easy to reach and cast off from, no tight corners to be cut or impossible in stronger winds. This new berth is just perfect: Look at the picture. I can park my boat with a simple easy left turn. Getting away will be a no-brainer.
You will (certainly) need service
Any boat will have to be maintained. A sound Diesel-engine service, a master rigger nearby or a yard being able to do basic or even special repairs. Boat hauling by travel-lift and winter storage is a big thing. Take a look at these facilities, ask around on the pontoon and even check the internet. I do have some of our clients in a marina that is wonderfully located, offers wide taxiways and all amenities you can think of – but there is no technical service whatsoever, including winter storage. The hustle those owners endure to find refuge in neighboring marinas and get the maintenance and repairs their boats need is something I don’t want to experience myself.
My last marina is famously known for the technical service and expertise of their staff when it comes to engine, mechanics and electrical issues. This marina also offers winter storage both dry in halls and on the outside – but over the years more and more power boats arrived. All those big Sunseekers and Azimuts. It was apparent that the marina management wanted their harbor to develop into a different direction, attracting more and more (financially capable) power boat owners and become a focal point for power boating. Good for them, but last year I decided to look for a new place, a sailing place.
Feeling at home: Amenities, bathrooms et cetera
Depending on what you want to do with your boat and if the berth is just a place from which you start your sailing adventures – and rarely come back – your marina will become a major part of your boat-life experience. Even if you sail out every time you come there, you will spend a big amount f time in this place. Of course, there should be at least basic installations like bathrooms, showers and a washing machine.
If your marina has one or more restaurants to offer, that may become a double-edged sword. On the one hand, having a good (and maybe priceworthy) restaurant in your marina can be a great thing, on the other hand, having catering locations in your marina will draw in tourists, meaning higher prices, more “human traffic” and maybe parties at night.
Those amenities also include the pontoons, the infrastructure on the jetties with shore power, fresh water supply and other installations. Since I regularly work with a marina here in Luebeck to do base-commissioning for our Beneteau boats, I more and more learned to appreciate the “hidden gem”-harbors. Those generally smaller marinas with simple, wooden pontoons, which have no interested in acquiring a “5-star certification”, but offer a real, down to earth, natural and “at home”-character. I don´t need too much luxury, I am more fond of quietness, a family-like approach, knowing my pontoon-neighbors and a lush, unpretentious atmosphere.
How I found my dream-berth
I am happy I´ve found it! Each time I deliver a new boat from Luebeck, I have to sail downriver to the Baltic Sea. That´s a 2-hour ride all along the river Trave. A lush, green area, similar somehow to Sweden. To the right deep green forest, the former no man´s land of the Iron Curtain´s border that separated the German Democratic Republic from the Western part. To the left, Luebeck´s port authority operates some smaller terminals, mainly ferries to Finland or Sweden.
Here, several small marinas are situated all along the way. One in particular catched my imagination every time I was passing by. To my kids I always named it “the Pirate Marina” as we identified just two roughly timbered jetties with a maximum of 30 to 50 boats. The boats mooring here are all GRP-classics, skerry cruisers or special boats – pointing to an illustrious population. No modern planning hull, no volume cruiser here.
I went there two times in the past week and roamed the area. There is a small yard, a bigger one just around the corner. They can haul boats up to +50 feet and offer winter storage. The restrooms are basic but clean. There is no public attraction like restaurant or bar: Which for me personally is a good thing. I want a calm weekend on my boat, not be a part of a touristic attraction.
And so I discovered that I should definitely look out for a new place to stay when my boat finally arrives next year: Circumstances externally have changed as my old place more and more focused on taking in power boats and such as external factors, I, myself, had changed. A new boat, a new age.
May you land a lucky hit
What I did was to write an email. Just a nice email to the “Prate Marina” at the Trave shore. I wrote about my new boat, the Omega 42, and my wish to have a berth that fits the boat and suits my idea of a nice and calm little harbor. My joy was boundless when I received a phone call last week. A lady on the line. She told me that she´d received my mail. “Such a nice boat, Mr. Reisberg!”, she said, apparently knowing about boats and the Omega 42 in particular. “I have something for you …”
My new berth is next to a classy Comfortina and a wooden skerry cruiser. The berth is just perfect, just as I had wished for: Easy to land and cast off, long and wide to fit my boat. I am as happy as a man could be. In this, I wish you a lucky hand and a good nose, choose wisely and may you be able to acquire a berth in a marina that is as friendly and open, as calm and beautiful as my new place. What great news!
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