Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Marina Search aka the Waiting List Game

The Marina Search aka the Waiting List Game

Everything about boating and sailing is different here in the Pacific Northwest compared to the Southern coast along the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of it has to do with the weather and environment and the rest of it has to do with the sailing culture that developed due to the environment here. I tried to describe it to my friends in Texas by describing the difference as being similar to the difference between a fine PNW IPA and a Bud Light. A few seemed to be miffed about my comparison but it is true! The Gulf of Mexico Coast is all flip flops and shorts and cold as you can get it Lager's of choice which turns out to be a Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors Lite, or in Florida a Natural Lite or PBR. If you fall off a boat in the Gulf of Mexico it is not near the circumstances of falling off into the 48 degree water up here. In the Gulf you can swim around for a few hours waiting on your friends to get the boat turned around and pick you up. Here you have about 15 minutes before hypothermia sets in. That fact alone sets the sailing culture in very different latitude and attitude. Things are much more laid back and easy going in the South, here everything is more serious and less tolerant of inexperience on the water.
The differences are seen in all aspects of boating including buying and selling boats, boat brokers, boat yards and those who do repair work, and in the Marinas where so many private vessels are moored. 
In our journey in the transition to having our own vessel in the PNW we have become acutely aware that every marina within 40 miles of Seattle has anywhere from a three month to a seven year wait list. Out of the marinas on Puget Sound in Seattle just one, Shillshole Marina allows live aboards. It is a huge marina and has a 300 vessel live aboard community since just 10% of the moorage slips are available for live aboard at all marinas in Washington state you can see the need for wait list. Shillshole has a one - two year wait list currently for live aboard status. We want to be close to family in Seattle and being near a Ferry Line can make it a whole lot easier to get into Seattle by car or by foot. 
The plan of course was to sell Wand'rin Star in Texas and buy perhaps a 37-39' trawler up here. Our vessel has yet to draw a serious offer and so we have decided that if there is not an offer on our vessel by end of May 2016, then we will just bring our vessel back up here. We have done a little shopping for boats here and most of the ones that we have seen in our price range will need some fixing up, much like our vessel required some substantial work before we started our cruise to Florida.So this is just one more reason to bring our vessel here since it is already fixed and simply requires a big truck to haul her up.

There is a great online resource for researching marinas throughout the Puget Sound and beyond area Puget Sound Marina Listings: http://www.boatmanager.com/marina-listing.html . This listing along with the Active Captain interactive cruising guide and active map provide everything required to research area marinas. There are so many that you need the resources to cross off those on the list that do not meet your needs. 

It has been very time consuming and hard enough with these valuable resources so I'm not sure what it would be like without them. By using the resources we made a list of prospective marinas. We then went to each individual marinas web site to check on prices and wait list policy. Every marina has wait list from three months up to seven years! There are wait list for just a regular moorage slip and then there are wait list for live aboard status. Some marinas require you to have a vessel moored in their marina prior to being eligible for their live aboard wait list. Some wait list are free and others have a annual fee from $25-$50. The only way to know the details is to either call each individual marina or go visit them. Some marinas only have moorage available during the off season which is from September through April.

Port of Edmonds Marina, just about a two hour sail North of Seattle take live-aboards but you have to have your boat in the marina before you can get on the lengthy live aboard wait list. Port Kingston marina had a 7 year wait list and when I told her we would even take a 50' slip, she said that would be worse since they have a 10 year wait list!
I discovered the the marina in Bremerton had the shortest wait list of all, just three months. We had been over there before on a day trip and it was the only marina I have seen with several empty slips. Not sure why but things began adding up for us since it had a Ferry terminal to Seattle right next door. The marina looks nice, very wide concrete floating docks and everything looks to be pretty new. In fact the marina was converted to all new docks just a few years ago along with a new breakwater and several other upgrades. We paid a visit to the marina and I talked to several live-aboards to get some local info. The only thing about this location is that they can get 6 knot currents flowing through the marina at times. The local explained that if you happen to come in during a strong current you just tie up to one of the long docks where it is easy to navigate and them move your boat to your slip when the tide is much more calm.

The Port of Bremerton Marina is a 50 minute Ferry ride away from Seattle

The Bremerton navy Shipyards are also right next to the Marina

The ship yards as seen from the incoming Ferry

The Navy ship yards have been here since the 1930's and have a large footprint.

The Port of Bremerton Marina as seen from the incoming Ferry

An Aerial shot of the Bremerton Marina

Closer up showing the near by ship yards. and Ferry dock just to the right of the marina. Every time a Ferry docks a small wake enters the marina and rocks the boats. This goes on till about 1am. and restarts about 5am.

Just across Sinclair Inlet from Port of Bremerton Marina is Port Orchard also managed by the Port of Bremerton, another possible choice but we would have to take a  water taxi over to the ferry from here. No ferry wakes here and the tide is not as big a problem as it is at Bremerton.

Better view of the Cascades from Port Orchard.

We nearly wrote a check and a contract for the first available slip in Bremerton or Port Orchard. The reality of the difficulty of having a slip ready for whatever vessel we would end up with here started growing on us. Fortunately, the waiting list for the two marinas managed by the Port of Bremerton were free so we just put our names down.
The next Day I started researching the possibility of a Lake Union Marina. I found 15 marinas around the lake that accepted live-aboards. I planned on just walking around the lake and stopping in at each of the marina offices as the best way to get the job done. The Lake offers a fresh water moorage and of course instant access to Seattle by foot. It is a short motor down the Lake Washington ship canal to the locks and out to Puget Sound. You never know sometimes your timing just happens to be right and something pops up. I discussed it with the Admiral and we agreed we would rather be in the Sound of possible but we might use Lake Union as a short term option. The Admiral asked if I would consider Lake Washington Marinas and I have zero interest being that far from the sound.

An Aerial view of Lake Union looking South. The channel to the right goes out to Puget Sound and the channel to the left goes to Lake Washington.

A closer Aerial view lookin North shoes the numerous marinas lining the Lake
By Jelson25 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17959141.

I had already called Winslow Wharf Marina and two other marinas on the North shore of Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, just a 35 minute Ferry ride from Seattle. All of the marinas on the North Shore are in easy walking distance to the Ferry. All of the marinas on the North shore had waiting list of 2 years or more. I thought I would research out the 2-3 marinas on the South Shore of Eagle Harbor and started by calling Eagle Harbor Marina. I talked to Doug, The Harbor Master. I told him I knew he had a waiting list but would like to get our name on if possible. Doug said " I don't have any waiting list for a vessel your size" WHAAAAT? I told him we would ride the Ferry over Thursday and come talk to him about the slip.

The Harbor behind the Ferry in the Distance is Eagle Harbor, just across Elliot Bay from Seattle. Those are the Olympic Mountains in the background.

It is about a 15 minute drive around to Eagle Harbor Marina from the Ferry dock

Spring was in full bloom and the tree pollen strong.

But it is an awesome harbor. Looking NorthWest towards the end of the cove.

Just across from the marina is a facility used to repair or decommission old ferries.

We were afraid there would be some huge wakes in here form the ferries, thought that may be why there were some empty and available slips. But No wake at all from the Ferries.

Looking East out the Mouth of the Harbor. The Marina is protected from all prevailing winds either Southeast or Northwest.

The Harbor Master Doug gave us a great tour of the marina and the facilities. They even have a small gym big enough for 3-4 persons and a big club room where you can watch the Seahawks with all the other live aboard community there. Doug Gave us the choice of four slips that were available but he was kind enough to point out the best of the four slips for a boat our size.
We were both excited to find this opportunity. a slip in an awesome Harbor with a short Ferry ride to Seattle seemed perfect. I knew we would have to talk about it a bit so I told Doug we would call him in a few hours to let him know. We had already planned on driving over to Poulsbo, about 30 minutes to the West in Liberty Bay to talk to the harbor Master of Liberty Bay Marina where we spent a couple of weeks after we bought Wand'rin Star. Liberty Bay has to be one of the most scenic areas near Seattle. The town there was settled and still is largely Scandinavian.
 We mentioned live aboard wait list and the Harbor Master just laughed. I knew that possibility was far fetched since I had already talked to the harbor master at Poulsbo and there was a several years wait list for live aboard there and you had to have your vessel in the marina before you could even get on the list. She did say that there would be a slip available for us July 3rd if we wanted it. She wrote down our contact info said she would call us to confirm in July.

View from Liberty Bay Marina.

Liberty Bay harbor Seal

We drove back to Eagle Harbor and found Harbor Master Doug was gone on an errand.

Upstairs clubhouse at Eagle Harbor with rest rooms, showers, and small gym on the first floor. 

Part of the resident pair of Eagles at Eagle Harbor.

Iv always wanted to drive to Blakely Harbor on the South end of Bainbridge just to see what's there. It was just a 10 minute drive away and something to do while we waited on Doug.

A few vessels out in the center on Mooring balls.

One at a private dock and a couple of boats anchored out.

Wondered if this was old marina at the end of Blakely Harbor

Low tide at Blakely Harbor

Doug drove up just as we returned to the Marina. We told Doug to write up a contract. He asked for a $250 deposit and the Lease starts in June. We walked back down to see the slip one more time and talked to some nearby tenets who confirmed everything we felt about the marina. 
We thought we would have to wait an hour or so for the next ferry but as it turned out the ferry was a little late so we got on immediately.

The ferry ride between Bainbridge and Seattle is the Best Happy Hour in the Region, they always have a fine IPA available in the Gallery.
Just a 35 minute ferry ride away.

No comments:

Post a Comment