POSTED December 6, 2016
Mooring, Berth or Dry Stack?
Every boat needs a home, and in this article we’re going to outline the differences between storage options and which one is best suited to your needs.
Aside from storing your boat on a trailer, you have three (3) options:
1. Mooring– a large cement block, typically placed on the seabed with a chain and rope attached to the boat.
2. Berth– a boat’s allotted place at a wharf, dock or marina.
3. Dry Stack – a large structure designed to stack boats on top of one another to optimise storage space.
Mooring a boat is often the most economical way to store a large boat on a long-term basis. Moorings licenses can be obtained from Maritime, and a mooring contractor is then enlisted to drop a suitable size mooring in the right location. Using Sydney Harbour as an example, the further away from the city and smaller your boat is, the cheaper the moorings become.
But what needs to be considered before you decide on a mooring?
1. How are you going to get out to the boat?
This is an extra expense, which you will need to cater for – swimming out to the boat isn’t really a viable option. Depending how far out in the bay your boat is, you will need a small dinghy and you might even want an engine. You will need to contact the local council and find out about dinghy storage – there are dinghy racks located on the shoreline for this purpose. One of the pitfalls of a mooring is getting your gear onboard. The size of your dinghy will dictate the amount of trips out to the boat required. A larger dinghy will be heavier and harder to maneuver between the storage rack and the shoreline. A small fiberglass dinghy and some oars provides the most economical option, and can often be picked up second hand for a few hundred dollars. You can also find a compromise of convenience – a mooring at a marina that can include a tender service out to your boat; these often include a public dock where you can load passengers and clean your boat.
2. Mooring service
Mooring lines in NSW need to be inspected every 12 months. This keeps your insurance company happy, and peace of mind that your boat is safe and secure. If you have a mooring line failure, you will not only be up for the repair of your own boat, but any others it drifts into during the course of coming undone.
Connecting up to a swing mooring is typically much easier then parking a boat in a berth. With a boat hook on hand, you drive into the wind and hitching up is straightforward. The bridal arrangement needs to be matched to your boat, which consists if the lines that holds your boat in place.
4. Charging the batteries
Charging the batteries isn’t as easy as plugging into a 240v shore power lead. Keeping your boat on a mooring means you cannot run the 240v systems, (for example, a water heater or air conditioning) unless you have a gen-set onboard. A well setup boat, with a twin batteries and an automatic bilge pump should have you covered for a considerable period of time (6-12 months) but often there are other electronics slowly draining the batteries. Ensuring the batteries are isolated after each trip is essential, and getting the batteries checked each year helps prolong their life. A good safeguard is fitting a solar panel to trickle charge batteries at the correct rate, but requires careful consideration in relation to regulation of the current. Ideally you need a system that can evaluate the voltage of each battery and top up the one with the lowest charge first, then move to the next. Once the batteries are full, the charge needs to stop otherwise they will become overcharged and pre-maturely fail. There also needs to be a suitable position for the solar panel where it will get the most sunlight.
5. Cleaning and birds
Keeping your boat on a swing mooring means you are open to the elements, and seagulls love to boat-sit while you’re away – dropping their waste all over the deck. If you do a lot of fishing onboard, they will become attracted to the leftover bait and fish remains, and flock to your boat even more. Furthermore the boat is out in the open environment and over time becomes dirty. Depending on the size of the boat, sometimes a deck wash pump, freshwater tank and hose is fitted and the boat can be cleaned on the mooring. If not, you will need to find a suitable place to berth and wash down the hull. Most private marinas do not allow you to wash the boat when refueling, and are not very accommodating unless they are paid for the berth. Covers, netting and bird repellants can be placed on the boat to help, but need to be removed and refitted after each outing.
Berthing is one of the most convenient ways to store your boat, but also comes at a higher cost. The bigger your boat is and the better your location, the more expensive. But are there any disadvantages?
Parking your boat in the berth at the marina is one of the trickiest maneuvers you will learn when owning a boat. There is millions of dollars worth of other boats close by, packed in a tightly as possible to maximize space. Having a plan to get into the berth taking into consideration wind beforehand is essential, as well as having ropes ready. Getting a feel for how your boat reacts and what it is capable of is essential before trying to head into a berth – it’s best to practice on a parallel fuel wharf first. Once this is mastered, your next step is getting into a berth. Becoming comfortable with being close to other boats is a must, as panicking often causes you to be too heavy on the throttle and make other mistakes. Getting some lessons and having someone experienced by your side the first few times to guide you if things don’t go to plan can be well worth it. Only drive into a berth as fast as you’re prepared to hit, and don’t be too proud to drive out and re-attempt if it’s not going to plan.
2. Car parking
What is the parking situation at the marina? How far will you have to lug all your gear to get to your boat? Some marinas are positioned down the bottom of hundreds of stairs, and others have parking restrictions/limits and can be costly for you and your guests to park for the day.
After you have made the decision on which marina – it’s a good idea to get some lines spliced to length to secure your boat properly. This makes tying up a breeze – the lines are already on the dock waiting at the correct length. It also protects your boat from drifting off and hitting other boats. A properly spliced rope is stronger than a knot that can come loose.
Shore power is one of the benefits of storing your boat in a berth. Simply hook up your 240v lead to the dock, and you can run your fridge and battery charger full time. DO NOT run your shore power lead in the water, as any stray current that conducts through your boat can cause electrolysis and cause a chemical reaction – eroding away your boat’s metal parts!
Price is the # 1 reason people don’t leave their boat in a berth. It is significantly more expensive; you typically have to pay a monthly fee that is calculated on the length of your boat and location of the marina. Berths can also be purchased, but ongoing costs such as strata fees will still be applicable to up-keep the marina and surrounds.
Dry stacking your boat is becoming much more popular – with facilities popping up everywhere. Is it the perfect way to store your boat?
One of the pitfalls of a dry stack is you must call beforehand to have the boat placed in the water. Often they work around the clock, and have marina berths vacant for when you return in case there is a line, but you don’t have the luxury of sitting on the boat whilst it’s stored, which you can do in a marina berth or on a mooring.
Saltwater that dries up will leave salt deposits. This in turn can cause components to seize over time, and is also a common problem with trailer boats. To combat the issue, it’s good practice to flush your boat with freshwater every time it gets taken out of saltwater. A boat that lives at the marina doesn’t have the same problem, as the underwater components stay continually wet and the salt doesn’t get a chance to dry up (except for it’s once yearly slip, and usually it gets blasted with freshwater upon being slipped). Always ask if there are provisions to flush the engine and boat before it’s stacked.
3. Shore Power
Most dry-docks do not have provisions to plug your boat into shore power – and will not be positioned in the sun for a solar cell. This is worth asking before choosing a dry stack because if your boat doesn’t get much use, your batteries are likely to go flat over time.
4. Reduced Maintenance
The # 1 reason to dry stack your boat is to remove the need for all the additional maintenance associated with a boat that lives in saltwater. There will be no barnacle growth on the hull, the anodes will last longer and the hull and gel coat will stay in superior condition.
The final thing to consider is a limit on size, and boats larger than 12 meters often cannot be stacked. Sizing limits will be individual to each dry stack.
Overall there are a few ways to store your boat, with the main difference being price and convenience. Each option has its pros and cons, and everyone will have their own preference. Some swear by launching a dinghy from the beach, having peace and quiet, and the atmosphere that surrounds you. Others prefer the marina berth, and get a lot out of local events and services. It is possible to take each up on a short-term basis and then decide. Ultimately, the decision lies with you and with experience you will figure out what you prefer.