With the cost of boating on the rise, Jonty Pearce looks at how relocating your boat can save money

As the recession deepens and our economy shrinks, the opportunity to relocate boats to other areas has been increasing. Marina waiting lists are shortening, and dropping demand has seen managers offer special deals to maintain berth occupancy. We all are feeling the pinch, though it seems to me that those squeezed most must be our motor powered brethren. Apart from the initial costs of such craft, marina costs (and when do you ever see a gin palace on a mooring?) are compounded by spiralling fuel costs. As a result more are being mothballed, creating marina vacancies. This lessening of berthing pressure has opened the gates for a new breed of yachtsman – The Marina Nomad. 

My friend Simon spent two years restoring a rare sister ship to my own Southerly 105 ketch, though in his case his partner Sue prefers the afterdeck for sunbathing and thus finds the absence of his mizzen mast convenient. After sailing with us in Wales he sold his debentures in Mayflower Marina, Plymouth, and launched Navassa in Pembrokeshire to tie up a mere two finger berths away from us in Neyland Marina. We planned weekend outings and holidays, but it never really worked. He denied my accusation that he was ‘anchor shy’ and that there were insufficient pontoons and visitor moorings to tie up to in the area. I think it was more that he felt that most destinations outside the Haven waterway required a three day weekend to access, and that beaches for the kids were hard to reach. Whist I admit that the fierce tides influence passage planning, they can also be used as slingshots to reach beauty spots such as Skomer Island, Ramsay Sound, Tenby, and Solva. And as for beaches, there are few areas with such a top quality selection. No, I hold that Simon and Sue are South Coast sailors who miss the Solent fleshpots where they are happier using somebody else’s chain to hold them at night rather than listening to their own anchor grumbling.

So it came as no surprise when I learnt that he had done a deal with a marina in Lymington. A delivery crew enjoyed a bouncy ride round Land’s End, and Navassa migrated south. Her stay was short lived as Simon soon unearthed a more cost effective option, and nomadic Navassa was off again, this time to Portsmouth. The very reasonable deal included winter storage ashore with a lift in and out, but the unlinked pontoon berth required the tender for access. During the season, finding that she touched at low water and that access in the wind was challenging, the writing was on the wall. Gypsy Simon harnessed up again and sailed round the corner to Southampton.

His chosen berth was friendly with helpful staff always ready to take his lines, and the fee (for the South Coast) was reasonable. However, wash from the Red Funnel Ferries and noisy shoreside discos took the gloss off Navassa’s stay, and the migration urge drew them back west to Plymouth. Not to Mayflower though – Navassa forged on upstream. I sense that some readers may be wondering what it takes to make this man happy. Be reassured – some yachtsmen simply take longer to find their chosen homes than others. I am glad to report that he now resides contentedly on an economical river mooring at Cargreen, high up the Tamar, where by chance my old E-boat, Eventide, now lives. I trust that this Gypsy Vagrant has now put down roots and has put his horse out to grass.

In past times it was possible to choose where to keep ones boat, and space would always be found for it. Exponential demand then continued to cram traditional anchorages with moorings and sheltered backwaters became marinas, and waiting lists grew ever longer, restricting choice. Once given a berth, we dared not give it up. But even favourite anchorages can pall with recurrent visits, and I am relieved to sense that more berths are available, making relocation a viable option – maybe the only good thing to come out of the recession.

So sail on, Gypsy Nomads. With so many sailing records being set, there must now be an opportunity for a ‘Round Britain Berthing Challenge’. The vacancies are there, and those distant ports call out. The rules might merely be that participants must change their mooring or marina after no less than half a season, and that the next berth must be between one hundred and three hundred miles distant. With a circumnavigation distance of 2,200 miles (excluding Ireland), it could take as long as 12 years! The challenge is on, and new waters becon.

Jonty Pearce