Convenience is not a European value
During a conversation with TransEurope Marinas members in July, Marina World asked why drystack facilities remain scarce in Europe. The response brought important traditional answers like lack of available space on shore, coastal planning, environmental issues, etc., but, in this follow-up, TransEurope chairman Jean-Michel Gaigné CMM, gets closer to the nub of things.European boaters are not in the habit of storing a boat on a rack, or on a cradle, if they can find a floating berth. Those who have experienced a good drystack operator are usually satisfied with the experience. Those who keep trailerable boats in their garden could be tempted to make room in their backyard by moving the boat close to the water, thus saving towing distance and having more time to enjoy a day on the water.
But for the majority of boaters the main reason hampering the development of drystack probably lies elsewhere. Just compare the availability of space, the urban planning and the customs of Americans or Australians, and the development these countries has undergone over the last 200 years. Cities have been built with wide avenues with a grid pattern layout, multi-lane motorways are straight, citizens have easy access to their homes with private car parking for two trucks, or an underground garage if they live in an apartment building. When they go shopping, they park their car in front of the shop or visit shopping malls. They have invented motels, and even move their house across the country if they need to relocate! In a nutshell, they put convenience first.
It is, therefore, not surprising that they place practical solutions at the top of their priorities. To store a boat in a drystack facility is easy, safe and efficient. The boat is always clean, ready to be launched and all the incidental constraints are reduced to the minimum; the boat is there to enjoy boating, not to be looked after for hours or just to be admired for its beauty! Developing countries in Australasia have easily embraced the same trend, because they don’t have centuries of tradition, and have, whether consciously or not, an American tropism.
Europeans on the other hand have another way of life. Aesthetics, traditions, and centuries of history have led to winding roads, bay moorings, villages clinging to the mountainside and cobbled streets with restricted accessibility. Shopping malls do exist, but people prefer high street shops, even if they need to carry heavy loads back home. European countries are not lands of great plains, even if agriculture remains an important activity, and populations are concentrated in towns, which have been built since the Middle Ages. A few ‘new towns’ with practical amenities, like Milton Keynes, Evry or Lelystad have been developed in the second part of the 20th century, but most Europeans find them cold and soulless, and still prefer Cambridge, Versailles or Amsterdam.
On this basis, access to boats can be pretty tricky. The car park can be a few hundred meters from the ramp, where a rowing tender is needed to transfer to the yacht. The marina can be in the heart of a charming fishing port, which takes an hour to cross during the crowded summer. But that’s European boating life! Since we accept that the pleasure of a stop-over in Portofino may take as much effort as queuing to visit ‘Le Musée du Louvre’, why put a boat on a shelf, along a canal in a field outside the city?
Of course, there are exceptions, but offering a European boater drystack storage, is like offering a guy from Arizona life in a narrow street in Naples, only accessible by Vespa!