What Is A Boat Slip?

Boating is one of the most popular recreational activities across the globe, giving people an opportunity to partake in many water-based activities like fishing, water skiing, and snorkeling. If you have ever spent some time on a boat or anywhere near one, you’ve probably heard a little bit of nautical lingo that made you wonder what it meant. It is a sailor's language, and one of the most common things you may hear is about a “boat slip.” 

Boat Slip: A Brief Overview

The most common misconception is that a boat slip is the same as a boat dock. While they are similar to a certain degree, there is a crucial difference between a boat slip and a boat dock. Docks are like open parking lots, whereas a slip is equal to a dedicated space. In this article, we will discuss boat slips and what makes them different from a dock.

Differences Between A Slip And A Dock

As mentioned earlier, boat docks are more of a free-for-all station where anyone can park their boats. Parking at a boat dock requires you to parallel park into the docking station, with three sides of the boat left open. You may also come across some docks that have boat slips attached to them. To paint a picture in your head, if you come across a boat dock with an area built in an F, T, L, or similar shape, the area likely has boat slips.

A boat slip is the equivalent of a single parking space. However, unlike a dock, boat slips surround three sides of the boat, making it easy to pull into and leaving only a single point of entry and exit.

For Private Residencies

If your residence has a waterfront you are looking to take advantage of, you have likely already thought of building a dock or slip. The question is, which one should you invest in? Private waterfronts typically don't see nearly as much traffic as you would at the local lake, which means that a dock would suffice in terms of space allocation. But if you are planning to have your boat on water all year round, investing in a boat slip will add an extra layer of security to keep your boat fastened when unattended. Additionally, a slip will also make it much easier to get in and out of the boat, which is helpful if you expect to have visitors on board frequently.

Boat Slips or Dry Docks?

So, if a boat slip is essentially your very own parking space on water, it should be okay to leave your boat in its slip year-round, right? Not exactly. 

“Dry dock” is another nautical term used to describe the long-term storage of boats, either at a marina or a general storage facility. In comparison, it is not necessary to use a dry dock, even if you are not a frequent sailor. 

Consider the following factors, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the body of water you are sailing in freeze over the winter?
  • Does your sailing location see adverse weather throughout the year?
  • Will keeping your boat in a slip keep you up all night thinking of what could happen?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you should consider investing in dry-docking when your boat is not in use. And remember, just like any other vehicle in the world, a boat is affected by environmental factors much faster, often resulting from extended periods of exposure.


While it is hard to determine the best way to store your boat, it depends mainly on personal preference. Boat docks take up less space than a slip and can be a good choice if there’s no traffic and space allocation issue. But a boat slip is the preferred choice in most marinas, as they allow you to use dock space more efficiently. A boat slip also allows owners to secure their boat from all sides, preventing it from bumping against the dock and getting scratched or damaged. On the flip side, you should consider a dock if you are on a budget.