Boating means many things to many people. For some, it means thrill-seeking hours of wakeboarding, waterskiing and tubing, or perhaps it means peaceful daybreak and twilight hours with a rod and tackle. For others, it means relaxing cruises and warm summer afternoons of dropping the hook for swimming, sunbathing and dining al fresco.
But at its heart, boating is really about community. As you share your passion for the on-water lifestyle with your family and friends, you naturally will gravitate to other families, couples or groups who share the same interests. And when you become a community, your entire on-water experience goes to the next level. It just keeps getting better and better.
Yet, how can you find those like-minded people?
It’s easy. Find a marina near you or near your favorite cruising grounds that fits your personality and lifestyle. It’s guaranteed that most of the other boaters there will be your kind of boaters. In fact, the right marina will provide countless ready-made playdates.
How do you choose the right marina? It’s simple: Do a little homework, and talk to people — marina management and slip-holders alike.
These are a few important questions to ask yourself as you start reviewing marina prospects:
• Does the marina easily accommodate boats like yours? A sailors’ marina might not be the best for a pontooner seeking other pontooners, and a marina catering to larger cruising boats might not be as appealing as one that serves vessels of all sizes, shapes and styles.
• Is the marina located in or near appropriate waters? A pontooner should dock his or her boat in a marina that offers access to relatively sheltered cruising grounds with lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. A coastal marina that is a gateway to big, open and frequently rough waters wouldn’t be the best place for a pontoon.
• What amenities are important to you? Are you simply looking for a place to dock your boat and hang out with other boaters, or would you like to take advantage of shower facilities, laundry, picnic areas, special events and other attractions?
• Is there a good vibe on the docks? Do people look like they’re enjoying themselves? Ask them how they like the marina and if there have been any problems or concerns.
• How do you feel when you tour the facility and talk with the management? Do you feel ill at ease, or do you feel comfortable? In the end, you want to form a relationship with the marina owners and staff. If you feel that they’re your kind of people, you’re going to be happy keeping your pontoon there.
For extroverts, some of the main delights at a marina are hanging out on the boat at the end of a fun day on the water, visiting with the boaters next door and across the way, savoring an ice-cold beverage and listening to music.
At the nearby Skipper Bud’s Quarter Deck Marina, seasonal slip-holders could enhance their experience with outdoor grills, an outdoor fireplace, a covered pavilion and a plush boaters’ lounge with all the extras. On one occasion, I spotted a crowd of boaters enjoying an impromptu suppertime picnic in the pavilion — their laughter and good cheer were infectious.
Some marinas, like the Bay Harbor Lake Marina in Bay Harbor, Michigan, offer formal events such as in-water boat shows, classic boat shows and rendezvous cruise-ins. Others, like Marina Jack’s in Sarasota, Florida, are part of large complexes that incorporate restaurants, retail outlets and watersports equipment rentals.
The best part is that you don’t need to be on the East or West coasts or in the Great Lakes. You can be an inland-lake boater and still enjoy the very best of marina life. Just look at operations such as the Ozark Yacht Club in Missouri, the Holiday Marina on Georgia’s Lake Lanier and even the Frisco Bay Marina and Dillon Marina, both located at 9,000 feet in the snow-capped Rocky Mountains.
Marinas have embraced the idea that they, too, need to focus on community. To that end, they have added those aforementioned amenities — things like swimming pools, picnic areas, pavilions and gazebos — that encourage gathering. And they have created a formidable list of events, from Venetian parades, Fourth of July fireworks and Halloween trick-or-treating to regattas, cruising clubs, rendezvous events and dockside barbecues.
If you don’t currently belong to a marina community, what are you waiting for? Jump online and do a search for marinas in your chosen boating area. You might also want to do a more general search for exciting events and activities in that region… for example, in the Lake of the Ozarks, you won’t want to miss www.funlakelife.com and www.lakeozarknow.com.
Don’t be shy – your new and improved boating lifestyle is out there, waiting for you!