Liveaboard Marinas: Finding the Best One for You

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Ariel view of boats in slips at a liveaboard marina

There are many reasons you might investigate liveaboard marinas as the right option for you and your boat.

  • You just bought a new-to-you boat and need a place to outfit it
  • You want to live a life with fewer expenses
  • You need a longer-term spot for the season to work on boat projects and make some extra money

Whatever your reason, we’ll touch on things to consider to find a marina that fits your situation and lifestyle.

Here are the essential tips for choosing the best liveaboard marina.


The First Question When Looking for a Liveaboard Marina

The first question you’ll want to ask in your search is – does the marina allow liveaboards.

Not every marina does, or there might be a limit to how many liveaboard slips they offer. This is more common on the west coast of the U.S. and Florida due to areas with denser populations. Just be aware that living aboard isn’t a given with every marina.


Where is the Best Place to Live on a Liveaboard Boat?

Determining the best place to liveaboard a boat requires answering many questions. Here are some things to consider related to location when looking at an area to live aboard your boat.

Marina with sailboats at sunset with purple skies

Proximity to Town

How close is the marina to the grocery store and other necessities? Will you need a car to get around? If so, can you park at the marina?

For cruisers looking to stay the season at a marina, getting around might be an important factor if you don’t have a vehicle. Here are a few things to think about.

  • Are there Uber or Lyft drivers in the area if you need to get somewhere
  • Will you have access to a bike (some marinas have courtesy bikes, or you might consider having your own)
  • Boaters are a friendly bunch and have been known to lend out their cars to fellow boaters that need to do a provisioning run or need to get somewhere

We stayed long-term in a few marinas where we could bike to the store and ship in bigger items through Amazon, Walmart, or shop through Instacart.

Marina Entrance and Access from the Water

As a liveaboard boater, you’ll want to be able to get in and out of your marina somewhat comfortably. Here are two questions to answer regarding access to the marina.

1. Are there bridges nearby? If so, what kind?

If you’re on a sailboat, you’ll want to make sure you can get under any fixed bridges comfortably. If there are swing or draw bridges, determine the schedule they run on and how closely they adhere to it. If you won’t be moving your boat often, this isn’t a big issue, but it’s still good to know.

2. What are the water levels at the entrance to the marina?

Is the water deep enough for your boat’s draft, or will you need to be selective about when you can come and go based on the tide? If the water levels are lower, you might have to time your visit to the diesel or pump-out dock with the tide.

NOTE: Regarding fixed bridges and hurricane regions – in areas prone to coastal flooding, even an indirect hit from a hurricane can raise the water considerably for weeks after the storm has passed.

Weather and Climate

The weather and area’s climate will be in consideration when deciding where to liveaboard your boat. Onboard, the outside elements are very much a part of your living situation and can strongly impact your daily comfort.

Warm weather can be lovely, but in places where humidity is high, it can also play a big role in your day-to-day life on your boat.

The humidity of the east coast will not only plague you in the summer but in the winter months as well. Because boats typically have no insulation, condensation can be a daily issue. I would argue that mold on a boat in a humid winter is actually harder to tame than in the hot summer months. More humid climates will also be prone to mosquitos.

This makes marinas on the southern west coast preferable with their drier air and moderate year-round climate.

Hurricane Season and Insurance

Something that has become more of a factor recently is if your insurance policy covers you in the marina’s location.

Hurricane season is becoming increasingly impactful on insurance companies. In the past few years, companies have adjusted their policies to require boats to be further north or south (hopefully) out of the hurricane path.

Your insurance might also require you to put your boat on the hard for a named storm. In that case, you will need to have close access to a boatyard capable of hauling your boat.

There are many more requirements that your insurance policy could stipulate. Keep this in mind when you are considering a marina.


How Much Does a Liveaboard Slip Cost?

Catamarans in slips at the dock

Depending on location and how long you are committing to staying, marinas can vary in cost.

Here are some things to ask when determining how much it will cost you to live in a marina.

  • Does the marina charge by the slip size or length of the boat? Some marinas will charge a flat monthly slip fee on a 40-45 foot boat instead of a price-per-foot model.
  • Can you sign a long-term lease to save costs? Some Florida marinas have this option.
  • Is there a liveaboard fee? This is a fee that is sometimes included to justify liveaboards’ use of amenities.
  • Is electricity included, a flat fee per month, or is it metered? This could make a big difference if you are running AC or a heater constantly and the electric is metered.
  • Is water included?
  • Are there hidden costs, such as environmental fees?
  • Are pump-outs included?
  • Is WiFi available and included? Also, is the WiFi stable enough that you won’t need to invest in additional internet services? This is one you might have to ask around about.

Marinas in Large Cities

As a general rule of thumb, Metropolitan areas will be pricer than marinas that are more remote. Marinas located in a downtown area will probably be even more pricey. Just be aware, similar to real estate, location has a large weight on your marina’s monthly cost.


Marina Amenities

All liveaboard marinas will offer different amenities. Depending on the cost of the marina, you may get a variety of options.

palm tree in front of marina

Here are some examples:

  • pool and fitness center
  • clubhouse
  • marina store
  • dog park
  • restaurant(s) on-site
  • playground
  • laundry facilities
  • social events (movie nights, potlucks, etc.)
  • courtesy car or bikes
  • shuttle service

We have even stayed long-term at a marina with free beer on tap and free laundry machines (we highly recommend Brunswick Landing Marina in Georgia).

The amenities you desire as a liveaboard are personal to you and will have the most significant impact on the marina where you choose to live.

Security

Even in nicer areas, I have always felt safer walking around at night when the marina has nightly security. Whether it’s coming back from a friend’s boat or the bathhouse, I feel better about my safety and that of my boat.

Boats are notoriously easy to break into. And you wouldn’t believe the things people grab right off a boat.

A couple of things to look for regarding security.

  • Is there nightly security or even 24/7 security
  • Is the marina gated
  • Are there dock cameras

Liveaboard Community

It’s the last thing on this list, but arguably one of the most important pieces of your day-to-day liveaboard life.

A large community of liveaboards is a desired amenity! You’ll be a part of this community, and marinas with an engaged group will have more activities and events. The liveaboards often organize many of the events with the management’s blessing – from shared vegetable gardens to dinghy drifts and movie nights.

An active liveaboard marina is a real asset if you’re just getting started on your boat. You’ll have access to people with endless sailing and boating knowledge who are usually very willing to help newbies.

Whether you need a hand with a boat project or just someone to provide maintenance advice, your marina neighbors will be your go-to for assistance.


Final Thoughts Liveaboard Marinas

Nightscape of marina under the moon

After you have done your research, try to do the following.

  1. Do an on-site visit of potential candidates for your marina home.
  2. Chat up the current liveaboards and listen to what they like and don’t like about the marina.
  3. Walk the docks and ask to visit the clubhouse, bathhouse, and laundry facilities.
  4. Chat with the marina staff. Often, these folks are boaters themselves and may even live on a boat in the marina.

In the end, the place that gives you the best vibe will probably be the winner and the best choice for you.


Want more tips on how to get started cruising on a boat?

For more on finding the right boat, the cost of cruising, and learning how to live on the water, view our complete guide.


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3 Comments

  1. Hey Morgan, thank you for using photos of our marina, Brunswick Landing Marina, in your post! Great shots 🙂

    -Michael Torras

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