Sunday, May 20, 2018

Marina Review – Harbour Town Yacht Basin (Hilton Head Island, SC) 2018 New

Welcome to another marina review on the On Board Life. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll break down what you can expect when you make the marinas I'll be reviewing this season your destinations also. The views expressed are strictly my own.

In my opinion, a five-star marina must have, at least, these three characteristics:
    1) It must be in new, near-new, or like-new condition. It doesn't have to be new, but there must be an obvious effort and investment in maintenance, upkeep, and upgrading.
    2) It must have pump-out at the slip either by a direct installed, marine sanitation system or by some other accommodation such as a pump-out boat.
    3) It must have a swimming pool – that's just my thing. I like to swim.

A five-star marina must be exceptional. Harbour Town Yacht Basin at the Sea Pines resort at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina checks those things off very nicely. But what about the rest of it?


N: Navigability – On Hilton Head Island a short cruise from either Savannah or Beaufort. Its entrance is on the side facing Calibogue Sound. You pretty much pass it when you pass through the sound on the ICW. The entrance to the marina has a large lighthouse at it. You can't miss it. Plenty of water around the entrance. Pay attention to the current that sweeps past the entrance.
We were tucked in at the back of the marina. Less foot traffic.

D: Dockage This is a big-boat marina with large slips and facing docks. (There are only a couple of runabouts tied up here.) The odd thing is that the basin and dockage are circular in shape which makes for some interesting-shaped basins to maneuver in. We're all used to docks and thoroughfares that are configured at 90-degree angles. This will make your brain twitch for a moment when you first arrive. The staff, though, is johnny-on-the-spot to help get you tied up. There are a couple of tour boats that pull out of the marina's entrance but are not a factor back in the dockage area. This marina is a great storm hole – we were there when each day's forecast was for winds and thunderstorms. The thunderstorms never materialized, but the winds were out there. We never felt a thing.

The public pier at the entrance.

S: Services – Gasoline, diesel, pump-out at the fuel dock as well as a free pump-out boat to service your vessel in its slip. They do allow technicians on the premises, but they would prefer you use one of their preferred technicians. I was told they want any work done to “be contained in the vessel.” Their preferred technicians know this as well as the marina's other restrictions. Fyi, there is a West Marine on the island, but it's at the opposite end of the island from the marina. See accessibility below.

The view from our sun deck.

A: Amenities – It's Sea Pines Resort, fer-cry-yi-yi! Remember at the beginning when I said that a marina must be in new, near-new, or like-new condition to be considered as a 5-star marina, IMHO? As you would expect for Sea Pines, the marina is in great condition. The lighthouse area of the resort is busy, busy, busy with tourists visiting the shops and restaurants, but most of the boat slips are on the opposite end of the marina from there, where there is less foot traffic. It has a secured laundry and bathroom/shower facility. Wifi is excellent. There is a pump-out boat service that is free for those staying at the marina. Marina guests have access to all of the resort's amenities too: golf, tennis, swimming pool (Yay!) restaurants, nature trails, concerts, stores (lots of them), and everything else there is to enjoy at this world-class resort. There are a couple of small food markets but no grocery store; they want you to eat in their restaurants, which, by the way, are reasonably priced. No pickleball, dang it. And all that's just in Sea Pines resort; the rest of Hilton Head Island is jammed packed with other attractions. However, I think it's fair to say that the rest of the island is just like any other modern American suburb with all the stores, restaurants, and services you'd find anywhere else. It's pretty though.

One of the resort's destinations. On the beach.

A: Accessibility – Okay, this is a mixed bag. In the resort, your transportation needs are pretty much covered. There are free trolleys (the Blue and Green lines) that connect the major resort areas. The extensive bike path system is crazy-good, and there are bikes available to rent (we used our own). But things get more difficult once you're outside of the resort gates. There are taxis, Uber, and Lyft, but I couldn't find anything like a local bus service. Keep this in mind; the resort and marina are, as far as it matters, at one end of the island. Everything else is towards the middle or the other end of the island. So, the basic rule to remember about accessibility is this: Inside the resort – no problem. Outside the resort – problem.


P: Provisioning – It's a challenge … or maybe not. There are a dozen or so full-service grocery stores outside the resort. Plenty of choices – Piggly Wiggly to Bi-Lo to Wholefoods. As noted above, accessibility outside of the resort is a challenge: Inside the resort – no problem. Outside the resort – problem. Uber seems to be the best option, but that's pricey. The nearest full-service grocery store to the marina is a Harris Teeter store 3.5 miles away from the marina just outside of the resort gate. Do you want to ride your bike that far? Now, there is a partial but pretty much unsatisfactory solution to this that is provided by the resort. Only during the summer there is a Red trolley line up and running. It goes from the lighthouse almost all the way to the gate, and the Harris Teeter store is near the gate. But the Red trolley line only runs from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm. What the …? Like I said, it's an unsatisfactory solution.

In my opinion, there is an easier solution, but it requires some forethought and preplanning. It's a workaround, but it fixes everything up nice and tidy. Don't provision at Hilton Head Island. Instead of that, provision big-time at either Savannah at Isle of Hope Marina (TWO FREE LOANER CARS) coming from the south, or at Beaufort or Port Royal (the town near Beaufort, not the resort on HH island) coming from the north. Lay in groceries and supplies that you'll need during your stay at Harbour Town. If you run out of something, or you want something different than what you've provisioned for, you at least know what the deal is going in. Also, there are small food and alcohol shops around the lighthouse and elsewhere in the resort to fill in the gaps that come up. Boom. Fixed. Done. How's that for creative problem-solving?

"Yo, dude, I'm a goat."

P: Price – This is a relatively expensive marina for the area but not as expensive as some marinas up north. The daily rate for a boat up to 49' long is $2.75 per foot. (We've paid more at times in the past, and we're certainly going to be paying more further on this summer.) The weekly rate is $2.25 per foot. Bigger boats pay higher rates. Utilities (water, electricity, pump out) is extra and expensive. They do have a monthly rate too. (For a goof we checked what the monthly rate for our boat would be: $1,500.00 per month. Yikes.) There is also a $7.00 per day Sea Pines resort access fee.

There are lots of marinas that tout themselves as a luxury destination at even higher price points than Harbour Town that fall short of the mark. There seems to be a huge hole of some kind in their offering that negatively affects the value relationship they're projecting. The end result is you feel like you're getting gouged. Not so at Harbour Town. Let there be no doubt, it's expensive. We knew this pulling in. This was a vacation stop for us. But they delivered quality and service in abundance at every turn. The facilities are world-class and living a hoity-toity resort lifestyle is a hoot. The only drawback is accessibility outside of the resort.

This is not a transient destination; it's a special occasion. If you want to visit Harbour Town Yacht Basin you need to plan on spending a few days there. So, provision ahead of time, pull in, tie up, get your credit card warmed up and ready, and once you're all settled in, don't leave the resort. You don't need to.

We enjoyed our time there. To me, Harbour Town Yacht Basin checks every box to rate this as a 5-star marina.

Harbour Town Yacht Basin rates 5 out of 5 stars.



Note to all marina operators who might be reading this review: Do you want to be a superstar in the eyes of your marina guests? Have a map made up with all of the grocery, big-box superstores, and hardware stores on it with distances to them as per Google Maps. (Not your vehicle's odometer or how long you think it would take to get there.) Figure out this provisioning accessibility thing for us. You don't have to drive us around, but at least have a solution figured out, even if we have to walk. There was one instance where a local grocery store had a free shuttle service to and from the marina, but the marina operator didn't tell us that. We walked a mile or so to the store only to find out from a service clerk that they would have been glad to come and get us. There's an old adage in business: “Don't tell us what you can't do – tell us what you CAN do, even if it's not much.”

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Marina Review – Isle of Hope (2018) Brand New!

Welcome to another marina review on the On Board Life. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll break down what you can expect when you make the marinas I'll be reviewing this season your destinations also. The views expressed are strictly my own.

Isle of Hope Marina is the epitome of the phrase “Location, location, location!” Just a short distance from Savannah, Georgia, it is smack dab on the ICW. It's a bit out of the way, but they have a couple of assets that make them a very good stay: TWO FREE LOANER CARS!


N: Navigability – On the ICW. Ya' can't miss it. Watch the tides and currents.

D: Dockage Big, long facing dock for transients. Very capable dock hands to help. Good power. Some of the tide swings are almost comical to watch.

S: Services – Gasoline, diesel, pump-out. Local technicians and divers available for repairs. If you need a boatyard, you'd probably want to go to Thunderbolt a little way further north.


A: Amenities – It's rustic but maintained. As my father would have said, “It needs a bucket of paint.” The gravel parking lot is dusty. There are two shower/toilets open 24 hours with a pass card. This same pass card is also used for dock gate security. It's all clean, as well as it can be. The entire facility is aged but hasn't quite reached that tipping point where you would say it's “old”. There's one clothes washer and dryer: cost is $2.00 each. There is a laundromat, drug store, coffee shop, and convenience store 1.25 miles away. The wifi is so-so at best, at least where we were at the north end of the dock. There's a covered, outdoor pavilion. The marina staff is young, enthusiastic, and very helpful. You have to go to downtown Savannah at least once while you're there. There are also some decent restaurants nearby; try Driftaways seafood restaurant especially. Jalapenos is good too. About the cars: They are older Hondas, but they work, that's all; don't expect anything fancy. No pool or lounge. If you like to take walks, Isle of Hope (the community) is a lovely area to see with beautiful homes and vistas. Wormsloe Plantation is a bike ride away.



A: Accessibility – Other than the above mentioned lovely walks around Isle of Hope you need a car. TWO FREE LOANER CARS available for 2-hours at a time. Enterprise may or may not pick you up here. It depends on how busy they are at their office at the time. There are Uber and Lyft. No public transportation to the marina.


P: Provisioning – There are several grocery stores in the area. There's also a Walmart Super Center 2.0 miles away (the closest grocery store to the marina). Plenty of choices. And with you being able to borrow one of the TWO FREE LOANER CARS for up to two hours, you can go grocery shopping and run errands without feeling under pressure. As with any borrowed loaner car from anywhere, always get it back on time. There is always a waiting list. There is also a West Marine in Savannah 4.8-ish miles away. All the big box stores are there also. Savannah is a “city”, not a “town”, and you can likely find what you need. The road system is confusing; have your driving navigator app on and warmed up. Skidaway Road is the large road that goes to and from the marina and connects with just about every other main road.


P: Price – Their published transient price is $1.98 per foot. They also have weekly and monthly rates. Is that high? Hard to say. I think what you're paying for at IOH is access to their location, location, location and the two free loaner cars. Seriously, they're that good of a feature.

The bottom line is that you stop at Isle of Hope Marina because you very likely have to. It's 95-ish miles or so from Brunswick, St. Simons Island, or Jekyll Island south, and things get fairly scarce north of there until Charleston. Savannah is cool, but the marina is hardly a destination unto itself other than as a pit stop. You probably need a break, need to pump out, and probably need to provision. Isle of Hope is at the right place at the right time for that. It's like a handful of other marinas on the AICW (Coinjock and Barefoot come to mind off the top of my head.) that are in a perfect location. Isle of Hope is not a 5-star marina, or even a 4-star. It's a good, reliable, perfectly located 3-star marina. I'm going to resist the temptation of using the TWO FREE LOANER CARS to push it to a 4-star, though the case could be made to do so. It's such a unique feature and benefit that it kind of exists on its own. 

By the way, did I mention they have TWO FREE LOANER CARS!?

Isle of Hope Marina gets three out of five stars.



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tags: marina, liveaboard boat, liveaboard boating, liveaboard sailboat, boating as a couple, living aboard a trawler, liveaboard cruiser, liveaboard boater, trawler, liveaboard, the on board life, someday's here, boating adventures, boating websites

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Marina Review – Brunswick Landing Marina (2018) Brand New!

Welcome to another marina review on the On Board Life. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll break down what you can expect when you make the marinas I'll be reviewing this season your destinations also. The views expressed are strictly my own. 

I'm not sure what my expectations of Brunswick Landing Marina were exactly, but I feel like they haven't been met. I guess I expected the marina to be good, and it certainly was. But I didn't expect the town itself to be such a dud. 

N: Navigability – Just follow the well-marked channel in St. Simons Sound. You can't miss it. Plenty of water all around.

D: Dockage – No problem at all. The marina is made up of 16 docks with a total of 347 slips. Some of the slips, like the one we were in, are huge! If you have a big power or sail cat this is the marina for you.

S: Services – Gasoline, diesel, pump-out, a full-service boatyard. There's a West Marine on the other side of the peninsula.


A: Amenities – Everything is very clean and all-together. It's a bit rustic but well maintained. There are several out-buildings with toilets, sinks, and showers. There are also free laundry machines adjoining the lounges. Once you get a very short distance onto land from the shore, though, everything kind of ends. The downtown itself is struggling. There are a few restaurants, a couple of resale shops, and that's about it. The downtown grocery stores they talk about are not much. The wifi at our slip was good. No pool. The operators of the marina produce several events in The Yacht Club (the clubhouse) every week. 


A: Accessibility – You need a car. Quite a few people are very generous with their cars and will either drive you or let you use their car, apparently. There is an Enterprise Rent-a-car. There is Uber and Lyft, and according to my apps, it's the same three cars.

P: Provisioning – There's a Winn-Dixie 1.8 miles on the other side of the peninsula in the same shopping center as the West Marine. There are a Walmart and other big-box stores 5.1 miles north of downtown according to Google Map. 

P: Price – Their published transient price is $1.75 per foot with some pricing plans for stays of other durations. Rates also depend on which dock you're on. Also, make sure you understand their add-on fees. There were several. For instance, there is an up-charge to pay with a credit card. They say it's a discount for cash, but, ya' know, it's an up-charge.

It's hard to put my finger on how we feel about this marina. It is large with good accommodations, and the management goes out of their way to make things cozy. But the town of Brunswick was a huge let down; the action is on St. Simons Island or even back at Jekyll Island. Provisioning is difficult, there isn't any nearby shopping, and there's no readily available transportation. It reminded us more of an RV park instead of a marina: everyone seemed to be sitting around biding their time until it was time for happy hour again, or time to leave. There's nothing wrong with that, I guess, but it's not our thing.

We are destination boaters; we look for cool, fun, and interesting places to go to. Brunswick ain't one of them. There are a few isolated marinas by themselves that we like going to, such as Whitaker Pointe in Oriental, NC. But for the most part, there has to be more to draw us someplace. For us the Brunswick marina mantra of “It's a social place, it's pet-friendly, and there's free beer,” isn't enough. We're not anti-social but not big-time partiers either, we don't have a pet, and I'm not a big beer drinker. What's left?

Brunswick Landing Marina gets three out of five stars. 

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Marina Review – Jekyll Harbor Marina (2018) Brand New!

Welcome to another marina review on the On Board Life. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll break down what you can expect when you make the marinas I'll be reviewing this season your destinations also. The views expressed are strictly my own.

There's always been one very good reason to stop at Jekyll Harbor Marina at Jekyll Island, Georgia, and that was to stop for the night and get the right tide to pass through the very shallow Jekyll Creek the next day. That is certainly still true, but there's a lot more happening that will attract you to the area, and it all starts with the marina itself.

View from the marina office
N: Navigability – The marina is located on Jekyll Creek at mile marker 684 of the ICW. It's smack dab on the magenta line. We came from the south and getting through St. Andrew Sound was a little tricky. As we made the near-hairpin turn at R-32 we couldn't find R-30. The depth of the southern half of Jekyll Creek (where the marina is) is a non-issue. If you're coming from the north, you have to negotiate through the shallow part of Jekyll Creek, the north end, before you get to the marina. The tide swing is typically around 7.5 feet. The north end of the creek's reputation for being stupid-shallow at anything approaching low tide is well-earned. Plan ahead.


D: Dockage No problem at all. The marina is an 850-foot long facing dock along the channel for transients with plenty of depth. It's an easy on-and-off. There are also slips on the shoreside that has a liveaboard community, and nothing adds “character” to a marina than liveaboard boats. The one thing that did seem to be in short supply were fresh water spigots.

S: Services – Gasoline, diesel, pump out, local technicians, haul-out for smaller boaters are all available at the marina. There is a West Marine in Brunswick, GA 11 miles away.

The property is well shaded, cool and comfortable.
A: Amenities – The property has a southern charm with lots of moss-covered trees and green areas. There is a swimming pool, shower/bathrooms for the marina guests, and there's a lounge-around vibe to the place. It's shady, comfortable, and pretty. (The dock itself is very exposed to heavy sunlight.) They also have bicycles and two electric golf carts available to use FOR FREE. The staff seems to work very hard to make sure guests are looked after well. Zachry's Riverhouse Restaurant is on the property. There are, however, some blemishes that are hard to ignore. While the shower/bathrooms were clean and quite serviceable, the cabinetry in a couple of them was delaminating and/or falling apart, and there was some rust on the inside door frames. It's not quite “rustic” yet, but the place certainly has character.


A: Accessibility – The last time we were at Jekyll Island was in 2013, and things are a whole lot different now than it was then. There are now a lot more services, stores, and restaurants on the island including what you could call a grocery store at the island's new central village. (We thought full provisioning would be out of the question, but you could certainly fill in things you are short of.) There are more restaurant choices, shopping is a real thing now, and there's a Westin Hotel on the beach. The main draw is the historic area that has faithfully maintained the old-world charm of the island's early development. It's beautiful, and it's all within an easy bike ride from the marina. And make sure you visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.


P: Provisioning – As said above, the grocery store at the island's central village is really a tourist market though it does have a deli counter with a fair selection of meats and cheeses. There's milk, bread, butter, beer, wine, and some canned goods. If you really need to do full-on provisioning, you need to figure out a way to get a ride to the regular grocery stores in Brunswick or just take your boat there. There is also a very nice Flash Foods gasoline-convenience store a couple minutes bike ride from the marina. (It has a Dairy Queen attached to it and is the only fast-food kind of place on the island.)


P: Price – Their published transient price is $2.25 per foot, but they shell out all the typical discounts. They're the only game in town if you need to wait for the right tide to come along, but if you actually invest a day or two to explore the island and what it has to offer, it's a good value.

In my opinion, passing through Jekyll Creek with its crazy-shallow waters is, if you play your cards right, not that big a deal. Do your homework and plan ahead to get to it during at least mid-tide going up. Go slow and respect the potential for trouble. Or pull over at Jekyll Harbor Marina and let the staff fawn over you for a couple of days until the tides are exactly how you want them. And certainly get your butt on a bicycle and have fun exploring Jekyll Island. The marina has a few blemishes, but you really won't care as the island's natural beauty and relaxation radiation envelopes you.

Jekyll Harbor Marina gets FOUR out of five stars.










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tags: marina, liveaboard boat, liveaboard boating, liveaboard sailboat, boating as a couple, living aboard a trawler, liveaboard cruiser, liveaboard boater, trawler, liveaboard, the on board life, someday's here, boating adventures, boating websites