An explanation on the mechanics of Dockwa is appropriate because we used it to reserve several marinas along our route, but not all. Not only is the app free on any platform (IOS, Android, PC), it has an easy to use interface allowing boaters to search a particular location to find available marinas, yacht clubs or town facilities. Information includes what each provider has to offer, such as how many transient slips and/or moorings, amenities at the slips (water, electric, etc.), amenities for the moorings (free launch service, pump out, etc.), cost per night, extra charges (such as for electricity or water), etc. Additionally, the response time to a reservation request is usually specified (such as 24 hours) as well as the cancellation policy. Note each facility sets their own guidelines for the turnaround time for providing a confirmation. A few promise to respond in less than an hour but most are not that speedy.
Once a facility is selected, the boater can submit an online request with the necessary information (name, dates of stay, name/size of boat, payment method, etc.). Once the reservation is confirmed by the marina, the credit card is potentially then charged. If the Dockwa confirmation doesn’t list an assigned mooring or slip, when arriving at a location the facility or harbormaster must be contacted via VHF radio, or cell phone, to determine the specific slip or mooring assignment.
- One major pro, is knowing you will have a place to tie up when you arrive. Marina’s that do not subscribe to Dockwa and operate via VHF Radio only, operate essentially under first-come-first-served rules and require you to be within a couple of miles before you can even contact them. This can be problematic if there is no availability after traveling several hours to get there. This has prevented us on many occasions from visiting a busy port, such as Newport or Block Island, especially during peak times. It’s a huge stress reliever to know you will have a place to tie up before you go.
- The app makes the entire process relatively easy and you can more easily compare rates and policies between the different options.
- Unlike making a hotel or RV park reservation which typically results in an immediate confirmation (or not), Dockwa responses are not generally real time and you may not know for up to 24 hours if they have a spot for you or not.
- Hotels and RV Parks only charge you when confirming a reservation or upon arrival. But with Dockwa, the process of requesting a reservation sometimes requires submitting payment. You won’t be charged if your request is denied, but you may be automatically charged if your request is accepted. The problem is you may not know for up to a day if your request will be accepted, so are essentially locked out of making any contingency plans with an alternate marina – that is, unless you want to commit payment to more than one marina!
- For boaters, there’s a high probability weather will cause a delay or cancellation. Delays of course can also be caused by a mechanical issue, an unexpected illness or some other personal event. Once the reservation is confirmed a full or partial refund may or may not be granted, and it is entirely possible you will forfeit everything. Each facility sets their own policy regarding delays or cancellations, but it seems like most we experienced were not in the boater’s favor. Along our route, all the marinas we investigated required 24 hours to 30 days to avoid forfeit of at least one nights fees. In other parts of the country, the cancellation policies may be more forgiving.
- Not all Marina’s use Dockwa so it is not a one stop shopping panacea. The traditional methods of VHF Radio or telephone will still need to be employed as needed.