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Philadelphia - If you decide to go

The trip up the Delaware River to Philadelphia — 45 nautical miles, according to Coast Guard reckoning — poses one significant challenge: jousting with container ships, barges under tow, bulk carriers and tankers.

The trip up the Delaware River to Philadelphia — 45 nautical miles, according to Coast Guard reckoning — poses one significant challenge:

jousting with container ships, barges under tow, bulk carriers and tankers. This is enough of a concern that the Coast Guard has been asked by the pilots of these vessels to let recreational boaters know they should avoid the marked channels as much as possible, particularly around the entrance to the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

The only other challenge on a visit to Philadelphia is finding a place to stop. While all those commercial vessels have plenty of room to drop anchor near the city, a whole lot of anchor rode is needed. The depths there average about 40 feet, according to the Coast Guard.

But the three marinas within easy reach of downtown Philadelphia have, on all but the busiest weekends, as many as 80 slips available for transients. The prices are close, so the main decision you need to make concerns ambiance. And here there are three distinct options.

• PhiladelphiaMarineCenter — Just upriver from the Benjamin Franklin suspension bridge, close enough to look up at the span’s peeling blue paint, this marina offers more of what cruisers need than the others. More slips (308, with 20 percent of them available to transients), the area’s only fuel dock, and three high-energy restaurants as its immediate neighbors.

“It’s not a place to take the family and sit by the pool,” says Patrick Keavney, the marina manager. “[But] it’s perfect for people who want to be in Center City Philadelphia.” He notes that the marina is within walking distance of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and OldCity.

Keavney calls his marina the “best one on the river, because I just finished putting a whole lot of money in it,” with new decks on the docks, and a new electrical system, plumbing system, fuel dock and satellite television system.

Because of its neighbors, the MarineCenter is definitely the most “happening” of the three choices. Dave & Buster’s restaurant and mega-arcade is in the first pier upriver from the marina. Its menu includes entrees ranging from Black Jack BBQ chicken and Huli Huli salmon to steaks that span the spectrum, from Hawaiian ribeye to teriyaki sirloin. The games in the arcade could keep Type-A adults and hyperactive kids busy all day.

In the same building as D&B is the Hibachi Restaurant, which touts its “sushi, sashimi and other Japanese classics served with views of the Delaware River and BenjaminFranklinBridge.” Even closer to the marina and open during the normal boating season is Rock Lobster, a seafood restaurant with open-air dining in view of your slip and live entertainment, from salsa to jazz.

Slips are available at the MarineCenter for vessels to 150 feet (most are 50 feet and smaller) with depths of at least 6 feet. The marina is protected from river waves by a floating breakwater. The transient rate, which includes electricity, is $2 per foot. The fuel dock has two diesel pumps (one high-speed) and two gasoline pumps. There is a pumpout station by appointment only. The marina has showers, a coin-operated laundry and some vending machines. There is no pool.

You can reach the PhiladelphiaMarineCenter on VHF Channel 16 or by phone at (215) 931-1000.

• The Piers Marina — If you were visiting Philadelphia on the Fourth of July, this would be the place to reserve a slip — well in advance, of course. “There’s no better place on the river to see the fireworks,” says Chuck Pukanecz, the harbormaster. The pyrotechnics are fired from a barge that anchors off the Piers’ two floating breakwaters.

The rest of the year the marina is protected from the rush of traffic on Columbus Boulevard and the rumble of commuters and clatter of trains crossing the BenjaminFranklinBridge a block upriver.

Unlike the MarineCenter, The Piers welcomes liveaboards, so your neighbors quite likely can be your first guides to the city beyond the marina’s gated entrance. Pukanecz says about 80 of the 110 slips in the marina’s two basins have year-round occupants. These locals can give you directions not only to the city sights but to a collection of marine services that are available a dozen miles up the Delaware River in New Jersey’s DredgeHarbor. There, you will find repair, maintenance and supply businesses at a cluster of a half-dozen marinas. The Dredge Harbor marinas can haul your boat, paint it and plumb it, if you have the need.

Transients at the Piers are charged $1.50 per foot for slips with depths to 20 feet. The weekly rate is $8 per foot. “I monitor the telephone 24/7,” says Pukanecz. The phone number is (215) 351-4101. He requires reservations, but they can be made within a couple hours of arrival if he has space available. Like the other two marinas near the city, The Piers is fully reserved well before July Fourth, so an early call is important.

• Wiggins Park Marina — Located on the Camden, N.J., waterfront, this marina is less convenient to Philadelphia than the Marine Center or The Piers, but it offers something that neither has: a spectacular view across the water of the city’s skyline. This is especially dramatic after dark, when the waterfront and tall buildings that sit a half-mile behind it are dressed with their own sparkling lights. The Camden County Parks system owns the 55-slip marina, which typically has 10 to 15 slips available for transients, according to manager Rod Sadler.

Wiggins Park, which surrounds the marina, is part of a waterfront renewal program in Camden, a city that consistently ranks among the nation’s most depressed. (Sadler says a “DMZ” patrolled by four different law enforcement agencies separates the depressed city from the park.) The upgrades start near the south side of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, with a recently built retro baseball park. Continuing downriver along the Delaware are the state’s Adventure Aquarium, the Tweeter Center entertainment complex, and the battleship New Jersey. A grassy lawn slopes down from the Aquarium to the north and the Tweeter Center to the south to embrace the circular marina, in which the slips are separated by finger piers that radiate like spokes toward the center.

“We have one dock that will accommodate 110 feet,” says Sadler. The marina has hosted visiting tall ships that draw up to 14 feet, he says. Of the standard slips, eight can serve boats to 45 feet, and the rest will take boats 30 to 40 feet, he says.

Wiggins Park Marina charges transients $2 per foot, including water and electricity. It monitors VHF channel 16, or you can call (856) 216-2118 during working hours for a reservation. Hours of operation from Memorial Day to Labor Day are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Mondays, when the office is closed. Go to (click on “Government,” then “Offices &Departments,” then select “Wiggins Park Marina” from the drop-down menu)