Today’s marinas built for longevity, storm resistance


If you’re going to build something, it should be built to last.

This has always been the approach for companies that design marinas. Marina development options that are long lasting with lower maintenance and sensitivity to the environment continue to drive innovation in the segment, which is of particular importance as recent storms like Hurricane Sandy have left a lasting impact.

Marina owners are “looking for elements to help the marina survive,” said Roxie Comstock, manager of business enhancement at Bellingham Marine. “It’s really about decisions that are being made in the design and engineering of [the marina] more than it is about a specific product that’s being developed.”

Bellingham has searched for corrosive-free, low-maintenance components that the company could add into its dock system to help increase the longevity of the structure. What the company came up with was the fiber-reinforced pultrusion (FRP) thru-rod, which was designed to be impervious to corrosion, meet the strictest environmental regulations and require less maintenance over a long lifespan.

“One of the weak points in any dock system with metal components is the metal’s vulnerability to corrosion. Corrosion can reduce a component’s life space and compromise its performance. An alternative material that meets or exceeds metal’s physical properties and is impervious to corrosion is a tremendous breakthrough,” said Comstock. “The FRP thru-rods are never going to corrode. Their life is, at this point, infinite in terms of how long they’ll be able to hold up in a corrosive environment.”

Bellingham Marine’s FRP thru-rods are the results of over seven years of research and development.

Bellingham Marine’s FRP thru-rods are the results of over seven years of research and development.

In 2016, the rod will be a standard option offered on all Unifloat system docks. Bellingham will also be introducing an FRP waler option in the near future.

“Traditionally what happens is the timber walers expand and contract with changes in the environment, and so the nut can loosen [and] there’s periodic maintenance of going around the marina and tightening the nuts. With the new FRP thru-rod system, theoretically that need should go away,” said Comstock. “It meets that dual need in the industry for something that is lower maintenance as well as something that has a longer life.”

The company said that if the FRP thru-rod and waler system perform as anticipated, the breakthrough could represent one of the most important advancements in dock technology in the past 50 years.

“The industry has long been looking for solutions that will put an end to the battle against corrosion. At the same time, there is a growing need for viable solutions that adequately address environmental concerns [around chemicals leching] and anticipated tighter regulations,” said Comstock.

Designing a WiFi-friendly marina

A big up-and-coming amenity in the marina segment is WiFi, and marinas need to consider the structural requirements of this offering before rolling out to consumers. Distributing a strong signal across multiple acres and to larger slips is no easy feat.

Beacon WiFi aims to solve these problems, as it offers WiFi exclusively to marinas through basic facility services and network boat packages for boat owners.

Today’s customer doesn’t just want WiFi – they need it. While there are certainly customers who are looking to unplug, the demand for free WiFi at a marina has grown significantly in the past few years.

Russ Schmidt, president of Beacon WiFi, says his clients all largely say “it’s the No. 1 requested amenity. Not pump out, not fuel, not anything else – it’s WiFi. You can’t look at the technology because it kind of shades the truth. The truth is it’s their lifeline: to their office, to their home, to their kids, to their family and to any information.”

The biggest hindrance for any marina adding WiFi is distributing a strong network across a large facility.

The biggest hindrance for any marina adding WiFi is distributing a strong network across a large facility.

Beacon WiFi’s NextGen system manages the maximum bandwidth per device at the marina to ensure everyone can get on the network, check emails and more. However, streaming capabilities are reduced, as one person streaming video can eat up the whole connection at some locations.

The NextGen system also allows marina to register devices. For example, if someone becomes a member at the beginning of the season, the marina can include a WiFi voucher code in the welcome package. The customer can connect to the WiFi, key in the voucher code and be registered to the network for the rest of the year. This makes it seamless for customers connecting during every visit and keeps the network secure for marinas to manage usage.

Marinas can also choose to set up their WiFi across the whole facility or segment to different areas of the business.

“They don’t want [someone at the bar] sitting there, for example, streaming video all day. They want them to be able to get their email if they want, but somebody who is paying a high slip fee, they want them to be able to stream video,” said Schmidt.

Having the broadband infrastructure available at the marina that can support the amount of traffic coming from the marina is a top priority. Therefore, it may require a significant capital investment.

“Marinas are unique because the wireless infrastructure, the seasonal peak usage, the multiple users [requires you] to go with a company who has done this before and uses the proper equipment, not only for the physical environment but for the type of communication equipment that can manage this type of usage,” Schmidt said.

Modern dock systems make it easy for companies like Beacon WiFi to run fiber and copper through the docks, which allows for robust WiFi networks in cooperation with systems on shore.

“Years ago when we first started … any kind of connection was good enough,” said Schmidt. “It’s a lot different now, where they have multiple devices – everybody’s got a small mobile device and now they not only need great connection, but they want throughput and speed and stability.”


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