Tuesday, April 29, 2014


(1:04) I've written about the importance of a boater's first interactions with your marina. Often this is with your dockhands whether communicating on the radio or handling lines as a boater pulls in. Not long ago I overheard a radio exchange that got me thinking about this critical component of the boater's experience.

(0:58) It was a blustery day at a marina that has strong river currents. As a boater approached and began his communications with the dockhands, he began asking a series of questions. He wanted to know the wind strength and direction at the marina. He said he was new to his boat and was concerned about the conditions. He asked if the current, which was running strong, was any less at the slip, and what was the direction.

(0:49) As I listened I was quite impressed with the care the boater was taking to gather important information before he entered the marina and was in tight conditions getting into a slip. The conditions were certainly tricky. The dockhand described where the slip was and the boater asked, "Do you think it will be difficult getting in there?" The dockhand responded, "Well, that depends on your skill level."

(0:40) Wow, I really can't think of a worse reply. Best case, the boater may feel insulted by that remark. Worst case, he might feel challenged to try a maneuver he is not comfortable doing. That could easily wind up being a bad day for the boater which will mean an even worse day for the marina.

(0:33) Boaters come in all levels of skill and confidence. And every one of them deserves to be treated with respect. Every last one of us was new and inexperienced at one time. There is no shame in that. This particular boater in acknowledging his inexperience was showing great wisdom. He will likely become an accomplished boater quickly and boat for many years to come.

(0:25) Which leads me to my most significant point. A new and inexperienced transient boater coming into your marina should be viewed as a golden opportunity. This is a boater who is learning and discovering the places to go. He hasn't developed habits about where he stops. And you have the opportunity to give him an exceptional experience that will make him want to return. That will make you a part of his new habit.

(0:13) So while all boaters should be treated with respect and professionalism, take extra time with that newbie who may feel a bit nervous and need a little more guidance. Answer his questions respectfully and help him increase his confidence. This is an investment in the future. The average long-range cruiser cruises on his boat for 10 years. Handle him well today and you will be rewarded with his business for years to come.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.