Fixed Docks versus Floating Docks

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For more years than I can count, there has been a marina question I’ve wanted answered.  It’s been asked of me many times and I just didn’t have a full explanation.  The question is why don’t more marina owners switch from fixed docks to floating docks?  So I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and set out to solve my mystery.  I sold the cobble pipe years ago on ebay.

Here are the advantages I see of a floating dock over a fixed dock:

  • Floats automatically adjusts to high and low water conditions – you’ll never be left high and dry or find your dock submerged.
  • Permitting is easier permitting (no damage to sediment, so less hassle).
  • Expandability is easier as a whole; some docks are modular and others aren’t.
  • Since power pedestals and the electrical systems float on the docks, they shouldn’t be submerged from storms or surges.  Fixed docks run the risk of submergence and potentially shorting out some of the electrical system.
  • There are tax advantages due to a shorter depreciation schedule.
  • Sometimes the docks are assessed as personal property.  The rates can be higher or lower than real property; however, so this is a case-by-case basis.
  • Some floating docks can be reconfigured in as little as 10 minutes.  That’s fast!  It certainly is a marketing tool to attract transient boaters because you aren’t limited by all your slips in a certain size range being full and turning away a potential customer.  A boater could call from his boat and the dock could be reconfigured to accommodate it in hardly any time at all.  That’s a nice a luxury.
  • Many floating docks can simply be hauled away onto the site prior to major storms or during the cold weather season (think icing problems).
  • In a storm you just turn the power off to the floating dock.  After the storm you fix water pipes if busted (they’re typically rubber hoses).  That’s as easy as it gets.

So I put this question out to a friend of mine, Tom DeLotto of Applied Technology and Management (ATM).  Here’s his response.

Converting requires demolition and the older docks are built of pressure treated or creosote lumber which creates large, expensive disposal issues as these materials are considered haz-mats.  Permitting is an issue as well – old fixed docks are narrow and throw a small shadow.  New floating docks must be wider for stability and this creates additional shadowing of the bottom which drives folks like NJDEP [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection] and others as they claim shadowing creates oxygen loss and general impact to ecology.

It seems that the process is much more costly than just buying the floating docks.  It’s time consuming and a headache.  When you consider that many times dredging is scheduled along with fixed docks replacements, what marina owner wants more variables and hassles?

One question down… about a million more to go.

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