What to Look for in Cruising Cities

When traveling to cities by boat, these 5 things can make a huge difference in how cruiser-friendly your destination is.

Cruising City
Some cities are far better suited and more welcoming than others. Here's what to look for before docking up.Michael Robertson

1. Moorage: So long as the slip fees don't daunt you, marinas are usually an option in port cities. But if your budget is limited, the ability to anchor out or grab a mooring is critical. Victoria, British Columbia, offered us no place within the harbor to anchor or moor, but both San Diego and La Paz, Mexico, had prime space available near the city center.

2. Walkability: It's possible to get around most cities using taxis and rental cars, but walking a city, both to explore and to acquire the things you need, allows you to connect with and enjoy it more intimately. Many times, choosing where you berth or anchor makes a big difference in how you're able to access a city. In addition to offering marinas a short walk from downtown, San Diego, Victoria and La Paz each also feature marinas or anchorages that are set far apart from the city, and that make short, impromptu excursions difficult.

3. Dinghy Accessibility: Dink accommodations vary widely. Dana Point, California, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, both provided us a welcome place to anchor, but neither area allowed for secure and accessible dinghy landing. For about $1 per day, we found in La Paz a clean, convenient, guarded dock to which we could tie up when going ashore.

4. Attraction: The appeal of any city is in the eye of the beholder. Had the seasons allowed, we'd have gladly spent much more time weaving ourselves into the fabric of the smaller cities of Sitka, Alaska, and Astoria, Oregon. On the other hand, while Venice, California, was a feast for the eyes, and nearby Los Angeles offers a lifetime's worth of experiences, we felt sated (overwhelmed?) and ready to move on from both cities within a week. But only by visiting many cities did we learn what kept us in one place or made us eager to cast off.

5. Services and Provisions: These features draw many cruisers to cities in the first place. Seattle; San Diego; Fort Lauderdale; Ensenada, Mexico; and other such cities are meccas when it comes to meeting the boat-related needs of cruising sailors. But getting to see a dentist or dermatologist with one day's notice is an aspect of La Paz that we value. Welcoming and comfortable coffee shops in Astoria were a boon to us in terms of Internet access for off-the-boat home-schooling and writing work. Being in the right city to meet as many of your specific needs as possible makes for a productive stay.