A boating area can be defined as a portion of the coastal sea where recreational boating practices are concentrated. It has homogeneous conditions and is delimited by potentially dangerous areas (shoals, strong currents), long distances without coastal mooring points or ports, or another boating area with different characteristics.
“a portion of the coastal area where recreational boating practices are concentrated.”
It is a space for boating where recreational boaters mostly go out for a few hours or for the day and is therefore their preferred and often exclusive boating area, whether they are racing sailors, recreational fishers or cruisers. The boundaries of the area can be difficult to identify as they are more or less subjectively defined. They are often set by the recreational boaters themselves, based on their level of experience and skill, their understanding of the maritime area, and their mental representation of an area that they may not be sufficiently familiar with. Furthermore, recreational boaters create the area, starting from the principle that an area is determined based on how it is used.
The main criterion for delimiting the boating area is the distance that a recreational boat can travel in one day, returning to port the same day. The size and type of craft (motorboat, sailboat) obviously influence the perception and mastery of the area. Similarly, depending on the seasons and the length of the day, or weather conditions, the boating area can vary in size, with night navigation being a very marginal practice. The improvement of communication and localisation methods can lead recreational boaters to push the boundaries of the area, not without risk.
The main boating areas are logically located along the coast where port facilities provide easy access to the sea. The presence of offshore islands is an incentive to go to sea and extends the boating area further from the coast. Conversely, if there are no islands, the boating area is often lengthened along the coastline.
The term “boating area” is preferred over “cruising area”, which is sometimes used but too restrictive. The area is used for boating activities that are not limited to coastal cruising, including recreational fishing, sailing races, motorboating, etc.
Boating areas versus recreational areas
A boating area belongs to a larger space that can be qualified as a “recreational area”, a system that encompasses the boating area, the marina and related facilities or mooring sites, and an inland area offering boating-related services and that constitutes the catchment area for recreational boaters. It is therefore an original spatial system due to its organisation in three parts, both distinct and complementary. If one of the three elements is not taken into account, it is not possible to understand the complex dynamics of this system in technical, economic, and social terms.
The structural elements of the recreational area are diverse. They can be routes (land or sea routes of recreational boaters, ships, etc.), specific points (the marina, mooring areas, etc.), and areas (catchment area).
Just as boating areas expand due to technological improvements in boats, the catchment areas expand due to improvements in transportation and communication.
The marina is a bridge between the terra firma and the boating activities. It is located on the coastal strip, which represents the interface between the marine and the inland spaces.
The inland area is a highly variable area where people who use the marina live. It is also where many providers of goods and services for boating can be found, such as shipyards, specialised stores, and overwintering facilities. The extent of the services provided in this area determines the number of users of the boating area. A marina with good airport, rail or road access will see a larger and more geographically extensive influx of visitors than a secluded marina that is difficult to reach. The size of the broader recreational area is also influenced by the reputation of the marina and the quality of the boating area it opens onto.