Welcome to My Buzzards Bay 2018!
Although I’m enjoying a steady dose of 80 degree days here in the desert of Southern California, my mind is regularly drifting toward the 2018 Boating season, which is scheduled to begin on Vigilant in late April.
Our last trip was October 20th and although I’ve begged the boys at Mattapoisett Boat Yard to share their stories of late November and December boating on Buzzards Bay, I have no recent tales of the sea to report – just this cool photo…
Meanwhile, I hear from many of you that you miss my stories so I’ve decided to use the 3 months before our Spring Launch to catch up on stories and reports that never got told during the 2017 season.
Cool Gear A’ Coming!
When My Buzzards Bay was still on the drawing board, I laid out a number of sections that I thought you’d all enjoy reading. One that never made it to the 2017 Edition was something called Cool Gear.
I did do one story on my autopilot (AKA “Buddy”), but that turned out to be it. I have a half a dozen more reports to share and today I’m going to discuss the most important cruising tool I’ve seen in decades…
When I was a sailor back in the 80s we never worried about where we stayed when we went cruising – 90% of the time we’d just drop an anchor and take The Avon to town.
But after we got Tenacity, we started enjoying the luxury lifestyle of staying overnight in New England’s finest marinas. There is simply nothing sweeter than tying up for the night, pouring an adult beverage, watching the sunset, and then walking to a seaside eatery for dinner.
The problem with this dream scenario was booking a slip. New England has a limited number of marinas and the good ones are always in high demand during the prime season. As recently as 2015, you’d pretty much have to book and pay for a slip 30 days in advance. And if you cancelled, you’d likely forfeit your entire payment.
Worse yet, booking most marinas was seldom an online experience. If the marina had a website, the best you’d ever find was an online form that you’d fill out – including your credit card, and then you’d hit “submit” and wait to hear back. Sometimes, you’d hear back in 24 hours – most times longer. In early 2017, I waited 4 months to hear back from The Block Island Boat Basin (and they were sold out). More often than not, you’d never hear back at all!
So then, after all of this, you had to pick up the phone and call. If you were lucky, someone answered the phone. Most of the time, they’d take your details (and credit card) and tell you’d they’d get back to you.
Finally, if they said yes, you still had no paper record of your reservation!
In 2016 I discovered Dockwa…
Think of it as Travelocity for cruising. You create an account storing your boat details, contact info, and a form of payment. From there, you search for a marina, study details, fees, policies, and reviews from other boaters. Once you find one you like, you book it.
The detailed info and reviews really help. Being able to compare rates is also very nice, but to me, the most important feature is the Cancellation Policy.
Disrupting The Marina Stronghold
Dockwa is based in New England and their coverage here is broad and getting better every month. They have already turned harbors like Newport and Boston into competitive market places.
The price info is especially valuable during the shoulder season when places often deeply discount to draw people in. My favorite is the Nantucket Boat Basin which is one of the most expensive midsummer venues, but drops their price to $1.75/foot before Father’s Day and after Labor Day.
I can’t say that Dockwa has significantly affected pricing in midsummer, but where I see them being truly disruptive is in the area of cancellation policy.
Remember 2015 when everyone had a “no refund inside 30 days” cancellation policy? Not anymore. Almost no one has 30 days anymore. There a few 14 days, 5 days, 72 hours, 24 hours, and even some 100% refundables.
This alone has disrupted the old school way of booking a marina. In fact, the 100% refundable list has gotten so long that Becky at Dockwa did a report on these very special Northeast Marina’s:
I predict that thanks in large part to Dockwa, we’ll see more marinas with 1-2 day cancellation policy and maybe even 100% refundable.
Dockwa Is Different
Dockwa is not the first company to attempt to provide an online booking service for marinas. But unlike the others who failed, Dockwa does not charge a 10%+ booking fee. They make a very small margin by getting between the marina and the credit card companies. This only works because of the volume they’re gaining by aggressively signing on marinas all over America.
They also offer marinas premium services for additional fees that enable a typically short-staffed marina to provide customers with 5-star service that range from FREE to $399/month.
Click HERE to get details on the Dockwa Marina Options.
Dockwa To The Rescue
Dockwa makes selecting and booking a marina easier, they help marinas come out of the dark ages and provide customers with first class hospitality, and most importantly, they’re fanatics about customer service.
Last summer I was booking all the marinas we’d be staying at on our trip to Maine. About 9:00 at night, I got a terse message from one of the marinas I’d booked claiming that my Back Cove 41 was actually 47′ overall and looking for more money. I quickly canceled the reservation and switched to a different marina.
15 minutes later I got this email from Mike Melillo the CEO of Dockwa:
I was clearly impressed. I later learned that Dockwa has a mini war room with a big screen that monitors all messages between customers and marinas. They spotted me getting raked over the coals and stepped in to protect me.
Now that’s what I call disruptive!
As mentioned above, I’ve been a big fan of Dockwa since 2016 – long before I started publishing My Buzzards Bay. In late 2017, conversations with Dockwa led to an agreement for sharing some of our stories on their Boater’s Blog.
I’m proud to report that they selected my report on Wareham as a Dock and Dine destination as their first post of 2018!