By Joe Healy,

Manchester-by-the-Sea Harbormaster Calls Dockwa “the Most Elegant Solution Available” for Booking Marina Dockage

Manchester-by-the-Sea is an idyllic town about 30 miles north of Boston, in the Massachusetts coastal area known as the North Shore. The town’s thriving waterfront is easily accessible to boaters making day trips from proximate towns or those heading north, say, on the way to Maine or to points south in New England, Atlantic states, or along the Intracoastal Waterway. 

When the town docks were renovated in 2019, municipal Harbormaster Bion Pike instituted wallet-less dockage booking through Dockwa—and the town’s financial management and reporting were greatly simplified. 

Bion said that many boaters come to the municipal harbor without cash. “So what do you do in those cases? How do you handle that?” He answered his own questions by saying with Dockwa, the town doesn’t have that problem.  

“I was thinking of what kind of booking process we could use so my staff would never have to handle cash, because I never wanted to go to the office on a Monday morning and have the treasurer say, ‘Your staff turned in less money this weekend than they did last weekend.’ That’s a big deal, particularly when you’re talking about municipal town government. The state gets persnickety about how you handle cash. So Dockwa was the absolute best, most elegant solution available for dockage reservations.”

Financial management and reporting were made simple for the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea harbor using Dockwa for boat dockage | PHOTO: TYLER KNEISEL
“Dockwa was the absolute best, most elegant solution available for dockage reservations.”

The harbor, which uses Dockwa Manage software, encourages boaters to spend the day in the village by charging $8 per hour for dockage from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on a first come, first served basis. Boaters can pay for slip space using their Dockwa house account, which means a wallet-less experience via a secure credit card on file with Dockwa. 

In fact, if the boater doesn’t already have a Dockwa account when they contact the harbor, municipal staff will help them start one. Although, Bion added: “I would say this year we probably had, to the best of my knowledge, no more than a dozen boaters come in who didn’t already use Dockwa.”

Day and Overnight Dockage

The harbor’s policies on day and overnight dockage fees are intended to attract day visitors and also provide space for overnights: Overnight boaters pay $3 per foot based on their LOA, in addition to the $8 an hour day dockage fee. The harbor can accommodate boats with an LOA up to 60 feet (though Bion added they once docked an 85-footer). 

With this arrangement of day and night dockage fees, avoiding processing cash or check payments was a game-changer for the town financial staff. 

“With Dockwa, our treasurer is thrilled and our accountant is thrilled,” Bion said. “The dockage fees are deposited directly into the account that the treasurer has set up for the town. In the four years we’ve used Dockwa, I have never once had an issue with the town handling money. I know for a fact that the town-beach folks, who deal with and handle cash, have regular discussions about that. The town accounting department was thrilled to the extreme that we were using this app (Dockwa) to handle transactions. It takes the worry out of the transactional piece for the municipality. When the town is audited each year by the state, the financials are never questioned and that simplifies the jobs of the accountant and treasurer.”

Manchester-by-the-Sea Harbormaster Bion Pike | COURTESY PHOTO

The Ease of Wallet-less Transactions

“We are moving almost entirely to a cashless society. Ease of access to payment options is what people have come to expect,” Bion Pike said, “and Dockwa really fills the bill for boaters.”

Since adopting Dockwa in 2019, the harbor has more than doubled revenue in the past four years and has increased their overall dockage bookings by more than 100 percent. The harbor has received 65 reviews at (Dockwa’s companion website) with an average rating of 4.75 out of 5 and comments such as: “Can’t say enough good things about these folks. The Harbormaster was super responsive before we arrived helping us understand the modality of their dock. Then the assistants (at) the dock were very motivated and professional.” Of the more than 1,600 reservations in 2022, the harbor’s average response time was less than an hour.

Bion compared Dockwa to Airbnb or the restaurant ordering-and-payment system Toast. “Ever since debit cards came out, people have been programmed not to deal with cash. We appreciate the absolute ease with which a boater can come to the dock, anywhere that uses Dockwa, and make a reservation. If you’re going coast-to-coast, Dockwa is the app you want, because it’s used everywhere now,” he said.

“Bion has been an absolute pleasure to work with the last few years and, as his reviews and booking-request response time has shown, has been a great operator utilizing Dockwa’s tools. We have built a partnership that has allowed the town to more than double their business while also providing boaters with a seamless guest-booking process. This has also led to more boaters coming into the town dock and spending money at nearby local businesses,” said Alex Bowen, Dockwa marina success manager. 

“If you’re going coast-to-coast, Dockwa is the app you want, because it’s used everywhere now,” said Harbormaster Bion Pike.


Further Expansion

As a municipal harbor, Manchester-by-the-Sea uses grant funding to cover the cost of its dock-expansion projects, which limits the town’s ability to accommodate overnight transient or seasonal boaters. Plus, Bion said, the town does not want to compete for transient bookings with nearby full-service boatyards in Manchester or neighboring Gloucester. 

“We want to support those businesses and not take money away from them,” Bion said. 

The town is currently considering adding another 500 linear feet of dockage space and electric and water hookups on the docks, funded by state and federal grants. Bion said that if all goes according to plan, engineering and permitting will occur over the next year and they’ll begin construction in April or May 2024. 

“I’m thrilled that Dockwa is there for us. It’s made that part of our waterfront so much easier to manage. We all like the system and boaters love it. It’s incredibly convenient and we don’t have to worry about the reporting aspects of handling cash because we have a reporting process through Dockwa,” Bion concluded. 

For a video on a visit to Manchester-by-the-Sea harbor by Good Morning Gloucester and an interview with Bion Pike, please click here

To arrange a Dockwa demo, please click here.

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