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Building Docks on Private Islands


The private island of your dreams may very well include a well built and maintained dock. Or, you might face a rocky shoreline and have to figure the whole thing out yourself. Somewhere in between, you might end up with a dock that’s seen better days; a carnival ride of a thing that scares older people and ellicits squeals of delight in young children.

If you’re starting from scratch, the same advice applies for docks as for boats: consult the locals and seek help based on their experience. Locals know about tidal variations and how a dock needs to be built in order to stand up to the worst weather of the area (longtime locals will delight in frightening island newbies).

Just like islands, boats require maintenance. Boat ownership comes with its own set of continuing costs like repairs, insurance and dockage. Spending 60% of your boating budget on the boat is a good rule of thumb. Leave the remainder to outfit the boat, maintain it and pay for the propeller that gets sheared off on the rocks and sinks, never to be seen again. Unforeseen expenditures are common with boats.


You also need to know what the water bottom is made of, whether it’s coral, rock, sand or mud. You need to consider the size of the vessels using the dock to determine how far from the shore to build in order to have the required depth. Wherever your private island is located, you will probably require approval from a local authority. What will you be using the dock for? Only mooring, or a place to swim, fish and sunbathe while watching the world drift by? Your needs should determine the shape, size, and type of dock, not what the local lumberyard has in stock. You can always add onto your dock at a later date because docks are usually modular devices, allowing you to add sections over time.


Building a good dock is only slightly more difficult than building a bad dock. Errors are damaging and costly. Before you pick up your tools, pick up your pencil and create a detailed site plan of your private island. Drawing out the proposed project gives you an idea where to start and cuts down on the red tape in your approval process. Mapping out your shoreline helps the task of choosing the location, type and size of dock that fits your needs and budget.

The map of your private island should include all structures like your house, stairs or landing strip. Draw the shape of your shoreline and include prevailing winds and currents if possible. Mark the best views of the water and shoreline. Include the topography, both on land and below water if possible. Underwater topography includes rock, sand, mud with navigational hazards like rocks and sand bars. Mark out the areas good for swimming. Also include underwater power lines and telephones lines, if you’re lucky enough to have them! Include everything in your map. If you build the dock yourself, it’s gives you a great perspective. A detailed map of your private island also gives a professional some ideas about where to start.