The Essential Boater-Biased Marina and Cruising Destination Resource

Atlantic Cruising Club’s Ratings

The Bell Ratings generally reflect the services and amenities available for the captain and crew as well as the services available for the boat. By their nature, ratings are subjective and may also reflect certain biases of the writers, editors, and other reviewers. It is important to note that a five-bell marina will not always be a boater’s best choice. There tends to be a correlation between higher bell ratings and higher overnight transient rates. Many of the resort-type amenities available at four- and five-bell marinas may be of little interest to boaters arriving late in the day and planning an early start the next morning. Similarly, a facility which has a one- or two-bell rating, good security, convenient transportation and a service-oriented staff, may be the best place to "leave the boat" for a period of time between legs of a longer cruise.
The Boatyard Ratings, on the other hand, are less subjective. They simply indicate the extent of the boatyard services and the size of yachts that the facility can manage. To receive a boatyard rating at all (one-travelift), a facility must have a haul-out mechanism — a travelift or marine railway (or, in some cases, a heavy-duty crane or forklift) plus, at a minimum, a standard array of basic boatyard services. To receive a two-travelift rating, a facility will generally have haul-out capacity in excess of 70 tons and a full complement of all possible boatyard services, including Awlgrip facilities. Yards that are primarily dry-stack storage operations are not given boatyard designations.
The MegaYacht Ratings are also less subjective. They indicate a marina’s ability to accommodate mega or super yachts (boats with LOAs over 100 ft.) and describe the facilities available. A one-megayacht rating indicates face or slip dockage for vessels over 100 feet with reasonable depth . A two-megayacht rating generally indicates a full complement of big boat services, including 100 amp or 200 amp service, three phase, high-rise floating docks and a knowledgeable staff that understands the special needs of larger vessels.
The Sunset Rating is the most subjective rating of all. This symbol indicates remarkable places with special appeal — like a pristine, untouched mooring field with no other facilities in sight, a marina that is, itself, so exquisitely turned out that it is truly beautiful, a view from the docks of a skyline or distant vista that is simply breathtaking, above and beyond services or amenities that are more than the basic rating would suggest, or a marina that offers the possibility of a unique experience. A Sunset means that, in our view, there is more here than the first three ratings can convey — and only you can determine if the additional notation is valid for you and your crew. We’d be very interested in hearing your collective views.
The Bell Ratings
Outlined below are some of the facilities and amenities one might generally find at a marina or boating facility within a given Bell-Rating category. Please note that some marinas within a particular category may not have all of the facilities listed here and some may have more. (The word "Marina" is used generically here, and throughout the Guide, to denote all types of marina facilities, including mooring fields and single, unattended piers.)

One Bell: The marina comfortably accommodates vessels over 25 feet in length, accepts overnight transients at docks or on moorings, and usually has heads.

Two Bells In addition to accommodating overnight transient vessels over 25 feet, the marina generally has docks with power pedestals or a mooring field served by a launch (or a "dinghy loaner"). It has a dedicated marina staff, offers docking assistance, an internet connection, and may monitor the VHF. There are heads, showers, and, perhaps, a laundry. It likely has dock carts, a picnic area, and grills.

Three Bells: In addition to power pedestals, a marina staff, internet, picnic area, heads, showers, and a laundry, there is will usually be a restaurant on-site or adjacent. The marina will also have a pool, beach, or major recreational amenity - i.e. sport fishing, tours, nearby museum or sightseeing options, a nature preserve, a significant "downtown." The marina usually offers docking assistance and other customer-oriented services, a ships’ store, cable TV, WI-FI, and, hopefully, a pump-out facility.

Four Bells: Worth changing course to visit, the marina significantly exceeds all basic requirements in most physical and operational categories and offers above average service in well-appointed, appealing, and thoughtfully turned-out facilities. It will have a restaurant on-site, as well as a pool or beach and other desirable amenities like tennis courts, sport fishing charter, golf historic or scenic sites as well as concierge services and a particularly inviting environment.

Five Bells: A "destination" facility, the marina is worth a special trip. It has truly superior facilities, services, and atmosphere. A five-bell marina is located in a luxurious, impeccably maintained environment and provides absolutely everything a cruising boater might reasonably expect, even room service to the boat. It offers all that is promised in a four-bell marina, plus outstanding service and quality in every respect.

Bell ratings reflect both subjective judgment and objective criteria. The ratings are intended to reflect the overall boater experience and are significantly impacted by a marina’s setting and general ambiance. Maritime museums are usually given a Sunset Rating to indicate that they offer nautical buffs more than just services. Ratings are also geographically specific and reflect the general level of available services in a given region. In other words, a five-bell marina in Florida (with a year-round season) will usually offer more services and facilities than a five-bell marina in Maine with a shorter season.