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ActiveCaptain for Marinas: Riding the Waves of Technology to Authority Over Your Waterfront

by | Advertising, Blog, Do It Yourself, Marina Marketing, Marketing

ActiveCaptain Garmin

Let me clear this up right now for any confused marina owners brainstorming ways to strengthen their marina visibility and business management: ActiveCaptain is not a dating app for middle-aged seafaring bachelors. Nor is it an exercise tracking platform for boaters to get their steps in while basking in sea spray and second-degree sunburn. ActiveCaptain is the free app by Garmin that connects to all of your Garmin devices on any boat and aggregates navigation charts, real-time boat statistics, and a community of knowledge shared by thousands of marinas and boaters.

Have you ever read a fantasy novel—let’s use Lord of the Rings—where the scope of the universe is so large and multi-faceted that it’s mind boggling to track the geography of Middle Earth and the genealogies of elves and dwarves? That’s what ActiveCaptain is for mariners. It puts all of the elements of your universe—marinas, boaters, and properties of your local bodies of water—in one place. Garmin has varying descriptions for each of their marine devices and what they’re capable of, but you only need two words to describe what the app does for you and your clientele: provides knowledge.


Enlightening the Customer: ActiveCaptain’s Use for Making You a Smartypants

Establishing Authority

I walked into a marina tackle shop in Lewes, Delaware not long ago as a casual vacationer with no real knowledge of what I could catch or where to catch it. I only saw shimmering stretches of blue water with the notion that underneath the surface, there’s probably some fish. I asked the marina owner what I could expect as a stranger to the area, and he proceeded to tell me the best locations to try, best bait to use, and what was biting at that time of the year. I trusted him as a local authority, and he provided me with three vital pieces of information.

In the eyes of the customer, nobody is more of an authority than the local marina owner or manager. Maybe the manager is speaking with a customer who has 25 years of boating experience—it’s that much more important that a marina owner can provide helpful commentary on the behavior of the water, the weather, and the community. At a baseline, ActiveCaptain is connected to your boats tracking a myriad of indicators that would make a statistician shudder with joy. You do, of course, need to be using Garmin technology in your boats to sync, whether that be a chartplotter from the ECHO MAP series or a STRIKER series fish finder or both. From the comfort of shore, an ActiveCaptain user can view ActiveCaptain Community updates about routes and waypoints, hazards to avoid, fishing hotspots, and be fed measurables from a connected boat such as water temperature, depth, wind speed, and elevation, among other specifics that can be customized based on which Garmin devices you’ve connected to the app.

Helping Boaters Plan

If a customer has their own boat, there’s a decent chance they’re one of the thousands of ActiveCaptain users and are already downloading the charts to plot a potential course. If they do not, or they would still like the advice of a professional, a marina manager has the potential to provide a heightened degree of service by using the downloadable charts available in ActiveCaptain. You can point them to real-time hotspots for fishing or if they desire peace and quiet, you can view your ActiveCaptain map and see where other boats are, and plot a course for them that is least likely to encounter traffic.
ActiveCaptain Charts

Establishing Visibility for You, the Marina Owner: The “FOMO” Effect

Knowing what the customer knows about you

Over 18,000 marinas currently have an ActiveCaptain account listing, according to Garmin’s website. Over 149,000 reviews have been placed on the ActiveCaptain Community, and close to 5,000 hazard updates addressed for boaters. The “FOMO” effect is the “fear of missing out” terror that your business could exclude itself from the largest social media congregation of mariners. Here’s an example of what a boater sees when they pull up the ActiveCaptain community and browse a marina business:

ActiveCaptain Listing

I know, Philadelphia and Camden are not exactly hotspots for coastal boaters, but you can see the relevance of the purple ActiveCaptain marina listings. Reviews, attractions, obstacles, and expansive information about a marina’s amenities are located in this teeming oceanic coral reef of information. Without an ActiveCaptain presence, it’s like someone saying they’re an Instagram influencer but they don’t own a phone or computer. Marinas may utilize Garmin’s ActiveCaptain Business Program subscription service to claim their little purple marker and connect their business info. The basic program is free, and a marina can pay $50 or $100 per month for advanced listing features like the ability to respond to reviews and block competitors’ advertisements from showing up around your business’ marina marker.

The scroll bar on the left side of the screenshot is where the marina owner can verify specifics about services offered for their clientele. The listing includes contact information, up-to-date navigation information of the water, the amenities provided (restrooms, storage, seaside bar and grill), fuel options, total numbers of docks and moorings, and reviews.

Using ActiveCaptain Community to gain an edge

Embedded within the app, an ActiveCaptain user has access to years of uploaded data and commentary from amateur and professional boaters and anybody who lives to be on the water. The pool of knowledge in ActiveCaptain Community is critical to be on the level with competitors or to have an edge over fellow marinas who don’t use ActiveCaptain. It’s a database, an encyclopedia of marine knowledge, accumulated through trial and experience.

A more telling feature of the community is learning what people are saying about a marina. Pretend it’s a high school hallway and the marina is invisibly standing in the middle of a gossip circle as the students review the quality of this poor marina’s docks. A marina that takes advantage of the ActiveCaptain community can see what people like about their services and enhance those services. They’re also able to see what people have issues with, and correct areas of need to better their business. It’s not all about fishing—as soon as one logs into the ActiveCaptain Community, topics are categorized into areas like diving, regatta sailing, snorkeling, coastal cruising, kayaking, power boating, sailing, and stand-up paddling. Pinpoint a genre of water activity, view the updates, and ingest the knowledge.

Peace of Mind through in-depth boat tracking

Garmin carries a product called the OnDeck Hub that goes deeper than the basic external measurables like location and tracks every vital function of a boat. It’s a pricey piece of equipment but here’s what you see at a glance:

Garmin OnDeck Hub
A user can bring up their vessel as if they’ve attached an EKG machine to the boat’s organs and track its complete health. If there’s an issue, say, a battery has malfunctioned, the user is able to communicate with the boat’s occupants and take appropriate action. OnDeck even tracks the most critical function of a party boat: the ice maker.

Streamlining the Logistics and Safety of a Day on the Water

Garmin devices are equipped with both built-in WiFi connections and GPS sensors. As rented boats leave out and come in, a manager can view the location of each boat, and use their ActiveCaptain route-tracking features to make sure vessels are maintaining an accurate time table and (hopefully) sticking to their projected course. If a storm’s on the way, a user knows they can communicate effectively with any boats on the water and keep them from having to roleplay being in The Perfect Storm.

Building Authority and a Sense of Community: AKA a Good Business Model

Utilizing an ActiveCaptain account is literally putting oneself on the map, and then using that map to tell customers where to go for the best fishing spots. Consider it an extension of a marina’s website. You’ve streamlined services for your marina and your customers by putting everything they and you need to know in one location. A marina carries the innate aura as a haven where one might gravitate to learn about the local water. Not taking advantage of a platform for marine expertise with tens of thousands of users is like a librarian telling readers they can’t recommend books because they haven’t yet learned how to read.

People don’t engage in hobbies to do it alone (unless your primary hobby is playing solitaire). ActiveCaptain is a gathering place to foster community. It connects a marina with the people who live to spend their free time and disposable income on the water. It gives a business a sense of belonging within the environment it caters to. A person may run to the sea to escape, but also to feel at home with alike spirits.

At its simplest description, ActiveCaptain is a tool. You can put it on your belt and carry it around like a contractor’s drill that connects you to the world, or take it from your mind entirely and let the marina marketing expertise of Hammer and Nail Marketing set up and manage your ActiveCaptain presence. We are a boutique marketing firm that specializes in helping small to mid-sized marinas get noticed by boaters. If you’d like to focus on operating your marina without the additional responsibility of marketing, get in touch with us.

We’re boaters ourselves from a background of operating a family-run marina. Growing your marina business is our business.

If you found this article useful for marketing your marina, here are some other resources:
Hammer and Nail Marketing


Hammer and Nail Marketing is a boutique marketing firm that helps small to mid-sized marinas get noticed by boaters. If you’d like to focus on operating your marina without the additional responsibility of marketing, get in touch with us.

We’re boaters ourselves from a background of operating a family-run marina. From a group of experts who know the water, let Hammer and Nail Marketing help you be the waterfront your local boaters see every time they cast off.


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