There's much to be considered in slip pricing

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (3/10/01)
By Ray Pendleton

Ever since the state's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation announced it hasn't been charging its "Small Boat Harbor" tenants enough to cover expenses, the question of how much a recreational boat mooring should cost has been a hot topic along the waterfront.

The discussion has been compounded by the successful leasing of slips at the privately owned and operated Ko Olina Marina, where rates start at $9 per foot a month.

In contrast, slips in O`ahu's most desired marina, Waikiki's Ala Wai, are leasing for about half that amount.

Although most boaters would say that's appropriate, considering the disparity in their appearance and maintenance, there is also the disparity in their locations to consider. Until a lot more people move out to the leeward side of the island, the Ala Wai will continue to be the more convenient and sought-after marina of the two.

One question in the mooring fee discussion is how to keep them equitable for boats of different lengths. In general, larger vessels are wider, so they take up more room in a marina per linear foot.

For example, one 60-foot boat isn't just the equivalent of three end to end 20-footers. Typically, as many as six 20-foot boats can fit in a 60-footer's footprint.

On the West Coast, for example, most marinas have graduated fee scales, so even though they charge by the linear foot, they take a longer vessel's square-foot area into consideration by charging it a higher rate.

The February issue of Sea Magazine has a very comprehensive marina guide that should be required reading for anyone interested in the mooring rates discussion.

It not only gives monthly fee information, but a checkoff list of every Southern California marina's amenities. And, primarily due to demographics, geography and the creature-comforts offered, the slip rentals vary greatly.

For instance, in the San Diego Bay area, there are boat moorings available to the public ranging from a low of $6.75 per foot, to a high of $15.

The low-ball rate is at a marina located in the down-scale suburb of Chula Vista and some 30 to 40 minutes cruising time to the open ocean. The pricier slips are located on Shelter Island, home of the San Diego Yacht Club, and near the harbor entrance.

Another example of the location factor can be seen in a comparison between an up-scale facility like the Bayshore Marina in posh Newport Beach and the Leeward Bay Marina located in a commercial section of L.A. Harbor.

The difference in slip rentals ($16 to $29 per foot at the Bayshore, compared to $4 to $7.50 at the Leeward Bay) amply shows that along with a large population and ocean access, to demand top dollar, a marina must offer a full range of amenities, including isolation from heavy industries and shipping.

Putting aside for a moment the issue of whether Hawaii's state-run marinas would be better off privatized or with so-called community-based management, it would seem clear that mooring rates are due to rise, regardless of the management.

But it would also seem clear that slip rental charges must be commensurate with the general demand and acceptability of our various marinas.

Asking boat owners moored in Keehi Lagoon, for instance - directly under the thundering jets taking off from Honolulu International - to pay the same fees as those with boats in the much quieter Ala Wai Marina, would be unconscionable.

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