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Fuel will be an issue this summer

In recent years, we speculated that gas price wouldnít have a serious negative impact on boating activity until it reached the fairy tale $4.00 gallon. We believed our customers were primarily concerned with gas availability, not price; that boaters would pay $3.00 or $3.50/gallon and keep boating.

Truth is, I suspect we never really conceived of $4.00/gallon even a year ago and, now, the Energy Department is warning gas is likely to rise even more this summer.

With the ’08 prime boating season at hand, the $4.00/gallon mark is here and gone. Last Sunday in St. Pete, FL, I paid $4.55/gallon (it was $4.59/gallon in nearby Tierra Verde!) to fuel the boat. Thatís more than $450 for 100 gallons, and the tanks were only half full! I admit it shook me up some.

Thereís no doubt weíre all feeling the inescapable climb in gas prices that have reached fever pitch these days. Gas is kicking up our monthly credit card bills and taking an even bigger slice of our income. Economists say thereís no doubt we must tighten our belts. Coupled with higher food prices and the housing market weaknesses, escalating energy costs are taking their toll.

To offset, many families are reportedly cutting things like lunches or dinners out, club dues, weekend trips and passing up better quality goods for cheaper ones in bulk at Samís Club or K-Mart instead of a pricier grocery stores. The big question is what will they do with their boat this summer? I know Iím giving some thought to changing the way Iíll boat (translation: reduce gas consumption) this summer.

But that makes me realize as dealers we must be proactive on this issue. For example, we need to tell prospects about the efficiency of todayís marine engines compared to those of just a few years ago. We need to educate our customers on ways to reduce gas consumption by removing unnecessary weight, having the prop repaired, cleaning the bottom, tuning the engine and so on. We must point out that the average weekend of boating does not consume major quantities of gas ó the engine isnít running when anchored at the beach or enjoying a day of fishing. Most important, the boat still provides that great summer vacation every weekend! That is still priceless!

I recall as we approached record gas prices last May-June (prices that, today, look like a bargain) NMMA produced an excellent fact sheet on ways to respond to customers, prospects and even the media when asked about the effect of high gas prices on boating. There will be no better time than now to dig out that fact sheet, brush it off and learn it again for 2008.


13 comments on “Fuel will be an issue this summer

  1. John Wisse

    A related concern Norm are those regional or state entitites who are in the business of leasing out their marina facility operations such as a state park system or a conservancy district. While boating on a conservancy district lake last weekend in SE Ohio, low octane marine fuel was priced at $4.90 a gallon. A marina employee ensured me the price would go higher once the first fuel delivery of this new boating season arrives. A second conservancy district lake in NE Ohio sold marine fuel in proximity to this same price level. We are but days or a few weeks away from seeing marine fuel top $5 per gallon in Ohio and that is certainly not a way to grow boating.

  2. J Gregory

    Last summer on the 4th of July you could count the empty slips on one hand. In the past on a holiday weekend you could count the slips with boats in them on one hand.
    In our marina the trend is to one or two big bats going down river then others joining them in their jon, fishing or other small boat. Less boat = less fuel.
    It’s still ashamed to see millions of dollars worth of boats sitting getting a scum line due to lack of use.

  3. Lisa Valentine

    It would be helpful to provide the link to the NMMA fact sheet. I’d be happy to have something to share with customers. The news media focuses on the negative. They could just as easily do a series of articles on how to vacation close to home and save gas, vs. all the doom and gloom they publish now.

    Also, until we as Americans combine trips or carpool to reduce demand, the price is going to rise along with the demand.

  4. Bob Johnstone

    Another way to beat back the cost of fuel is to own a boat that burns half the normal amount. Like a BMW that gets 50 mpg. It’s easier to make a fuel efficient boat than a car, because builders are still using molding processes that are no lighter than they were 30 years ago. In fact, some are heavier. Key is to go light and stronger as with wet prepreg epoxy, Kevlar/Eglass Corecell, vacuum set and oven post-cured laminates. The MJMs consume half the fuel of similar sized counterparts… are easier to handle and more fun to drive. People are getting the message. 2007 was our best year. MJM is at 100 boats sold and some owners are pushing 100 hours per month use in peak season. They are not holding back and feeling pretty smart at this point.

    At 25 knots cruise, the 29z (8600 lbs) gets 3 nmpg, the 34z (10,600 lbs) 2nmpg and the new 40z (18,800 lbs) 1.7 nmpg. Drop down to 5 knots and its 10 nmpg.

    What’s more, they are all less than 12′ beam and under 13.5′ on a truck, so can be shipped by road for about the same cost as running on their own bottoms, say from Maine to Florida.

    The owner of a Bertram 54 Sportfish called to say that he burns 5,000 gallons on the run from Boston to Miami each way every year….and was figuring it was going to br $25,000 in fuel one way vs. $4,000 on the 40z.” Savings of that magnitude would cover the monthlies on a 40z… even before any tax deduction.

  5. dave boso

    Hey guys golf is cheap, If you can afford a boat with a hundred gallon tank then you can afford $450.00 for gas.
    Rather than crrying get on the phone to your local democrat congressman and give him ell for supporting EPA.and their ban on domestic oil drilling. then call nancy Pelosi who said the Democrat congress was going to fix the high price of oil ask her what happend.
    Then call every oil speculator you know ans ask him why is he bidding the price of oil out of site. and finaly hope for more low intrest rates so the dollar becomes weaker.

  6. Wade N. D'Waters

    Hey Dave I think Norm has hit on something we need to start boatpooling. Find 2 customers in the same general area who were able to afford boating but can’t afford to now & let’s introduce them to one another so one weekend they can go out on the Clinton family boat then the following weekend they can go out on the Obama boat…They might even ask the McCains but I think Cindi still can afford the fuel after all Republicans boaters are supposedly rich fat cats.
    It’s not so much that gas prices are up it’s the dollar is so over inflated and only worth $0.62 in the rest of the world.
    A random thought: Now that Rice is being rationed across America what does that say about those Japanize cars we called rice burners???
    Norm glade to see your enjoying boating in our local waters

  7. Ron Longman

    We planned to do the Great Loop this season in our 30′ Bertram express with twin 230 Yanmars that give us .65 gal per mile. The increase in cost of diesel since we began our planning last year would add well over $12,000 to the cost of the trip. We lose out on a great trip, and the folks along the way lose our business. I agree, it is the politicions, and the speculators in conjunction with the media that has blown this way out of reality.

  8. Boatman

    Whats doom and gloom? This is reality folks! Gas prices are going to hurt this industry, as well as overly expensive boat slip rates in many places. Only die-hard boaters will be able to dismiss what is happening. I dont see any catalyst on the horizen that is going to change whats happening anytime soon. People in this industry can put their heads in the sand and say keep a positive attitude, but guys, lets not kid ourselves. I know many affluent people that are talking about selling their boats. Lets talk facts and publish the facts. Denial will not benefit anyone.

  9. dreamline

    It’s hull speed for this Bertram this year! $4.00 /gallon is still a lot less than Europe is paying and somehow they keep driving and boating. Fuel will continue to be one of the least expensive items on the budget considering slip fees, insurance and maintenance costs. My $.02.

  10. Jerry Ham

    I have to say there are alot of good comments on this subject. I frimly believe in the one Boatman wrote. We as dealers must keep a postive attitude, but not lose touch with reality. We as a country have taught our Middle East friend’s(?) very well in the laws of supply and demand. What are the Middle East counties and Oil Company’s suppose to think? When the United States have oil resources alot closer to it, but a government not willing to use them. I think if gas price’s had risen from 2.50/Gal to 4.50/gal over a 10 year period the boating industry could handle it better. But in a 1 1/2 year period it to much of a shock to overcome. I hope the NMMA and MMRA starts putting preasure on our congress to help with this matter. It’s not just marine dealers that are in trouble, it is our whole industry. From boat manufactors, wholesale finace companies, boat dealers, retail finance, and marinas.

  11. Buck

    I guarantee you that if the U.S made the announcement to the world that we were going to start to drill in ANWAR, the Gulf and anywhere eles in the Country we thought there was oil, the price of a barrel of oil would drop within hours. There is absolutely no rational reason for us to be dependant on oil from third world countries and tin horn dictators. We are in this situation because Washington wants us there. The only thing I can possibly come up with is that it has some strange geo-political implications of keeping the planet stabilized by “keeping our friends close and our enemies closer”.

  12. JD

    I have been involved with the marine industry since 1976. I have worked with several large powerboat companies and have seen the changes occur. It has been a great industry and will hopefully continue. I remember being a kid at my folks cottage, boating every weekend in the summer. We had a small pontoon boat, an aluminum fishing boat and an old wood speedboat (back then that’s what we thought it was anyway, it had a 15hp evinrude motor on it), so much for speed. What I remember about that time was just being on the water. None of our boats weren’t fancy, they didn’t have anything special on them. I think during these times of high gas prices and I do believe it’s the way of the future, sorry to say, I think if the boating industry is going to make it, they may have to return to the basics. As the saying goes “keep it simple stupid”. Let’s make a safe and affordable boat again. Strip them down, if the customer wants extras or something more custom let them decide. I know for a fact the recent boat company I have done work for offers one entry level so-called bare bones boat and it’s an 18″ (around $20,000). Anything larger, they’re loaded with standard features. All that does is add to the cost of the boat. Boats have become so expensive, it’s a rich persons sport. Let’s remember what boating is about. It’s time for friends and family to have fun. I don’t need a multi-changer CD player, retractable armrests, wetbar in the cockpit, etc… Anyway, you get the idea.
    I think it’s something to think about. And by the way it would also make the boats lighter. For now, that’s my two cents worth. Thanks for giving this space to ramble on. JD

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