Monday, June 20, 2011

10 Best Places to Live and Boat

Somewhere the grass is always greener and the water always bluer. The question: Don't such thoughts have more to do with fantasy than reality? Maybe not. We investigated boating communities throughout the country, looking for the variety of boating opportunities, boat-friendly regulations, water access, availability of waterfront homes, health of the local economy and overall lifestyle for boaters. The following 10 locations are where boaters might find that imagination meets reality.

Seattle, Washington
Geographically, Seattle is flat-out ideal for boating and the outdoor lifestyle. You hear about the gray weather, but those who live here do not let that (whether fact or somewhat exaggerated fact) dampen their zeal.

"We have hundreds of miles of protected salt water from the San Juans in the north to Olympia in the south," says Make Shultz of the Port of Seattle. All of it is surrounded by the scenic beauty of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, forested islands and peninsulas, as well as the urban scenery and amenities of Seattle.
Not surprisingly then, life in Seattle seems to closely revolve around the outdoors, and the water in particular. Boating communities like Lake Union and Lake Washington are really the lifeblood of Seattle, as evidenced by all the Microsoft and Boeing employees who commute to work from their homes on the waterfront.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 4
Ease for Boaters: 5
Strong Boat-Related Business: 5
Number of Good Boating Days: 3

Benton County, Arkansas
Ten years ago, Benton County was a little boating secret in the Ozark Mountains. The secret's out. Benton is the third-fastest- growing county in the United States, due in large part to the clean environment, improving economy and accessibility of 30,000 acres of boatable water.

"We're known for our smooth clear lakes around here," says Kevin Callahan, owner of Horseshoe Bend Marina on Beaver Lake. "There's always a bunch of recreational boating going on, and a little diving too."

Beaver Lake, which stretches 90 miles, is the most popular spot for boaters, and residential development has exploded there. Eagle's Bluff, for example, has recently acquired 2,355 lakefront acres on which to build houses. To top it off, the boating season is pretty much year-round, dipping only when a "blue norther" rolls in.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 5
Ease for Boaters: 5
Strong Boat-Related Business: 3
Number of Good Boating Days: 4

Tampa Bay, Florida
The amount of sun on Tampa Bay alone would make it a contender for the best places to live and boat. St. Petersburg straddles the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay and averages 361 days of sunshine per year. Then there's the bay, which has more than 100 tributaries refreshing it. With that much waterfront land to work with, it's no wonder there's been such an explosion of home sites during the past two years; MiraBay and Little Harbor alone will total nearly 3,000 homes with water access when completed.

Tampa and St. Pete have long had a reputation for good fishing and sightseeing by boat because the entire area is connected by, and to, the water. "We even have these short-term slips near downtown, kind of like parking meters," says Walt Miller, marina and pier manager at St. Petersburg Marina. "You can pay a dollar an hour to dock your boat and go to a restaurant or go shopping."

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 5
Ease for Boaters: 5
Strong Boat-Related Business: 5
Number of Good Boating Days: 5

Knoxville, Tennessee
It's not hard to figure out why boat manufacturers such as Sea Ray, Bayliner, MasterCraft and Skier's Choice, among others, set up shop in or near Knoxville. The Tennessee River, which runs right through downtown, is part of every aspect of life here. Upstream of the city, the river is a popular fishing and camping spot. Closer to the city, recreation is ever feeding from the river.
"The biggest pull for the downtown area is the [University of Tennessee] football season because of the massive tailgating parties on boats," says Joe Cornelius, manager of the Marinas on Lake Loudon.

As the river flows out of downtown, it forms Fort Loudon Lake where there's been a recent boom of lakefront housing development. But the centerpiece of the area is Tellico Lake, where most of the boatbuilders test their boats. It also became the place to live ever since nationally known Tellico Village opened in the 1990s.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 4
Ease for Boaters: 5
Strong Boat-Related Business: 5
Number of Good Boating Days: 4


Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Popularly called the "Venice of America," Fort Lauderdale has the Venetian feel of a floating city. Its 165 miles of canals and waterways weave all around and through the city. And combined with Florida's year-round boating weather, that means boaters of all types can easily spend entire days without setting foot on land.

"We even have our own bus system on the water," says Mike Driver, dockmaster of Lauderdale Marina. "It started out as a water taxi service using 26-foot boats. Now they can carry up to 46 people around the canals."

The water is such a vital part of the Fort Lauderdale area that it's no surprise that marina and boat-related business is a driving force in the city, topping $5 billion annually. Perhaps fittingly, the world's largest in-water boat show takes place here every October.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 5
Ease for Boaters: 4
Strong Boat-Related Business: 5
Number of Good Boating Days: 5

Otter Tail County, Minnesota
Minnesota is dubbed the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," and the state owes a lot of that number to Otter Tail County. The county officially contains 1,048 lakes, the most contained in a single county in the United States.

"People love to live on lakes up here," says Bill Kalar of the Otter Tail County Land and Resource Management Department. "Every year we have more waterfront homes being built. We've got no shortage."

What the area loses to a short summer, it more than makes up for with some of the most passionate boaters in the country. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single person in the county who doesn't spend at least one day on the water. The construction of an ethanol plant in the area promises new jobs and more than $110 million per year added to the local economy, making the near future look bright.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 5
Ease for Boaters: 4
Strong Boat-Related Business: 3
Number of Good Boating Days: 2

Finger Lakes, New York
Summer revolves around the water, as does the tone of the community. There are trout derbies on Seneca Lake, day cruises on the winding Canandaigua Lake and picnics at anchor on Cayuga Lake.
All 11 lakes are open enough to be called naturally serene. Finger Lakes wine is regarded as among the best in the United States outside of California, and the region is generally in an economic upsurge. That's why there's a lot of lakefront property being developed in the area.

"There's controversy up here on how much is wise to build," says Pat Charland, vice president of marketing at the Finger Lakes Visitor's Connection. "It's sort of a delicate balance."
How do you keep the ambience while reaching out to new boating neighbors? It's a good problem to have in any area where boaters want to live.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 4
Ease for Boaters: 4
Strong Boat-Related Business: 3
Number of Good Boating Days: 2

Austin, Texas
Starting in Austin and stretching 85 miles northwest of the city, the Highland Lakes region of Texas is a string of six lakes known for boating and fishing, and as a popular retirement area. But it's also a magnet for younger people because of the healthy economy (which is not dependent on just one industry) and the outdoor lifestyle. By far the most popular of the waterways are the two lakes closest to the city of Austin: Lake Austin and Lake Travis. Each has its distinct advantages.

"The environments are very different," says Marla Schwartz, assistant manager of Lake Austin Marina. "Lake Austin is a lot more focused on skiing and wakeboarding. Lake Travis has more big boats."

To put the general atmosphere in perspective, there are more than a dozen marinas on Lake Travis. And in an effort to keep up with the growing demand, lakefront communities - Lakeway, Briarcliff, Lago Vista and many others - have sprouted up on the water.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 5
Ease for Boaters: 4
Strong Boat-Related Business: 4
Number of Good Boating Days: 4

Oconee County, South Carolina
Located less than 20 miles from Clemson University, Lake Keowee and neighboring Lake Jocassee are surprisingly quiet. While the college students stick to Lake Hartwell, Keowee and Jocassee draw a more adult, if not affluent, crowd.
The region sits at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, and has become a bull's-eye for boaters wanting to relocate from up north or from down south.

About three-quarters of the houses on Lake Keowee are summer homes, but developments like the Cliffs, which has opened three gated mountain-lake residential communities here, are trying to make the lake a more permanent home for many. "The developers are trying to make it into another Lake Lanier [Georgia]," says Nate Ellison, general manager of Lake Keowee Marina. For the time being, the minimal crowd makes it a natural for the top 10.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 5
Ease for Boaters: 4
Strong Boat-Related Business: 3
Number of Good Boating Days: 4

San Diego, California
It might be cliché, but when most people think of San Diego, they envision a place where it's 75 degrees every day and the sun is always shining. With the exception of what locals call the June Gloom, that's a pretty accurate assessment. A boater in San Diego seldom has to plan an outing around the weather forecast.

It's common to find boaters relaxing in Mission Bay, having floating cookouts. Many cruise out to Catalina Island for an afternoon bike ride or an overnight getaway. You can even catch a concert at the downtown San Diego amphitheater.

"To look off to your stern and see Coronado Island, then off to your bow and see the beautiful skyline of San Diego while you're listening to a jazz concert is a very unique opportunity," says Kevin Dammeyer of Marine Max in San Diego. Boaters are treated very well because they're so important to the local economy. The only downside is that it might be a little tricky to find a home directly on the water. Popularity comes with a price.

Scorecard (scale of 1-5)
Waterfront Availability: 3
Ease for Boaters: 5
Strong Boat-Related Business: 5
Number of Good Boating Days: 5

article courtsey: Boatingmag.com
By: Mike Tyler