The state of megayacht dockage around the world has evolved in the past decade to include everything traveling yacht crew and guests could ever need or want. Some marinas include concierges and access to resort facilities. Others include golf carts and free breakfast treats.
Since yacht crew spend so much time in and around marinas, we wanted to ask them what they prefer when they tie up, everything from the style of dockage offered to amenities for crew.
More than 120 yacht captains and crew took our survey this month and shed a little light on the subject.
(Also, click to read crew comments.)
First, we wanted to know simply which style of docking do you prefer?
While it really wasn’t all that surprising to us, some marinas might be surprised to learn that most yacht captains and crew prefer to be docked side-to.
When talking about their home port, more than 85 percent prefer to dock this way, mostly because it’s easier and more secure, and makes maintenance more thorough. Side-to access also is easier for crew so they can get provisions where they need to be.
“It’s easiest to embark, disembark and bring products aboard,” said a chef in yachting more than 25 years.
“Ease of maintenance to the hull and for loading provisions in through the shell door near the waterline,” said the captain of a yacht more than 200 feet.
“All things are easier to do: enter the boat, clean, load materials, etc.,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years.
“It is easier to keep the boat clean and it gives options for boarding, water hoses and electrical connections,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
“Less effort on and off the dock, and you don’t need a diver every time you want to leave to check your anchors,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
“Side-to a floating dock, stern in, is the most secure,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years. “There are no tide issues, etc.”
“It’s easier and quicker,” said the engineer on a yacht 140-160 feet. “And you don’t have to stuff around with anchors.”
“It’s the most secure for the vessel,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet.
“It’s easy to dock with minimal crew, shows off the boat as the owner prefers, and allows for easy boarding,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 25 years.
Fewer than 9 percent prefer to be Med-moored or stern-to, mostly because that’s where the passerelle is located and that’s what their options are.
“It is hard to find a berth alongside in the Med for a boat of our size,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet.
“It makes boarding easier, and it’s also easier to observe who is coming down the dock,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet.
“Med-moor makes better usage of available dock space,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years.
“It’s safer when bad weather hits,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet.
A few respondents noted that they’ll prefer Med-moor when there’s a finger pier.
Slightly more than 4 percent opted for bow-in.
“Bow-in and side-to is perfect,” said a chief stew in yachting more than 20 years. “That way, the tender goes in right off the stern and you get privacy on the back deck.”
“I like to be secure, with lines all around (in a pen) but I don’t like the living area exposed to anyone walking down the dock,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet.
We thought we had covered all the bases, but we neglected to offer “doesn’t matter” as an option, which a hand-full of respondents offered in the comment section.
“Med-moor offers the advantage of minimizing dock fender tending to accommodate wind and tide,” said the captain of a yacht 200-220 feet. “Side-to offers relief from fender tending of mobile neighbors in med-moor.”
One captain noted that it depends on the current.
We were curious to see if these preferences changed when guests were aboard, so we asked When visiting a destination with guests, what dockage situation do you prefer?
More than 60 percent still preferred side-to dockage.
“It’s good for crew movement,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “If stern-to, then you have to walk by the guests every time you need to take the trash out, go to the supermarket, check the water, etc.”
“It makes the owners feel they’re in a suite slip, as compared to a standard,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
“Easy access for our type of layout,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “Elderly guests may embark/disembark more easily.”
“Easier boarding, easier to secure, and more privacy for guests than Med-moor,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “Crew can come and go without interfering with guests on aft deck.”
“A more impressive view for the guests to walk down the dock and see the yacht,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet. “And they’re not as bothered by the public if they are eating on the aft deck.”
But twice as many (20 percent) opted for Med-moor style.
“It provides a natural gathering point for guests before going ashore and following their return,” said the captain of a yacht 200-220 feet. “And it’s easier for gangway watch to ensure security.”
“It’s easier for inexperienced guests to come and go,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years.
“The aft deck is set up for arrivals and departures,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet.
“Few if any fenders rubbing paint, easy to deploy passerelle and much better to control from a security point of view,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet.
The biggest change in docking style with guests aboard came away from the marina. More than 10 times as many respondents opted for anchoring out with guests, versus less than 1 percent who chose anchoring out as their preferred docking style at their home port.
“Anchored out gives the best yachting experience of quietness, nature, taking launch to shore, etc.,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
“There aren’t marinas in the interesting places that we like to go to,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “If we went only (or even mostly) to marinas, we’d miss the good stuff.”
“Anchoring out is the essence of boating,” one captain of a yacht 100-120 feet said.
About 8 percent prefer bow-in with guests, double the amount who chose that style when there are no guests.
“So that the guests have a nice view from the aft deck,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
Some noted that it depends on the guests.
“Sometimes bow in for privacy, sometimes Med-moor for guests wanting to show off,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “Anchored out for privacy.”
And sometimes it depends on the marina.
“It depends on the destination, but either way is not a problem,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years. “Whichever is the best way to make guest movements the most convenient for them.”
“It makes no difference unless the weather is bad, then stern-in is best,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years.
“I’m just happy to find dockage,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet.
Some yachts don’t have guest or crew access off the stern, so we asked If you have worked on a yacht like that, how do you manage a Med-moor slip?
Of the more than 70 respondents who provided a method, almost half said they make do, either with a makeshift passarelle, wooden planks or, if they have a swim platform, getting as close to the dock as they can and helping guests on board or off.
“I have used a wide board,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “I had no choice, and it was an unsafe situation to board that way.”
“I have built or borrowed temporary gangways,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “It’s not ideal.”
“Get real close and make it work,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
Another alternative is to anchor out and tender the guests ashore.
“We have a makeshift boarding plank; got it from Sailorman for $400,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years. “The other option: moor off and shuttle guests with a tender to the pier. This is safer in places like St. Barths where the boat has higher odds of damage from contacting the pier due to surge. Cheap boarding plank works well at piers like Antigua Yacht Club where it’s calm and there’s not much tide.”
The next largest group admitted they have never had this problem, but about 18 percent said they simply don’t go to marinas that require Med-mooring.
“We just don’t Med moor,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet.
“Look for a side-to berth or anchor out and use a tender,” said the first officer of a yacht 140-160 feet.
Aside from the docking style they prefer, we asked captains and crew Does it matter to you if a marina’s docks are floating or fixed?
It does. More than two-thirds prefer floating docks. Most of the rest, though, said it didn’t matter.
Just 5 percent said they prefer fixed docks. And interestingly, there were no similarities among them. They represented most positions on the yacht, were on yachts of all sizes and had careers stretching from 1 to 20 years. Even the yacht use varied from strictly private to predominantly charter.
If yachties tend to favor floating docks, we were curious What sort of dock material do you prefer?
Almost half said they prefer concrete, with most of the rest indicating that it really didn’t matter.
Eleven percent prefer the “wood” made from recycled plastic, and about 3 percent preferred good old fashioned wooden docks. Just one respondent likes aluminum docks.
We know crew appreciate finger piers when it’s time to clean the yacht or make repairs, but we weren’t sure if they came in handy with guests, so we asked How important are finger piers when traveling with guests?
Turns out that crew can take them or leave them.
The largest group — 40 percent — said that finger piers were “somewhat” important.
“It gives more boarding options if stern-to,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “Guests can board on stern and crew on the side boarding ladder.”
“A little separation and place to store things is nice,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
“They’re nice,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years. “Shoes and gear are off the main dock and there’s less of a chance of them getting kicked in the water or run over with a golf cart. They keep the main dock clear and safe.”
The next largest group — a quarter of respondents — said they were irrelevant.
“Irrelevant,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 80-100 feet. “But a heavy charter vessel prefers finger piers so provisioning is somewhat easier.”
“If there’s a good dock then there’s no need for fingers,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
Slightly more than 20 percent said they were extremely important.
“I don’t have a passarelle so it’s imperative for getting on and off,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet.
“If you are bow-in, they are a must for getting the guests and crew off and on, either port or starboard side,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
“Even when we use the passarelle for guests, we prefer the crew use the side exit,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet.
The rest, about 15 percent, said they weren’t that important.
“As long as the guests can get on and off the boat safely, it doesn’t matter,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
We also wanted to know just what criteria captains and crew use to choose a marina, so we asked them to Rate these criteria in importance when choosing a place to dock with guests.
When traveling with guests, the two most important criteria were convenience to town or land-based excursions (chosen by almost a third of respondents) and depth (chosen by 29 percent).
The second most important criteria is suitable power, followed closely by dockage style (if the marina offers Med-moor or side-to slips).
Cost and amenities for the yacht came next, followed by the size of the marina. Amenities for the crew finished last.
That changed when we asked captains and crew to Rate these criteria in importance when choosing a place to dock without guests:
Under these conditions, depth was the most important factor, followed by convenience to town and suitable power.
Dockage style and cost were still important, but those factors were followed by what amenities the marina had for the yacht, such as wi-fi and sewage disposal, and what amenities it had for the crew, such as a lounge or pool.
The size of the marina and the dockmaster finished last.
Though we knew this next question would be hard to quantify, we just had to ask Where are the world’s best marinas for megayachts?
Our respondents preferred equally the marinas of South Florida and those in the south of France (30 percent each), which makes sense since those locations are the center of yachting activity on each side of the Atlantic.
But they also named another hub, St. Maarten (14 percent), and New England (12 percent), followed by Palma, Monaco and St. Thomas.
“Under 120 feet, Florida,” said the captain in yachting 20 years. “Power is different at every marina in the Med. The engineer has to make up new pigtails at almost every marina.”
“I do like Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach,” said the U.S.-based captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “Being able to walk to a street like Clematis is awesome. Sag Harbor is great too, but getting too popular.”
“New England has some amazing locations with all the features/amenities and some of the Caribbean locations have upped their game as well,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years.
But choosing one place wasn’t easy.
“Define ‘best’,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “There are good places to dock all over the world.”
“It’s difficult to say because the best ones have advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs at that point in time,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years.
“Different marinas, different tie-ups so you can’t say one place is better than another,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “Sometimes in the same port you have both good and bad dockage.”
“There are great marinas everywhere now,” said a first mate in yachting more than 10 years. “It’s the bad ones that crew must be warned about.”
And finally, we asked yacht captains and crew to dream a little and tell us What one thing would you like to see at marinas that they don’t already provide?
The most common item on the wish list was faster, more reliable Internet service.
“Wi-fi,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “How could you miss that on the survey? For the crew, we could be anchored in a sewer outfall and never get off the boat as long as they have wi-fi. And without wi-fi, nobody would stay in a marina. In fact, if there was one thing marinas could do to keep the yachts, it would be to invest in super fast wi-fi.”
“Wi-fi wi-fi wi-fi wi-fi; need I say more?” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “Nothing is more important for owners, guests and crew.”
Almost as important among our respondents was some way to make it easier to get around such as a shuttle to town, a courtesy car, golf carts or other creative solutions.
“Transport, either a shuttle bus service or loan cars available,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet. “Some do provide this and it’s a big help.”
“A way for yachts to load and unload trash, provisions, parts, oil, luggage, etc., that makes it easier than dragging a dock cart around like a donkey,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
“Designated parking areas for crew and crew bicycles on-site to rent,” said a captain more than 30 years.
Third on the list of dream amenities was better service.
“Friendly and helpful staff who care about service as much as they care about gratuities,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years.
“Service is always key,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years. “Some marinas do not provide many dock hands as the marina is full of local yachts”
A few wanted things to make their jobs easier, hoping for things like sewage pump out and better power.
“A good food chandlery on site is always a bonus,” said the chef of a yacht 140-160 feet.
“All marinas that are able to accommodate large yachts should have black water pumping points at each berth,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet. “Further, it should be mandatory that visiting yachts use these points for sewage discharge.”
About 11 percent of our respondents wanted to see more recycling.
One respondent even wanted help laying some roots.
“Local community assimilation programs for long-term stays,”
Some of the other items on captain and crew wish lists: passport scanners for rapid clearance, more golf carts, cash machines, real-time current indicators, closer parking, a UPS or Fed Ex office, good security and translators.
And a few respondents noted that they really didn’t need anything more, that modern superyacht marinas are doing just fine.
“Most have a handle these days, with wi-fi, crew lounge and/or gym, and a good dock office that assists crew with whatever they need for the guests or their own personal time,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years.
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. We conduct our monthly surveys online. All captains and crew members are welcome to participate. If you haven’t been invited to take our surveys and would like to be, e-mail email@example.com to be added.