Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Boating And Fuel Prices

Will high fuel prices keep power boaters at the dock this summer? 

Photo: © istockphoto.com/Paul Vasarhelyi

With the great recession still fresh in our minds, and in many cases, still affecting our decisions about boating, will high fuel prices keep boaters off the water in 2012?

Three, Four, Five, Ten?
This is a hot topic among families who boat. Regular unleaded fuel prices are hovering around $4 per gallon just as the season is getting underway across much of the United States. Many families have had to make difficult decisions over the past 3 or 4 years, and it is likely that boat loans, slip fees and other costs associated with boating have forced them out of the activity altogether. If they were able to hang on and ride out the recession, is the high price of gas going to be the final straw? Is $4 the magic number that will make boaters think twice about boating this summer, or is it $5, or perhaps $10?

A Tale of Two Papers
We've been thinking about this subject all winter, but noticed this morning that two separate East Coast newspapers tackled this subject independently...

Just A Pinch
Charlene Sharpe, a Staff Writer with the Ocean Pines Independent (Ocean City, Maryland), had a headline today that read, "Boating industry feels pinch at pump." She quotes one yacht delivery captain who says that the bulk of his business has come to a stop, and a charter fishing boat captain that has had to charge fuel surcharges to his customers to cover the cost of price increases at the pump.

Not Scared
Perhaps a good counterpoint to Ms. Sharpe's headline is one by Jeff Gill, writing for the Gainesville Times (of Georgia). Mr. Gill's article, entitled, "Rising gas prices not scaring off boaters", quotes several boaters on Lake Lanier who are not backing off because of the high cost of fuel. In fact, it seems boaters and business owners dependent on Lake Lanier have bigger concerns - whether their lake will have enough water to allow boaters to enjoy it throughout the summer.

Our Take
Fuel has always been an expensive part of boating, even when it was under a couple bucks a gallon. It's the one big thing you have to take out the credit card for every time you boat, and boaters come to expect it. But with people putting the breaks on boating purchases over the past few years, and the future finally starting to look a little brighter, it's hard to imagine a difference of 50 or 75 cents putting a kibosh on anybody's boating activities this year. Perhaps boaters will stay a little closer to home, or fish in the spots that are a little more local, but they won't be trading in their boats over the price at the pump. 

What are your plans for the summer? Will fuel prices keep you tied up at the dock?


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