In an effort to fill long-empty slips, the Bremerton Marina is offering a deal its management hopes boaters can’t resist.
Free moorage — for an entire year.
The deal is good through July 15 for boats between 36 and 120 feet and is limited to the first 75 that sign up. To qualify, boat owners must commit to a two-year moorage contract but will be billed only every other month. The promotion applies to both liveaboard and non-liveaboard vessels, and does not include electricity or tax. Monthly moorage rates range from $288 to $592 for boats 36 to 60 feet.
The marina currently has a vacancy rate of about 60 percent, higher than other facilities in the region.
“That’s why we’re doing [the promotion],” said consultant Bob Wise, who was recently hired by the Port of Bremerton on a $9,000-monthly contract through the end of August to help increase permanent moorage at the marina.
“It’s a very aggressive offer to bring new boaters into the marina. We think as word starts to get out, it’s really going to take off.”
Additionally, the marina is offering per-foot rates for boats under 36 feet. Previously, those boat owners would have had to pay for a 36-foot slip, the marina’s smallest size. But while there are still empty slips, the marina will only charge the per-foot rate.
Boat owners who take advantage of that deal will not be eligible for the year of free moorage, nor are current tenants of the Bremerton or Port Orchard marinas.
The Port of Bremerton, which owns the marina, has long struggled to fill slips at the facility, which underwent a $34 million expansion that included rebuilding docks, adding slips, building new bathrooms and installing a 1,400-foot long, 25-foot wide breakwater with barbecues and covered activity areas.
But the timing of the expansion, completed in 2008, could hardly have been worse. Grand plans for a revitalization of Bremerton’s aging downtown area — including the construction of a waterfront hotel, conference center and luxury condos — stalled when the recession took hold.
And the marina remained largely empty.
Wise, who owns Port Hadlock Marina, believes Bremerton Marina has been negatively impacted not just by the recession but also by misperceptions, including the notion that it has no parking. On the contrary, he said, the Port purchased a large lot adjacent to the marina, at the end of Washington Street, paved it over and created a 30-minute loading zone so boat owners can easily get items to and from their vessels.
“We basically have unlimited free parking for tenants and guests,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for better parking.”
Then there’s the perception of Bremerton, as a blighted, crime-plagued Navy town. Wise says there hasn’t been any significant crime issues in recent years around the marina, which is situated next to a state ferry dock, has security gates at all entrances and is monitored by cameras.
“There’s a very robust security infrastructure and there’s just no recent history of any crime problems,” Wise said.
Bremerton’s historic, pedestrian-friendly downtown core is just a few blocks from the marina, and while many downtown buildings remain empty, the new businesses are slowly coming.
Those include the Toro Lounge, which bills itself as “Bremerton’s first and only gastropub,” the Bremerton Bar & Grill, a mini-mart and SEEfilm Bremerton Cinema, a multiplex theater with stadium seats and a private room with a bar that can be rented for parties. All are within walking distance of the marina.
There’s also Manette, a neighborhood in east Bremerton about a mile from the marina that boasts several restaurants, a wine bar and adjoining saloon, a brewpub and a few shops. Marina tenants can dinghy over and tie up at the Boat Shed restaurant’s dock, or walk over the new Manette Bridge that crosses that crosses the Port Washington Narrows.
Wise thinks that if boaters see what the marina and surrounding area have to offer, they’ll be sold.
“It’s a spectacular place to put your boat,” he said. “We firmly believe that once people come and check out what a great environment it is there, they’re going to stay.”