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Dry Storage Is One Way to Give Boaters Slip Service : Crafts are berthed on land, not sea. It's 'sort of like valet parking,' says operations manager.


Rob Perkins remembers that when was he selling boats, there was one customer who was willing to buy a boat he didn't want just so he could get the slip that went with it.

One Newport Beach man even bought a house on Lido Isle so he would have a place to park his new boat.

But average boat owners can't afford to resort to such extreme--and expensive--measures. Instead they put their names on years-long waiting lists and grow old while waiting for their slip to come in. But as Perkins points out, there is an alternative to the traditional in-the-water boat slip.

It's called California Dry Slip, and as the name implies, boats are berthed on land--not at sea. The new land-based marina is on Lido Peninsula and consists of 186 three-story-tall racks that can accommodate boats from 13 to 38 feet. The facility opened last year and is already nearly full, says Perkins, who serves as operations manager.

"It works sort of like valet parking for boats," Perkins says.

Owners merely call ahead, and when they arrive at the waterfront storage lot, their boat has already been launched. All the owner has to do is get in and cruise away. When the cruise is over, the owner returns to the storage facility's dock and walks away. Yard workers then return the boat to its rack.

The facility differs from traditional do-it-yourself dry storage lots, where boats are parked in individual spaces, rather than stacked one on top of the other, and boats are launched from trailers.

At California Dry Storage, boats are launched via a forklift capable of hauling 20,000 pounds. (The average boat in storage weighs between 5,500 and 11,500 pounds). When not in use, boats are stacked three high and stored in racks that line the perimeter of what looks like a giant boat parking lot behind Delaney's Restaurant in the Lido Peninsula Marine Center.

California Dry Slip is the only storage facility of its kind in Orange County and is believed to be one of only two on the West Coast (the other is in San Diego).

"The concept is new for this area," Perkins says, "but it is an old concept back East and has been around for probably 30 years."

Perkins explains that such facilities are essential in the Northeast, where boaters must remove their boats from the water before the winter freeze. They are also popular in Florida, he says, where owners of high-performance powerboats, whose engines can become damaged by salt water, do not like to store their boats in the water.

"Boats actually do a lot better when stored out of salt water, which can be very corrosive," Perkins says.

California Dry Storage can accommodate powerboats only and is geared toward smaller boats. "Right now we have 30 slots left for boats 25 feet and under," Perkins says.

Costs are $12 per foot, which is on par with some slip fees. In Orange County, slip fees range from $7 in Dana Point and $8 in Huntington Harbour to more than $17 a foot in some Newport Beach marinas. However, due to a chronic slip shortage, most marinas (especially the lower-priced ones) are full and have long waiting lists.

The slip shortage and the rising costs of slip fees have forced many boat owners to dry-dock smaller boats or use trailers. But in Orange County, even dry-dock space is sometimes hard to find.

At Sunset Aquatic Marina in Huntington Harbour, there is up to a two-year waiting list for dry-dock spots in the 70-space facility. One reason the storage facility is so popular is its price. Fees are only $3.90 a foot and there is a do-it-yourself launch ramp nearby. However, boat owners can look for a rate increase in July, says Marlene Waterbury, marina spokeswoman.

In Dana Point at the Embarcadero Marina, which has 550 permanent dry-storage spaces, there is a yearlong wait for larger slots, according to operations manager Jim Kaneen, who says the facility's popularity is due to its reasonable rates and its close proximity to the ocean.

The Embarcadero has an additional 300 spaces, available on a first-come, first-served basis, for day use only. Boats ranging from 15 to 26 feet can be accommodated in the huge dry storage lot. Fees for permanent spaces range from $66 to $87, depending upon the size of the boat. For an additional charge, Embarcadero workers will launch and retrieve your boat for you.

"Because of the economy, more people are looking for dry storage," says Kaneen. "Our fees are less than half of what a slip would cost."

In Newport Beach, the recently renovated Newport Dunes offers the largest dry-storage spaces in the county and can accommodate boats up to 45 feet long. The Dunes has 500 spaces and offers two types of storage. One lot is designed for boats 25 feet and up and features assigned slots. Fees are $5 a foot. Another lot charges a flat $100 monthly fee, but spaces are not assigned.

"We cost about a third of what it costs to have a boat in a slip," says Dave Nichols, assistant dock master. The Dunes has spots available in both lots. And for an additional charge, a launch and retrieval service is available.

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