The modern way to book a marina

When cruising, my husband Tom and I usually spend nights at anchor, with only an occasional sojourn at a marina slip. This past summer we sailed our Sabre 30 Ora Kali from New Jersey to Maine and found harbors so packed with moorings that anchoring was virtually impossible. Luckily, these days there are ways to book slips and moorings using a smartphone. 

To compensate for the lack of anchoring areas, towns maintain guest moorings and most marinas rent them and I liked the ease of picking up a mooring pennant on a long haul with multiple stops. Our recent Maptech guide listed town amenities and we asked advice from sailors about places we planned to visit. Some were using apps like ActiveCaptain to get harbor information. 

At peak season, and COVID made the summer all peak, you can’t afford to wait until an hour out to secure a mooring. In 2018 when I judged the Miami International Boatshow Innovation Awards one of the entrants was the now-defunct GPDock app. A similar app named Dockwa is very much alive and makes booking a mooring easy for the facilities it lists. It also, unfortunately, makes it easy for places to charge higher rates. 

I created a Dockwa account and paid for moorings through my phone. Occasionally marinas included instructions with their receipts, which skipped the step of contact via VHF radio, though I wonder if this will lead to staff cuts, making it less likely to encounter a helpful dockmaster. As we progressed on Ora Kali, Dockwa made route planning easier. We were slower than most boats and if I knew that at the end of the day we had a secure berth we would have pushed on longer, putting us that much closer to our final destination.

Ann Hoffner