Parking regulations: Where can I park my boat?

September 19, 2013

sailboats in the ocean

Is there anything like the sight of sailboats on a summer day? [Photo by Derek Tsang]

The best thing about owning a boat is obvious: you own a boat! On crisp April afternoons or sizzling August nights, you can sail the high seas or glide through the mirrored calm of the lake. Your friends prize your company and are willing to ply you with food and beverage because you’re their friend with a boat. Whether it’s a sporty little speedboat for weekend fishing on the bayou or a graceful oceangoing sailboat for a sunset cruise, you’ve got the power to do what so many of us landlubbers long for: to get out on the water. Eventually, though, you’re going to have to come back ashore, which brings us to the worst thing about owning a boat: parking it.

Of course, it’s possible that you’re rich enough that your boat parking is located a few lush acres from your private boat launch, right next to the stables and the GulfStream hangar. (I mean, it’s not like your average 533-foot luxury yacht even fits on a trailer, right?) But let’s assume you’re an ordinary American, and not the Sultan of Brunei. You’ve worked hard to earn the money to buy a boat, and now you have to keep it somewhere safe and legal, on dry land, when you’re not enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Can I park my boat in my driveway? 

boat parked in yard

Parking your boat in the backyard might not be pretty, but at least you won’t get any grief from jealous neighbors. [Photo by Michael Coughlan]

The best solution is that you have a driveway or garage and an understanding homeowners association. If the boat fits in your garage, or if you’ve built a little dry dock/storage on your property, then it’s smooth sailing. But many boat owners want to keep the boat in their driveway, unattached and covered, when not in use. You might think that if it’s your driveway, it’s your own private property, but you’d be surprised by how many townships, municipalities, and homeowners associations are one step ahead of you; boats in driveways look like eyesores to the aesthetically obsessed, and to jealous passersby, so you may have to keep your boat behind the sightlines of your house, or in the back, where it’s not visible. The town of Longboat Key on Florida’s Gulf Coast recently passed exactly that type of ordinance, to clear boats from accumulating in people’s yards and in front of their homes.

Homeowners associations are likely to be pretty upfront about what’s allowed in your driveway or not, but if you don’t have an HOA breathing down your neck, then you might actually want to check with the city government about whether you have to hide your boat behind your house, or whether you can show it off to your neighbors.

Can I park my boat on the street?

Our research shows that by and large, street parking for recreational vehicles like boat trailers is forbidden above a certain time frame. Sometimes it’s a reasonable 48 or 72 hours, just to prevent owners from using street parking as their own boat storage area. But we’ve found that the more boat-friendly a town (on the shore of the ocean or a lake), the stricter their regulations are likely to be.

For instance, we noticed in the riverside town of Florence, New Jersey, boat trailers are prohibited from parking on any street for more than two hours in any one-week period, unless actively loading or unloading. Oceanside, California allows oversize vehicles like boat trailers to park for up to 72 hours on city streets, but had to set up all kinds of complex rules about how often those vehicles moved, to discourage boat owners from driving ten feet further down the road every three days.

For the most part, boat parking becomes an issue when residents start to complain. But part of the problem is that measures will vary from one municipality to another in a waterfront area. In one popular part of the southern Jersey Shore, you have Sea Isle City, which allows boat trailers to park legally so long as they’re attached to their cars. In nearby Galloway Township, overnight street parking is prohibited for all recreational vehicles. And over in neighboring Avalon, residents fed up with boat overload in the small seaside community managed to get boat parking banned during the summer months. Ultimately, if you’re the proud owner of a shiny new speedboat, you’re going to have to get in touch with your town’s DOT to find out how long it can be parked on city streets, or whether that’s allowed at all.


Can I park my boat in a parking lot?

boat trailer in parking lot

Don’t be this guy. [Well, these guys are posing their setup before driving off, but still – don’t park like this for real. Photo by DiamondBack Truck Covers]

Parking your boat in a parking lot gets a little more complicated. For one, not all parking lots have the capacity to handle them – most boats on trailers won’t make the maximum clearance for a parking garage (so leave Spirit of the Seas II at home when you go to Macy’s).

But often there will be parking lots near marinas and launch points that are either publicly or privately managed. Usually, public or municipal parking lots adjacent to marinas will allow for loading and unloading into the water, and the spaces are designed for leaving your trailer hitched to your vehicle while you’re out on the water. But when you’re looking for long-term storage near your launch point, you’re probably going to have to pay for it.

Of course, you could also just leave your boat tucked in the grass near the parking lot, and just hope that no one has the motivation to move it or steal it. In the small seaside town of Morehead City, North Carolina, officials are struggling with some unofficial boat parking that’s been going on for years  in the grass alongside the public water access point. In order to deal with the problem, the town has passed an ordinance banning overnight parking on public property, which gives the town the authority to remove the neglected boats. While we can see the allure of just leaving your little fishing boat in the grass and then sauntering over for a sail whenever you want, well, nothing’s free. Not even the grass. 

Now, although boat parking can be a real pain when you’re on land, there’s a great solution for that: get out on the water. Boat owners will agree with us when we say the best place to park your boat is on the water, on a beautiful summer day, with great people to sail with. And hey, we’re free this weekend!


Category: Regulations

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