Keep It Near? Keep It Safe?
It's striking how often the idea of having a second home revolves around water. And a home on a Florida canal or on the Great Peconic Bay just isn't complete without a boat at the dock.
But is keeping your boat at your private dock a good idea? Wouldn't it be safer in a marina?
As far as the marine insurance industry is concerned, you're an “absentee” owner if you live in a state other than the one where you keep the boat, and that means more cost for less coverage, said Scott Croft, assistant vice president for public relations of the Boat Owners Association of the United States, known as BoatU.S. Insurers may give you a break on premiums if your boat is stored indoors, he said, but simply keeping it at a marina, and in the water, isn't enough to lower insurance costs.
You won't be alone if you decide to keep your boat at your own dock. Andy Weiser, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is used to dealing with boat-minded vacation-home shoppers. “People often buy houses here with the intention of also buying a boat,” he said.
Referring to Fort Lauderdale's many properties on canals, he said: “Some people will buy a house just for the dockage. Buying a house with enough canal frontage for a 75-foot boat can be cheaper than renting a marina slip for that 75-foot or longer boat.” And what about the house on the property? “Sometimes they use it for crew housing,” he said.
He offers a warning: be certain that you have proper water depth. “Not all canals accommodate sailboats,” he said, “but they can take motorboats.” Water depth isn't the only thing to think about. What if you're not there and a hurricane hits? What if the boat is vandalized? Stolen? Struck by another boat?
Perhaps you have a neighbor who can keep an eye on your boat. Or you can hire a professional caretaker to check on the boat periodically and to have it ready when you want to use it. The caretaker, whom you should remember to address as “captain,” can also move your boat to safer harbor when necessary. Prices of services like this vary, but expect to pay $30 to $50 for each visit for a small open boat, more for larger boats and much more if the boat has to be moved.
Bob Adriance, editor of Seaworthy, a BoatU.S. magazine, sees advantages in keeping a boat at a full-service marina. “You can call them and have them do anything,” he said. “I recently called my marina and arranged for them to realign the engine.”
Jeff Strong, owner of Strong's Marine in Mattituck, N.Y., operates three marinas on Long Island. All are full-service marinas, he said, and his employees get calls from boat owners who phone from Manhattan to say that they're on their way to the marina and they want their boats fueled and ready to go when they arrive. Mr. Strong, whose company also offers maintenance and other services performed at the boat owners' private docks, said that a slip for a 30-foot boat at his marina in Southampton is about $4,000 for the season and $1,230 more for winter out-of-water storage.
Winter storage is not a concern in South Florida, but weather can still be a problem. River Forest Yachting Center in Stuart, about a half-hour north of West Palm Beach, offers a range of services, including what it calls its Hurricane Club. Boat owners buy memberships for a season, starting at $2,000 for boats up to 40 feet long and up to $5,000 for boats longer than 75 feet. What they're buying is a place inland to take their boats.
For somewhat more money, you can simply let River Forest take care of your boat full time. It has an air-conditioned, hurricane-resistant 45,000-square-foot building for indoor storage of boats up to 65 feet long and 50 tons. John L. Smith, the general manager, said that storage for a 40-foot boat with a 13-foot beam is about $1,600 a month and includes pumping out all the tanks and washing the boat. “We have boats that the owners never take out,” Mr. Smith said, adding that he recently had a call from someone in England wanting to arrange storage for 11 months a year; the caller would use the boat only in July.
Unfortunately for you and for that caller, the Stuart boathouse, which opened in 2005, is full. But River Forest is building other hurricane-resistant buildings in LaBelle, east of Fort Myers. That complex is expected to open in September — “unless a hurricane slows things down,” Mr. Smith said — and will have 200,000 square feet of air-conditioned storage for boats up to 82 tons and 80 feet long. Mr. Smith said he already had three dozen cash deposits for spaces there.