After more than a decade of trailering a 17 foot aluminum boat, and now three full seasons of rack storing a 25 foot fiberglass boat, I’m offering up some comparisons for those considering rack storage for their boat. Mostly I’m comparing racking vs. trailering and I’m basing this comparison on my personal experiences all at one facility, Toledo Beach Marina (TBM) in LaSalle, Michigan.
Most of rack storage’s biggest advantages are convenience related.
There are no trailering headaches every time you want to go out and do
a little fishing. If you have a trailer for those occasional trips to
other ports, you’re not racking up the miles like you would if you were
using it all the time. That means there is less wear and tear on the
trailer and your tow vehicle. There’s also no waiting in line at the
boat launch to get in or out. Occasionally the fork trucks do get
backed up a little. But in three full seasons now, I still haven’t had
to wait more than maybe 15 minutes to get the boat in or out of the
water, and those times were on busy holiday weekends.
Since my rack is indoors, my boat is stored out of the sun. This saves
a lot of clean up work and UV damage versus having the boat in a slip.
I still get the occasional bird droppings from birds inside the
buildings, but probably not as bad as a slipped boat. One disadvantage
with being stored indoors is that you get a thin accumulation of diesel
soot from the fork trucks on your boat if you’re not using it
regularly. If you keep the boat waxed, the soot washes off easily
enough, but it does bug me when I feel like I need to wash the boat
before taking it out.
If you rack store your boat, you don’t have a boat around the
house…taking up valuable garage space or hogging real estate in your
yard or driveway. Conversely, the thing I miss the most about having
the boat at the house on a trailer is the ability to knock off all the
little projects that seem to accumulate with owning a boat. Repairs
and replacements, upgrades and new installations, measuring to see if
there’s enough room to add something, they all seem to cut into my
fishing time now. At home, all your tools are available and if you
need another part, you can let the boat sit while you run out and get
it. Sometimes it’s fun in the dead of winter to go out to the garage
and sit in the boat and just dream about summer. You can’t do that in
Here are some things to look for in a rack storage deal:
What are the hours of operation, and what happens when you get in late
or want to go out early? At TBM, if you bring your boat in after
closing time, you can just tie the boat up in one of the wells where
the fork trucks launch and retrieve boats and they will put it away in
the morning. You could also tie up at one of the overnight slips
reserved for rack storage customers and leave the boat in the water if
you plan on using it in the next few days. The overnight slips are
part of your annual fee at TBM and I use them frequently throughout the
If you want your boat out early, before opening (and I haven’t tried
this yet because I’m an afternoon kind of guy), you call up the night
before and ask them to put your boat in the water before they close up
for the night. That way your boat will be waiting for you when you
arrive…floating tied up in the launch well when you get there at
oh-dark-thirty the next day.
Another thing to look for is a dedicated work area with electric &
water. You certainly don’t want people sanding and painting in the
rack storage buildings. Having water and electric right there is
great. I keep a short hose and a heavy duty extension cord in the
truck for times when I might be in a work rack.
For reasons that are self explanatory, a few more things to look for at
a rack storage facility are multiple fork lift trucks, a party store, a
fuel dock nearby, and a place to store your trailer if you have one.
Everything is a compromise. Overall, rack storage offers a lot of
advantages over trailering, especially for mid-sized boats. You have
to decide if those advantages outweigh the disadvantages for you.