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Article by Tanya Rabe

As storm season approaches, whether you are cruising the coast or going out for a weekend, marinas offer us boaties a safe haven. Here are some useful tips and reminders about entering and spending time in a marina. Amid all of the practical advice, please don’t let me forget to tell you about the “marriage savers”! But let’s start from the beginning.


Sometimes, there is a choice of marinas we can stay at. Moreton Bay is a classic example, with four marinas off the one channel. The Gold Coast also has many scattered choices. Interestingly, their features are all different and so it’s worth asking some questions.

How close is it to supermarkets, shops, cafes and restaurants? Is there nearby chandlery or other marine services? Do they have a courtesy car or convenient access to public transport? Is the marina pet-friendly? Are there facilities such as bathrooms and a laundromat? Can I access fuel and water easily? How long will it take to get off shore? Does the marina have a good social community?


Once you have all of the boxes ticked for your needs and wants, book ahead with the marina for a berth, even if it is just for the day. However, before making the call, Runaway Bay and Hope Harbour Marinas suggest having the following information on hand — which are standard for most marinas anyway:

Know your vessels make and model, hull configuration and overall dimensions including draft. You will need to provide evidence of current insurance details as well.

Let the marina staff know if you would like a blow-on or blow-off berth, and if you’ll be docking stern-in or bow-in. Also let them know if you prefer to tie up on the port or starboard side. Be truthful about your boat size. Your davit system and bowsprit are included in the boat length. To save a few dollars could cost you thousands if anything happens in an undersized pen.

Finally, make sure your boat is seaworthy.


Let the marina staff know how much you draw and confirm that you can be accommodated at both high and low tides.

Knowing your prop walk is useful when berthing too. You can use it to your advantage when entering and leaving a berth.

Accept some docking assistance. I have found that most marinas will send someone to greet you and catch a line if you arrive within office hours. Ask for clear instructions as to where the berth is located (finger, another obvious boat/landmark, cap colour on pylon). If the marina cannot offer you a map, have a look on Google Earth to get your bearings.

If you don’t like the berth being offered to you, don’t be shy to ask for something else. It is in the marina’s best interests to make sure your docking experience is optimal. The last thing they want is for boats bumping into other boats; so talk to them about what you feel are safe options for your boat and experience.

Find out if you need a PIN or a key for accessing gates and facilities, and where will that be located if you arrive after hours.


Ensure docking lines and fenders are in place before entering the marina. Know what lines are best for securing your boat — stern, midship and bow — and also make sure they are in good condition. Be aware of the wind speed, wind direction and current.

Don’t yell at each other. My favourite docking device is the “marriage saver”. They are bluetooth headsets enabling the crew to talk to the captain at a distance — calmly. They work like a wireless intercom so the captain and the crew can talk to each other even at a distance.

Don’t jump from boats or make someone else jump from them. My father-in-law tells a story of a beautiful young woman he watched jump off a boat to dock, trip and smash her face on the concrete jetty. Boats are valuable but insured. Humans are priceless.

Once docked, double check lines are tied securely around cleats and the boat is safe before heading off to explore. Time for a sundowner.


Most marinas offer access to shared amenities. Simple gestures such as using the toilet brushes and placing rubbish in the bin maintain a nice space for everyone, so remember to make an effort for the next person. Even if the marina is pet-friendly, don’t let your dog roam the docks. Keep them on a lead and pick up their business.

Remember you are a guest. Be mindful of permanent liveaboards and the diversity of people in the marina. They are a great place to share knowledge and experiences with other like-minded people.