THE DREAM DOCK
RI sailors in search of waterfront homes often dream of keeping their boat on a dock in front of the house. With over 400 miles of coastline and some of the best sailing in the world, Rhode Island seems like the perfect place for a private sailboat dock.
It turns out, however, deep water docks – the kind that work for sailboats with deep, long keels – are rare in RI because they require three very scarce commodities:
1.) deep water close to shore,
2.) protection from wind and weather,
3.) a CRMC water classification of type 2, 3 or 4.
If a deep water dock interests you, here are some resources for researching the feasibility of a dock at your home:
HOW DO I FIND EXISTING RI DOCKS?
The best way to obtain a deep water dock is to buy a home that already has one. If it’s there, chances are you’re good to go, and you can avoid the application and permitting process. To find existing docs check Google Earth and the nautical charts at OceanGrafix. The Narragansett Bay charts are listed below. Zoom in and look for small black lines indicating existing docks.
Chart: Narragansett Bay
HOW CAN I TELL HOW DEEP THE WATER IS?
Determining water depth is tricky. Weather and tides change the bottom constantly.OceanGrafix Charts will give you an idea of how quickly the floor drops off, but an actual measurement at extreme low tide is the only way to know with certainty if your boat will clear the bottom in all situations. A weight on a string will do the trick.
WHAT IS CRMC AND WHERE DO THEY FIT IN?
RI’s Coastal Resources Management Council is a state agency with jurisdiction over the coastline and coastal waters of Rhode Island. CRMC classifies all of RI’s coastal waters. Much of the coastline around Narragansett Bay is Type 1 water where docks are prohibited. Maps of CRMC’s water classifications are a good place to start searching for dock-appropriate waterfront homes or land.
If you build, repair or alter anything in the water in front of your land, you must apply for permission from CRMC. This link will show all the current CRMC applications including applications for docks.
For additional information about RI docks, here’s another blog post about RI water classification and CRMC dock permitting.
DOES THE HARBORMASTER GET INVOLVED?
No. The town harbormaster is not involved in dock permitting, but the harbormaster does manage mooring applications and placement. To obtain a mooring, you must own waterfront land. Upon receipt of a mooring application, the harbormaster determines the mooring location and submits his proposal to CRMC. CRMC must sign off on the harbormaster’s placement recommendation before the mooring is installed.
ANY OTHER HELPFUL DEPTH-FINDING RESOURCES?
Harbor pilots use the U.S. Army Corps RI Navigation Projects page to navigate the big cargo ships through Narragansett Bay’s shipping channels. This site provides VERY detailed bottom depths for the listed areas. It’s a little tricky to access the sounding sheets themselves, but they are the PDF files within each area (ignore the others). Click the name of the area you are interested in, then click the “PDF Drawings” subfile. You will then see the raw bottom depth survey sheets themselves which display the actual water depths at that exact locations, at mean lower low water, in FEET.
IN SUMMARY, IT CAN BE DONE!
In the right spot, with the right water and the right depth you can probably build a dock for your sailboat, but CRMC will have the last word, so check with them before you invest in a waterfront property. If you’re ready to start searching, Hogan Associates is a great place to start.