You Bought a Boat, Now Where do You Put It?

boat marina



Marina industry expert and lifelong boater Matt Putnam shares his thoughts on how to decide where to keep your boat to enjoy your boating lifestyle to the fullest [boating podcast]

Anchors AweighAnchors Aweigh Boating Podcast is a podcast for all boaters, from aspiring to experienced. Featuring in-depth conversations with boating experts and industry leaders, and packed full of tips, tricks, gear, and industry info, boaters of all levels will come away with new skills and knowledge each episode.

Buying a boat is the first step in the long journey of boat ownership. There are many additional considerations that need to be made before cruising into the boating lifestyle, and one of the most important ones is figuring out where to keep your shiny new toy?

Will you store it in your yard and trailer it to different bodies of water? Put it in a dry stack storage? Or find a wet slip so you can just show up and it’s in the water ready for you?

There are pros and cons to all of these different options, as well as different levels of accessibility. If you don’t have the interest, ability, or vehicle to trailer a boat, you’ve limited your options already. If you live in an area of the country where wet slips are few and far between like we have on Lake George, you need to really do your research ahead of time so you don’t end up with a boat and nowhere to put it. After recently purchasing a marina of our own, I was really interested in speaking with a marina expert and I found one in Matt Putnam.

Matt PutnamMatt is a founding partner and Managing Director of the Leisure Property Advisors. He specializes in the sale of marina, golf and leisure properties throughout the United States and Canada. Prior to becoming a broker, he served as the financial analyst and marketing coordinator for the National Golf and Resort Properties Group for two years. Matt has held an active real estate license since 2006 and been in the Leisure Properties industry since 2009.

In addition to investment sales, Matt and his team focus on building advisory relationships with clients and routinely provide market research, financial analysis and management best practices at every point through the property ownership life cycle. Matt has served a wide range of clientele from single property owner-users to $100B pension funds and everything in between. Matt has been a part of transacting more than 40 leisure properties since 2011. Matt served as the national marina director at Marcus & Millichap and was an integral part of launching and building the marina division there.

Matt grew up in Florida on and around the water starting boating and fishing from a young age with his grandparents. Matt’s had lots of experience owning his own boat and as a Freedom Boat Club member and still gets out on the water and makes it a big part of his family’s life with his wife and his daughter.

Matt and I talked about his experience growing up around the water, how he got into leisure properties, some really great insight into what’s going on in the marina ownership world, and most importantly for boaters, advice on how to pick a marina and what to look for when you’re deciding on where to keep your boat.

Be sure to click on links to listen to the full podcast interview at the end!



Growing up in Florida

I am in Tampa and I’ve lived my whole life in Florida. I grew up in Dunedin, on the water on the west coast. I grew up with an appreciation for the water. My grandparents grew up in Englewood and we did a lot of fishing and boating and developed an appreciation for the water early on.

As far back as I can remember I was fishing at the dock at my grandparent’s house. My grandpa had two boats so we would go fishing regularly and if I wasn’t on the boat I was on the dock or the seawall fishing. They also had a home up on Saginaw Bay and we spent a lot of summer time there in the water and on the water. I didn’t start fishing in the area I live until early high school when some of my friends started to have access to parents’ boats so I’ve been fishing in this area about 20 years.

Learning to drive the boat

We had a couple experiences here and there from a pretty young age but it didn’t always go well. My grandparents lived in a canal and there was always the prospect of turning a boat around in a tight space. I remember trying to help my grandpa do that on a couple occasions that always ended with him taking the wheel and setting the boat back in the right direction.

Owning a boat

My first experience with my own boat was once I moved back here from the Panhandle. I tease my wife, we had dated for quite a while and I bought my first boat before I bought her engagement ring so that was the tone that I set and she always teases me about that. We had a Maverick flats boat that we spent a lot of time fishing here locally and trailering down to the Keys for lobster season and to fish and dive down there.

putnam family boatingThe family boating lifestyle

My wife didn’t grow up boating in the capacity that I did but she took to it from early on in our relationship. She loves being on the water. We’ve got a four-year-old little girl that now has the same affinity for being on the water whether it’s fishing or just cruising out to an island and spending time in and around the water. And our dog is the same, he loves to be on the boat as well.

Joining Freedom Boat Club

We sold our boat when we were pregnant. It was a flats boat, very low to the water gunwales and we didn’t want a toddler moving around on a boat that didn’t offer a whole lot of protection. We sold it with the idea that we would get a bigger boat and life got in the way.

Earlier this year we finally said – we’re sick of not being on the water in the capacity that we’re used to and we love doing – so we joined Freedom Boat Club and we’ve gotten a heck of a lot of use out of it, both personally and I’ve gotten to use it for business.

Daughter-Ivy-catching-Trout-2A typical day on the water

Our day out on the water consists of fishing for a couple of hours, probably boating to a restaurant to grab lunch, and then spending time on our barrier islands here.

I’ve got a friend of mine who owns a charter fishing business down here so the more serious fishing is done with him. We go offshore so we’re typically targeting grouper or snapper and every once in awhile we’ll catch a cobia or kingfish.

Current state of the ‘hot’ marina market

These generational assets that have been in families for multiple generations and for whatever reason the next generation doesn’t have the interest, passion, or desire to take over the family business, we see that a lot. And there are a couple of big groups that are very well capitalized buying marinas in scale trying to execute on a business plan. You’ve got this top down consolidation, two or three big groups out there actively acquiring marinas. And it’s just like anything else. Once people see these big firms going after a product type, it becomes more desirable to them as well. At the end of the day, worst case scenario in a lot of cases, you end up with waterfront property!

Helping marina owners

We are a true full-service real estate firm. That means we’ve got folks that focus solely on debt and equity, we’ve got a valuation team that does appraisals, project management, all the way through the gauntlet of an ownership period. We’ve tried to position ourselves to add value through that whole period.

Marina industry trends

I see the marina space trying to transition to more of a country club type atmosphere. People don’t want to just show up, get on their boat and never interact with anybody. A lot of times it’s folks bringing clients to the marina and they want that high level of service, they want their boat to be gassed up, they want ice, they want the dockhand to know their name.

Beyond that, having other service lines gives somebody a reason to store their boat at a particular location. Investors often times are looking at a marina and thinking – what else can I do here? Marina owners are looking at how they can get more potential boaters to their property.

Helping boaters choose a marina

You want to look at the age and condition of the facility. If you’re going into a dry stack, age and condition of the forklift. You don’t want an old beat up fork lift that could scratch and ding your boat. Same thing goes for wet slip marinas. Old beat up docks can beat up your boat pretty quick. And then it’s just, how is it staffed, what is the level of service. Those things are pretty easy to tell just walking in, talking to people behind the desk. Then it’s – what comes with storing my boat here, when you pull it out of the water, are you going to flush the engine and hose it down. What hours are you available to put my boat in and take it out.

Advice for boaters or aspiring boaters

The best piece of advice that I’ve ever received is just take it slow. Boats don’t have brakes so trying to do anything too quickly generally works out pretty poorly. And be open to constructive criticism. The people that I see pick it up the quickest and become the safest boaters are the ones who are willing to learn and take advice from people who have been doing it a long time.

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Matt O'Hara
Matt O’Hara is the owner, along with his wife Rebecca, of Freedom Boat Club Lake George and the Queen Boat Co marina. After a 10-year career in media sales in Boston, MA Matt and Rebecca decided to relocate and open their own Freedom Boat Club, where they could share their love of boating and Lake George by helping others get on the water. The best part of the new career has been the joy they see families having on the water day in and day out, making memories that will last a lifetime. Matt has combined his background in media with his move to the boating industry to launch Anchors Aweigh, a podcast for boaters.