By Morgan Simpson
In Venice, Fla., like many cities throughout the Sunshine State, boat storage owners have no problems attracting and retaining customers. Many boat owners, they say, will enter a state of panic after finding out the community they moved to doesn’t allow boats or their HOA changed restrictions and recreational vehicles are no longer permitted to be parked at home, considered an eyesore from the street.
No matter the reasons, many local boaters are seeking out storage facilities. Because of this, and because there are more boat owners in general, boat storage facilities have little to no availability and wait lists for customers are the norm.
“We’ve had such a demand for storage,” says Lori White, MarineMax Venice Marina manager.
Many boat storage facilities and marinas have experienced this demand has been growing, if not exploding, for years now, with people wanting to store their boats for all sorts of reasons.
MarineMax Venice Marina features two covered buildings that can fit approximately 180 boats combined. (Photo credit Morgan Simpson)
The facility also has a specialized lift that is designed to take larger boats out of the water. Photo credit Morgan Simpson.
For BigToy Recreational Storage, located off Center Road in Venice, owner Brian McMurphy emphasizes there is a great need in the area for boat storage because of strict homeowner association rules. “The biggest thing is all the deed-restricted communities,” he says.
Many gated communities prohibit boats to be parked on homeowner properties, creating an ever-increasing need for storage, especially in a state known for great boating and fishing experiences.
Since boating is one of the top reasons many people move to the area, McMurphy mentions boaters will panic once they figure out their community prohibits boats, which is becoming common in today’s real estate market.
Karis Russell, with BigToy Storage, echoed McMurphy’s thoughts about those moving down to Florida from the North and being shocked they couldn’t store a boat on their own property.
Russell’s advice to boaters is to be prepared, know your HOA rules and restrictions, and if boats aren’t allowed to be parked at home, make call places a few months in advance of bringing a boat to the area.
For storage at marinas, the need is a little different from other facilities.
“The biggest reason people store right at a marina is for convenience,” says Ken Stead, the Cape Haze Marina general manager.
For both Cape Haze and MarineMax marinas, storing a boat in their facility is more of a concierge service. Their customers pay more for a wide range of specialized services.
MarineMax will wash the boat down and flush the engines when a customer returns it to the marina. Customers also get fuel discounts and preorder fuel and ice so their watercraft is all ready to head out on the water. These customers are willing to pay more for the convenience and to save time, allowing themselves to spend more time on the water.
“Most people do it because they don’t want to fight the traffic at the boat ramp,” White at MarineMax says.
While there are a lot of reasons for storing boats, finding availability near home or close to their favorite boat ramp might be the hardest part for boaters. “We’ve had a wait list for probably eight years now,” Stead says. He mentioned there is a list to get onto the property in the first place, and then another for the inside dry storage, which is in high demand.
MarineMax Marina also has a similar waiting list system. “We run full most of the time now,” White says about their availability.
Most of the storage facilities don’t take reservations, but will maintain wait lists and keep potential customers informed of upcoming availability. “I haven’t been 50% empty in years,” McMurphy says.
Russell with BigToy says people find out the hard way storage places are not available and start to unravel because they waited until last minute to inquire. She says no matter where a customer wants to store a boat, they should definitely call ahead to check for availability, and not be surprised if they have to get on a wait list.
Types of storage and services
While availability can be scarce, there are many storage variations for boat owners. Some facilities are located off of the water, like BigToy, and others are connected to marinas.
BigToy Storage off of Center Road welcomes both boats and RVs. It also has a security fence and a gate, for 24-hour access. Photo credit Morgan Simpson.
At BigToy Storage, boat owners must bring their boats on a trailer. Once on property, the facility offers a climate-control room, outside storage on gravel or asphalt, covered asphalt storage and a completely enclosed covered facility. The entire site is highly secure, which is a bonus for customers who’ve invested heavily in their recreational vehicles.
“We have a ton of cameras,” Russell says, adding they also have a secure gate system.
Inside the facility, prices start from around $115 a month and go up depending on boat size and location on the property. Customers have 24-hour access to their boats through the gate system. The spots are mostly monthly rentals, but Russell says she accommodates short term if available.
Along with security, Russell says as added customer service they will regularly check on the exterior of the boats, especially for seasonal customers and during hurricane season, which is a major threat in Florida overall.
Storage facilities at marinas, including MarineMax and Cape Haze, have a variety of storage options as well. Both places offer wet slips, outside dry and inside dry storage to meet customer preferences. The marinas have forklifts to take the boats out of the water and put them in storage areas.
“The rate you are charged is usually a per-foot basis,” Stead says about most marina storage pricing.
Similar to BigToy, the marinas operate on monthly rentals. For Cape Haze, prices start at around $15-$18 per foot. At MarineMax, prices start at around $19.25 per foot and go up depending on location.
Stead says all of the marinas are fairly close in price “when it all boils down.” But unlike the off water storage facilities, the marinas will take the boat out of the water for a customer and put it back in when they’re ready to set sail.
“If you don’t have a waterfront home and you don’t have a trailer for your boat, marina storage (or other offsite locations) are your only option,” Stead concludes.
Morgan Simpson is a reporter for the Venice Gondolier newspaper in Florida.