Snooty Marinas

I wanted to write this week about stepping my mast, but that project has been put on hold because of a snooty marina.

What constitutes a snooty marina? Here is the definition of snooty:


There is serious problem with gentrification of marinas and over the last few years I’ve noticed it getting progressively worse. The federal government isn’t helping, but beyond that negative force, marinas are progressively catering to a higher class of boater and marginalizing what I like to think of as ‘true boaters’. To be fair, this isn’t their intent. Small boat owners are causing a disproportionate amount of headache for them, but upstanding pocket cruisers like me get lumped in with what is essentially watery white trash.

The present circumstance is a case in point.

When I got hired for my new job on the mainland, I happily moved back to Fidalgo Island and found moorage at Anacortes Marina. I passed up another gentrified marina because they clearly stated that slip lessors were only allowed to stay on their boats for up to six days per month, while slip owners were allowed to fully live aboard. There was a clearly defined first and second class of boat owner in that marina, and I justifiably wanted no part of it.

Instead, I signed a lease at Anacortes Marina. A friend worked there. It looked like a nice facility. After a quick call I found out they had slips to lease, so I stopped by the office and started asking questions. I would have loved to sign up as a full liveaboard, but only boats of a certain size were allowed the lofty title of liveaboard status. Alas, my boat was too small. Not a problem. I planned to live in the van part-time to cut down on commuting costs anyways and I only needed to stay on the boat less than 15 days a month. So I asked them, “How do you define a liveaboard here?”, to which the office reached under the counter, pulled out a three-ring binder, and proceeded to read a written statement that liveaboards were defined as living more than 30 days continuously on their boat and had no other address. Sweet! By that definition, I won’t have a problem, I thought.

Fast forward a month and I got an email from the harbor master claiming that I was violating the liveaboard policy and I needed to move immediately. I was insulted by the abrupt tone of the email and calmly (as calmly as you can in an email) replied that I was actually staying less than 15 days a month, which was much less than the policy that was described to me. In response the harbor master claimed that anyone who stayed on their boat on regular basis, even 1 day a week, was considered a liveaboard and therefore violating policy. Needless to say, this confused me greatly.

After explaining the situation, he continued to insist that I was a liveaboard and needed to move immediately. The previous week I had just stepped my mast and Solace was in a rather fragile state. The harsh November weather is no time to move a boat, especially one with no mast and no compression post to support the cabin top. I felt like I had just been suckered by a ‘bait and switch’ scam. Thankfully, nearby Cap Sante Marina, whose liveaboard policy is clearly stated in writing and publicly available, had moorage available, so I’ll be moving over there this next weekend.

Not much upsets me in this world, but being bullied, harassed, and misled will do it. I didn’t put up much of a fight. If a nearby alternative moorage hadn’t been available, I would have been forced to. Thankfully I can just move on and give my money to better run marina.

I had a very similar experience a few years ago with Swantown Marina in Olympia. Upon purchasing the Rock ‘n Row, about 30 minutes after signing the purchase agreement on the boat, the marina sent a representative to the boat yard (not within walking distance, mind you), where I was having the boat inspected and minor repair work done. This representative stopped by my boat to inform me that I would not be allowed to bring the boat back to the marina. The timing was such that it seemed the representative had waited until after the sale was finalized. Here I was with a newly purchased boat and nowhere to put it.

This kind of draconian, arbitrary policy abuse is not uncommon. Private marinas get away with it because they’re private. I’ve never challenged the legality of their stance, but I’m confident I’m not alone in judging them as morally deficient. Anyone who’s boat ‘looks wrong’ is judged, labeled, and marginalized. Only boats with shiny chrome and waxed gelcoat are treated civilly. These are boats that are left largely unattended for the majority of the year. Boats that float vacantly in their hollow moorings and pay moorage without incident.

I would want the same thing if I was a marina owner. Those boats are easy. But those gentrified boats and boat owners are pushing out the real boaters. The ones who love their boats. The ones who would rather use them than polish their chrome. The ones who write for boating magazines, and sail around the world, and write blog posts like this one. Without those crusty boaters, there would be no boating culture. There would be only sweater wearing, martini sipping, stock traders who buy expensive boats and then balk at spending more than $100 on a proper anchor.

There is no point to this post. I’m used to this kind of abuse. I roll with the punches.

It’s just sad to see.

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7 Responses to “Snooty Marinas”
  1. dave says:

    i agree with a lot of what your wrote Chris. the reality is that many folks believe all live-aboards will have a ‘bum boat’ (click like for an example picture – )

  2. emily says:

    Now do you see why our dear friend keeps Sookie in such ship shape condition? She looks pretty enough to pass! Nevertheless, go forth and challenge authority. Keep being you, d00d. Cheers.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Sorry, you had a bad experience. Sounds like a misunderstanding. We’ve had a sailboat at the Anacortes Marina for two years. We’ve had a great experience and people on our ‘snooty’ dock are kind and neighborly. Our friends in the slip next to us have been live aboards there for for 10 yrs in a 29 ft 1976 sailboat. They are gone 4-5 months of the year cruising and usually sublet while their gone. As new sailors we have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness and support of the other boat owners. Hopefully you have a better experience at Cap Sante. If we’d known you were there we would have looked for you. We keep our eye open for Solace when we’re on the water and maybe someday we’ll be anchored nearby and come say hello.

  4. Alan says:

    Hi Chris,
    Marina’s are becoming more problematical. They only want the money. Here in Port Angeles it’s still pretty loose. Nice marina lots of nearby facilities and a fairly doable live aboard policy. Stop by some time.

    Also a question. Any reason Stormy’s website went private today? I’ve been reading it for several years now and never had a log on before. Can’t even get there from the email updates.
    Alan in P.A.

  5. izzy says:

    When I first moved aboard, I couldn’t understand why anyone would let their boar fall into “bum” condition either. Then I (and other boaters in my marina) started having the same experiences as Chris… and more. I have given up on even sitting outside with a cup of coffee on a nice morning, let alone maintaining the boat, and don’t even THINK of doing a little improvement… all the non-regular boaters prefer to envision what “might” be wrong with my little boat and wrong with my lifestyle.

    If I rinse out my coffee cup with water, someone accuses me of dumping waste into the water. Meanwhile they run Jacuzzi’s, the dishwasher & garbage disposal. Waxing and polishing their boat with toxic chemicals is fine – but the minute I started scrubbing my boat with a little eco-soap and hot water, they wanted me to stop because of what I “might be putting into the water”. (Mind you, this was to remove the gunk they’d pressure-washed off the docks & onto my pristine white boat.) When I replaced the door, they called it “major repair work” because I drilled a hole for the screws, and threatened to call the DNR. And when my little sailboat bobs loosely in the springlines of her large slip, they call it a safety hazard to the dock, as their large houseboats rub the confines of their too-small slips (they brought both sight-unseen).

    Yes, the charming marina I used to live in has become a “houseboat condominium”, with people worrying about the “property value” of their floating box!. I had many chances to succumb to “big-boat-itis” during the recession, but I deliberately chose to own a small boat that offered more chances to travel. Sometimes I think that is at the root of it – just as some people think they can’t possibly afford any boat until they are filthy rich, the ones with big (unpaid) boats like to think they are filthy rich – and resent the “lucky” sailors who have chosen differently. Sorry to rant, just really sad as I miss my fellow boaters…

  6. izzy says:

    -sorry, that should be “boat”, obviously, as I have never purchased a boar. ;/

  7. summer says:

    I agree with everything here. Lived on both sides of that label and I never patronize a place where I observe anything but the best nonjudgmental service. Its all principle

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