Town Moorings

You may have to purchase the ground tackle for a town mooring up front, but the long term investment will pay off in low annual mooring costs.

Buying a boat is often easier than finding a suitable place to moor it. You’ll need to consider this before purchase, because where and how your boat is kept — both summer and winter —  will impact your overall budget. You can get an idea of your options by followwing the links in Buying a Boat? Where Will You Keep It?

Meanwhile I want to explore an often under-publicized source of mooring space–your own city or town. Most waterfront cities and towns in the U.S. provide moorings for resident boaters at rates far below marina costs. If you’re in need of a cost–effective place to keep your new boat, a call to city hall may be in order. First there are some things you should know.

Each town has its own requirements to manage the limited moorings at its disposal. Some require residency in the town or state, almost all have some kind of waiting list, and most assuredly they all have associated fees. Fees may include a one-time application fee, say $100, to get you on the wait list, and another annual fee (around $400) for the actual annual mooring contract. Finally, there is often a fee involved in inspecting the ground tackle every couple of years (another $100 or so).

The city or town won’t always own the ground tackle; you may have to pay for this up front, but they will make sure it is the right size for the type of vessel you are going to place on it and that it is kept in good shape. All told, you might be looking at an annual cost of $400 to $600 once you’re established, but this is far below the $1,200 you might expect to pay a marina to moor the same vessel each year.

Mooring tackle
Basic mooring setup

Some cities and towns will also issue an excise tax bill based on the location of your boat. More than likely you will have to place a decal on your boat each year that shows you are a current mooring customer so that other boaters (without a decal) don’t usurp your mooring.

Unfortunately, if you decide to sell, the mooring rights are not usually transferable to the new owner.

There may be a catch-22 as well: before you apply to get a town mooring, you might need to identify the vessel. This means you may end up buying a boat and keeping it at a more expensive location until your name rises to the top of  the wait list.

I know all this sounds a bit frustrating, but believe me, a convenient, affordable place to keep your boat is often one of the biggest challenges of ownership. Even if you are lucky enough to get one of these coveted moorings in your chosen location, remember that the city or town may not provide a place to leave your dinghy or provide launch service to your vessel, and you might still have to go through a boatyard or yacht club. It is worth asking about this while you are talking to the town administrator—often for another small fee ($50) you can get a place to keep your dinghy, too.  Regardless of the logistics of acquiring a town mooring, the price and convenience will be worth it in the long term.


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