Paddlers and private marinas

You’re paddling upriver heading back to your put-in spot after a long day’s paddle and you could use a rest to stretch your legs (or a restroom break, or shelter from wind and rain, or a bite to eat, or how about just a chit chat with a stranger). It’s a decent size river so marinas abound, but they’re all private.

Do you stop and dock/beach? How likely would a paddler be welcomed? For how long? What if you’re a group? What if it’s busy with members and you want to stay “out of the way”? How do you know if the snack bar is public? Etc…

If possible call or email marina(s) in advance of the day to see how welcoming they are. Otherwise hail on VHF as you approach. Either with YES or no answer, be very courteous to land or dock well out of the way of power/sail boaters on the move. Then seek out staff. Appearances matter, so make the effort to look presentable (not like you just finished a paddle marathon) especially if using dining and bathroom facilities. Polite and cheerful opens many doors. Spending some cash at marina store helps too even if just for a soda.

I live in a “private” marina of about 300 boats. Mine doesn’t have any good place to easily get out of a kayak except onto the docks, but I can give you some generalizations based on the community of people that live here. Keep in mind that my marina does allow liveaboards, while many don’t, so the cross section of people might be a bit different.

Generally, boaters of all types are friendly, helpful and very curious about “new” boats that show up. If you find someone and explain your situation and what you need (restroom, a place to sit, are there vending machines or a restaurant around?) I think the majority of the time the person will try to help you and not mind at all. If you came in and didn’t ask anyone and just hopped in the pool you might get some weird looks or someone might ask what you were doing. Theft and vandalism are problems in most marinas so if you identify to someone why you are there people are less likely to get suspicious - just be aware of that and likely you’ll be fine.

Bathrooms in many marinas are locked so you would likely have to find someone to let you in.

That said, if it’s a really ritzy place, or a Yacht Club (not the same as a marina!), or has a LOT of “Private” signs, I might find somewhere else. My marina is technically “private” but is pretty low key. We do have a gate on the landward side, but from my experiences living there I don’t see anyone having an issue with a kayaker who just needs to make a quick pit stop. Same would go for a small group, but maybe make more of an effort to ask someone if you’re in a large group. Docks and landings that look empty may not be truly empty.


I agree with brodie. Most boaters are accommodating, but others tend to be snootie, especially about kayaks. I’ve been told that kayaks have no business out on open water. Where I launch on the Upper Chesapeake, much of the beach is posted off limits due to unexploded ordinance. The waterfront restaraunts cater to the boat traffic. I read or was told that the tidal zone is accessible to the public, but I would argue with an irate property owner about permission to relieve myself on the 3 ft strip. I only had concerns a few time and it worked out. I’d hope a Marina would have empathy and give you a break. I bought books for my area that highlight the features, restaraunts, utilities and marinas. Nest advice is be prepared in advance, but that doesn’t always work out. I guess it pays to be nice and test the waters, if in doubt.

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Interesting you mention the unexploded ordinance in the Upper Chesapeake. I can almost guarantee at least one or two of those rounds around Bloodsworth Island came from when I was the checksite observer on a 5 inch 38 cal in the mid 70s. What a horrible gunnery range due to no elevation! But, it was close to the all the USN and USCG facilities in the Mid-Atlantic.

I paddled “home” a couple of weeks ago. Kind of fun, and kind of weird to have to paddle 8 miles to get back to my car, to drive home again. I can’t actually launch this kayak from the slip as it is too long!


Kayakhank. Now that is a gunnery range. The big holes are probably safe. It the little ones that might present danger. APG has an interesting history. I heard stories about them closing the bay down to the area around Kent Island during the WW2 ordinance testing. Not sure if it’s true.

If there is an anchorage and a dinghy dock you’d likely be welcomed if landing at the dinghy dock. If you ID’d your intentions like Brodie mentioned.

Jyak…I think the average boater does not understand sea kayaks. Similar to drivers that don’t understand why road bike cyclists don’t ride on the sidewalk.

We were launching at Lake Murray at our campground marina on a windy day. There was a guy there that told us not to go out lake was too big and dangerous. We were going to die. Lake Murray is seven miles across and has unusual hazards, but not that bad. AND we were launching to paddle out the the public ramp to meet the local kayak club. Weather turned fine.

Overstreet, you identified the issue. I’ve seen more than one beer can thrown at bicyclists who were well off the road. I call the phenomenon the Fuel Truck Parody. If a driver sees a fuel truck coming, the wait at a stop sign. If they see a bicycle, the driver laughs and thinks, if that bike hits me, I’ll get the rider to repaint the car.

A friend of my brother told me kayaks have no business out there around power boats, because boats cant see you. I explained the difference between a 15 ft log floating with one or two inches exposed above the water, and a 15 ft orange kayak. Then reminded him that it was an argument that he’d have to present before a judge, and it actually made him look stupid, drunk or blind, or all the latter. He still didn’t get it - not much of a skilled boater.

Thanks. Some good info here.

Yup, always good to call ahead and ask if the kayak(s) can do a pit stop, and be respectable!

Having spent much time on larger boats I can confirm that kayaks and paddleboards are VERY hard to see from a larger boat. If conditions are right and the paddler is wearing bright colors or has a flag, I might see them from a distance. But usually by the time they are visible they are way too close and evasion maneuvers start. If the kayak is between the big boat and the sun then it doesn’t matter how much fluorescent gear you have, you’re invisible. The flash of the paddle blade really is often what I see first, and makes me take a second look long enough to pick up the boat or paddler.

And yes, there are a LOT of boaters with big boats who have no idea what they are doing. Both sail and power - I’ve seen some scary things with both types. I generally stay out of the channel and/or in shallow water as that will at least keep you safe from the bigger boats. Have a whistle or air horn at arm’s length and always be prepared to get out of the way.

If you paddle in an area frequented by sailboats (especially small ones) and find their seemingly random wanderings annoying and frustrating, borrow a learn-to-sail book from the library and try to get some idea of why they are doing what they are doing. Things will make more sense and you might want to try a new hobby! (Beware of that rabbit hole, though!)


I believe there’s a coast guard rule about maintaining a watch. Even so, I guess the point is dead is dead. Even if you’re dead right. If I got to go, I’ll go on the sea. What that saying about . . .demonstrating your intention to ward the person . . . Then the ball is in that person’s court.

Stop and ask.

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Some people think kayaking is expensive…


Yeah, you can even make your own.

@Nunio the only way I can afford to sail is to live on the boat! No way I could support house and boat expenses.


If there is a marina along a paddling route, they can be checked with ahead of the paddle. No reason to guess.
If there is a medical emergency or some other trip-halting failure, refuge is refuge.

Paddlers have access to any marina with a state/public boat launch. Just be courteous to the motor boats, be aware if any are waiting to take in or out and don’t clog the ramp.

If it is a private marina without a public launch, each will have its own rules. And finding a spot that the marina considers to be out of the boaters’ way to pull up or tie off a kayak, let alone a bunch of them, can be at best very hard. Many will have a spot where kids can wade in and owners can put in a rec boat or something, but that is the members’ space, not for visitors.

But again best to check ahead. A few of us decided to try and launch from a spot along upper Lake George one time that looked promising. Our research was poor - when we got there every inch of the shoreline remotely close to where we could park was privately owned. We ended up paying a small marina that was there $25 for the day to be able to park our car and launch. This was in mid-September on a weekday so their regulars were not around. We had the strong sense that the answer would have been no in July or August.

I hope this does not turn into a discussion about “Elitist boat owners”…lol

If I had an elitist boat I’d be one too.

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