Posted by: wrmcnutt | June 4, 2010

Marina Review – The Gangplank Marina, Washington DC


The Gangplank Marina, located at 200 Water Street, Washington, DC hosted my boat and me the weak of 5/21/2010 – 5/27/2010.  I was in DC on business but because I hate airlines and the “security theater” they put us through, I trailered by boat up and went sailing the weekend before my meetings.

Limitations: the Gangplank has some, and I ran into the first one the minute I made my reservation.  The Gangplank has no launch ramp at all.  The harbor master attempted to be helpful, and was able to direct me to the Gravelly Point boat ramp on the other side of the river, but they also had no trailer parking.  So I spent a couple of days online looking into paid parking in downtown Washington DC.  GREAT GOOGLIMOOGLI! Oh my aching wallet!  For the kind of money they ask for parking, I could rent an apartment in Knoxville.  In Downtown DC, they charge hourly for parking, and they don’t charge in pennies.    After two days, I decided to leverage my SCA contacts.  So I joined the discussion list for the Barony of Storvik and found someone willing to let me park my rig in their driveway for a week.  I eventually did find an RV storage place that would rent me space at a monthly rate that was reasonable, but I stuck with the friend of a friend after all the work people had gone through to set it up.  I gave them half of the money I saved by not having to pay the RV storage place. (The folk from Storvik were very patient and helpful to an utter stranger who showed up making unreasonable requests!)  The logistics of launching the boat and parking the towing rig were complex, time-consuming, and a pain in the  . . . neck.  Clearly trailer-sailors are not the target market for the Gangplank Marina.

My first view of the marina was . . . disappointing.  The docks are quite worn.  The decks are a patchwork of three generations of construction materials.  Concrete, wood, and composite wood jostle each other for space.  Many of the cleats have old, rotten lines dangling into the water, and cables are battered, faded, and cracked.  The dock edges are padded and the padding it functional, but it’s dirty, old, and mis-matched.

That said, the docks are solid. They float high and dry.  The finger docks are appropriately placed with adequate space to maneuver your boat between them.  There are plenty of cleats of a goodly size and well-secured to the docks.

The harbor master was monitoring the hailing channel when I called in, and there was a dock-hand dispatched to meet me at my slip.  Now, at other marinas I have been treated more formally.  They’ve called me “Captain,” worn logo-ed sport-shirts and khaki’s, and provided paperwork in logo-ed folders.  This dock hand was wearing a t-shirt, cut off shorts, and sandals.  So my needs were met, but my inner stuffy bastard was not fed.

The access to land is a fortress.  the head of the dock is in a steel cage made of one inch hollow square stock, and required a key to both enter and leave.  The entire marina is well covered with CCTV and is monitors 24/7 by security guards who also walk the grounds at night.  While the security office is not manned while the night guard is walking his beat, they carry a cell phone and the number is clearly posted.

The laundry room is small, but has several sets of washers and dryers.  They are coin-operated and the room itself is roughly finished.  The showers have only two stalls, but as of this date, they are recently refurbished.  All week-long I found the showers empty and with lots of hot water, well-maintained, and spotlessly clean, no matter what time of day or night I was there.

The use of charcoal or propane grills aboard your boat his prohibited, but the marina provides a fairly large, well-appointed picnic area, complete with propane grill and enough teak furniture to seat a large family with a few friends.

The marina provides pump out service  as well as 40 50 amp electrical service and potable water.  The electrical service is metered per slip, and you are billed at the end of your stay for your usage.  All of these amenities work just fine, but the fittings are battered and/or dirty.

So why did I book here if I have all these reservations about the amenities?  Three things: location – location – location.  I selected the Gangplank because it’s located in downtown Washington DC, and only a block and a half from the nearest metro train station.  And that amenity worked just like I hoped.  A short walk to the Metro opened up the city to me.

My fish finder went berserk every time I turned it on while I was at the dock. At the park across the channel the rail was always lined with fishermen, so if you enjoy that sort of thing, it might be worth dropping a line in the water.  On the other hand, I saw more litter and garbage floating in the Potomac than any other place I’ve sailed.  So while there are plenty of fish, I don’t know that I’d eat anything I caught.  There was also a family of ducks raising young near my dock.  They used the open water between the finger docks as a takeoff and landing strip. One morning, I woke up with a heron just outside my port-light.  So plenty of wildlife for a downtown marina.

Overall, my experiences at the Gangplank were positive.  The amenities are all functional, the staff competent, and the prices fair.  I would return again, especially if I didn’t have to deal with my vehicle and trailer.

I give the Gangplank:

Four anchors out of five for service.

Three anchors out of five for atmosphere.

Four anchors out of five for amenities.

Giving the Gangplank an overall score of 3.7

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