While cruising, you will frequently be faced with many choices to be made. Some are mundane such as "What should I eat for lunch?" Others are much more profound such as "When should I set off on my long passage?"
While these two questions may seem obvious in their importance, one question that may seem simple actually caries a lot of importance with it. "Should I anchor or tie up in a marina?"
Anchoring is free while marinas charge by the foot to tie up. Marinas also offer many amenities such as water and electricity, amenities which are not found while anchored out. The most obvious advantage of a marina comes when you decide to leave the boat to go ashore. All you need to do is step off the boat and onto the dock, then you can walk into town and enjoy the local wonders.
Anchoring, while free, means that you will need to row to shore and find a place to land your dinghy upon arrival. Some towns are more friendly towards dinghies than others and will provide free dinghy docks for you to tie up. Others discourage dinghy usage and will charge you to tie up your small craft as you make landfall.
While these may seem like small and insignificant decisions to ponder, the commutative effects are astounding! Anchoring is free, so every night that you anchor is a night that you don't have to pay anyone and a night that you get to keep your money so that you can cruise longer.
Marinas typically charge somewhere between $1 per foot and $3.50 per foot. If you have a 45 foot yacht, you will be spending $45 to $157.50 per night that you are tied up in a marina. A month of nights in a marina will end up costing you $1,350 and $4,725! You can see how a little decision such as tying up can add up significantly and greatly affect your cruising budget.
We, as a rule, anchor out all the time. We feel that $45 spent at a marina is much better spent on a nice dinner ashore! We value food more than a marina berth and invested in a large and secure anchor before going cruising.
When you set off cruising, these small and insignificant choices should be revisited and evaluated much closer as they can drastically affect how fun cruising is and how long you can cruise for.