A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Will gas prices curtail boating?

I talked to my sister over the weekend (by the way, she’s a boat owner) and she’s looking
into taking the commuter bus to work; the gas prices are killing her budget. Is she planning to keep her boat? At the moment, but…

Fuel costs now take almost four cents of every dollar of American’s take-home pay, the highest since 1983, reports the Houston Chronicle.

At the end of last week, regular gasoline sold for a record average of $3.28 a gallon nationwide, up from $2.97 just a month earlier, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

I looked further into AAA’s report and checked out the regular, unleaded prices at the gas pumps in a few of the big boating states, and here’s what I found:
                  Florida: Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice
                      $3.34 a gallon, up from $2.60 a year ago

                  Florida: Fort Lauderdale
                      $3.34 a gallon, up from $2.63 a year ago

                  Florida:  Miami
                      $3.38 a gallon, up from $2.60 a year ago

                 Michigan:  Ann Arbor
                      $3.35 a gallon, up from $2.51 a year ago

                 Michigan:  Detroit
                      $3.30 a gallon, up from $2.46 a year ago

                 Michigan:  Saginaw-Bay City-Midland
                      $3.34 a gallon, up from $2.46 a year ago

                 California:  Fresno
                      $3.62 a gallon, up from $3.15 a year ago

                 California:  Los Angeles-Long Beach
                      $3.61 a gallon, up from $3.11 a year ago

                  California:  San Francisco
                       $3.78 a gallon, up from $3.29 a year ago

                   New York: New York City
                       $3.41 a gallon, up from $2.76 a year ago

Pretty scary numbers, don’t you agree? And they can go up even more. Some non-marine experts are predicting another 40 cents per gallon tacked onto today’s price if gas prices follow their normal pattern between now and June.
Now, what does this mean for boating?

Last year, I heard some industry leaders say the price of gas did not hurt boating.

Are those feelings still prevalent, today, given the soaring prices of gas?

Any thoughts on this subject?

Lois Caliri


25 comments on “Will gas prices curtail boating?



  2. mike webster

    I have long held a curiosity about marina fuel pricing that most of the industry apparently does not find worthy of research, but now that ‘the frog is really boiling’ I again put forth on this page the curiosity;…………in many cases marina fuels should be priced less than area vehicle ‘street’ prices due to lack of road taxes.In Florida for instance there are no or reduced “road” taxes. Marina fuels do contribute to a Florida state boating fund ( and boy did we have to fight with road/development interests over that!) however we are talking just a few cents per gallon. In my casual research I find the finger points all over the place-the supplier says the marina jacks the price up,the marina says they pay top dollar to the supplier and when the scrutiny gets really tough the old environmental argument is tossed out,that the marinas must adhere to the burden of environmental regulations (as if the highway facilities did not).The appeal of boating would gain an added lift if many of our customers could look forward to fuels costs at least a little cheaper on the water than on the highway.

  3. Eric

    It has already hurt the Hampton Roads area of the Chesapeake. Maintenance contracts are dropping off steadily with customers saying that there is no way they can afford to take their yacht out and pay for maintenance contracts. Refit contracts that were discussed at the close of last year’s season are also being cancelled by owners with most citing the slowing economy with others citing fuel costs. Most of the yards are quiet with long term storage being their bread and butter now. Small sole proprieters are folding left and right, and getting jobs…one for the first time in 10 years.

  4. Tom Duncan, Maritime Real Estate Services, LLC

    Was you price checking done at marinas that sell gasoline, or at the local gas station?
    The difference is big. Gas stations benefit from quantity discounts and transport loads to fill their tanks. Most local marinas cannot compete with chain gas stations with respect to volume received and sold. Fuel naturally costs more at marinas than at the local gas station. But I still do not think the serious, hard core boater, fisherman, wake boarder, will call it quits, they may not go out as ofter or as far, but they will still go out. I think cruisers may show more weakness than the others.

  5. Page Obenshain

    The number of gallons we sell have been going down over the last three years as the prices go up. Understand that the high cost of fuel is not a new problem! People are using boats less because there is too much do do in this world as well as the high fuel costs. For the first time there are marinas with slips available, so where did the boats go? Did we ship them all to Eruope where fuel is twice our price? At my dock diesel is more expensive than midgrade gasoline. Why? BECAUSE THEY CAN.

  6. Capt. Shover

    Lois – There has to be a breaking point somewhere for the middle income boater. I hear quite a few folks saying that they are putting their boats up for sale. Who can blame them? I purchased my 1986 Chris Craft Constellation only six years ago and filled the tanks in Solomons MD for $1.00 a gallon of diesel. In November of 2007 I filled up at Annapolis (winter storage) and the price was $3.35 a gallon! My and my wife’s dream was to perform a complete refurb of the ol’ girl, which we have done, and eventually live-aboard and travel. Those dreams are literally being destroyed by these fuel prices. I would cry, but it wouldn’t do any good.

  7. John Arndt

    Hopefully it will be good for sailing which will also be good for boating. Perhaps it will also reduce the boatloads of $$ we ship to Middle East every day. IDEC just sailed over 27,000 miles around the world on zero gallons of gasoline. Sailing is a terrific way to enjoy on the water recreation so high gas prices may simply steer people towards a different kind of boat and provide a great opportunity for those who want to sell them.

  8. Richard Harris

    We have discussed the soaring gas prices many times in the last year.For the boating public we can not believe that the gas prices will really affect the industry.If people sit down and actually figure out how much extra they will spend on gas,they will find that the cost of having fun with thier boat is not as much as they might think.Especially if they compare it to the cost of using thier car to go on vacation.

  9. Stanley Zebrowski

    I sold my 28-foot Rampage in November. I don’t tell my regular customers as of now because I was planning on purchasing a 34 footer in April. My Charters are approx. 50%
    off because of the gas cost I am now sharing my Charters, which I have now booked with two other Captains. As of now I may not purchase this new boat until next year or later.
    Hopefully all of S.C. will not fare as bad as Mytrle Beach.


  10. Larry Tague

    Last summer I saw the kids with personal watercraft hit first with the parents pulling the keys when they got the first real bill of the season and saw the amount of fuel the kids were using. The Boaters whined but pretty much stepped up to the plate & paid. Not sure what will happen in Missouri this year, we did get the State to quite charging for road tax, but I am afraid it might just ofset the cost of non Ethanol fuel. Time will tell if we will have as much boating OR just a lot more cooling it in the boats. I don’t think the boaters will cut & run Yet.

  11. Roger Herd

    While traveling last week I stayed in a Tampa hotel who was hosting the annual convention of the Petroleum Packaging Council (PPC). The nice couple I spoke to, who were from Canada, told me that a speaker at their meeting (some expert from the petroleum industry) told the council that oil will be at $200 a barrel by 2010. A 60% increase over the current $125 per barrel. If the American oil industry chooses to keep pace (as we know they will) and keep reaping profits on the backs of the American public then things are abut to get much worse.

    If you are an average blue-collar family with a small 17′ run-about that holds 50 gallons of gas, how likely are you to spend $200-$250 to fill up your tank for one day or maybe one weekend on your boat. And if you are running 80 miles off-shore to the canyon (from Long Island) in a twin outboard boat that burns 1.5 gallons per mile, you’re not going every weekend. In the 2007 season we saw more boats sitting at the dock than ever before.

    Bottom line is, we better develop more fuel efficient propulsion methods are marine fuel alternatives. Just a thought.

  12. Allen Schneider

    Here in NY the average price for Gasoline for a Boat at a fuel dock is at least .60 a gallon higher then the average price paid at the pump on the Street.

    So at the street price of $3.41 the Fuel Dock price would be over $4.00 a gallon for the average boater right now. So if the price goes up another .40 per gallon by Summer than the fuel dock price would top $4.40 per gallon and most likely be just below $5.00 at most fuel docks.

  13. Earl Waesche

    With the current and projected fuel prices by summer this will definitely be a disencentive. This is a discretionary recreational activity and many will reduce the number and length of the cruises they take this summer. Theses comments come from individual users, not “industry leaders”. We don’t know what this will do to new boat sales but it will definitely reduce existing boat usage.

    Earl Waesche
    Legislative Director
    National Boating Federation
    Phone: 410/573-1494
    Fax: 603/806-5900

  14. capt. dawn

    I work in the Marine Industry in Seattle, Washington, Puget Sound, and points north.
    I feel the cost of fuel is making a dent in the boating community. The cost of marine fuel here is already $4.00 plus per gallon.
    Last year it seemed there were less boats out on a daily bases during the summer time; the only busy days were during the 4 major holidays and our Seafair Celebration.
    We are lucky in the Northwest to have boating season year round, but Lake Washington has been very void of boats during this last winter season, when the season boaters usually like to go out to enjoy the lake without the crazys.

  15. Lawrence Zeitlin

    High boat speed is the killer. Most boaters do not realize that fuel consumption rises at nearly the cube of the speed. “Go Fast” cruisers that require 200 hp to stay on plane will burn nearly 20 gallons an hour. At $4 a gallon a long day of boating can cost real money. Yet buyers of Sea Rays and Carvers tend to assume that the facts of physics will be suspended while they experience the momentary ” wind in the face” thrill of blasting over the waterway. Those who opt for a lesurely cruise to a secluded anchorage for an afternoon of swimming, picnicing or fishing should be only minimally effected by high fuel prices. Boaters who want an adrenaline rush should be encouraged to take up hang gliding.

  16. CAPT Bob Howe

    How can it not. It may help our sailing industry, but boating overall will suffer. If nothing else, it cost more to get to the boat.

    On the other hand, the folks with big money (and boats) don’t really care. They have more money than they need and us small guys simply crowd the waterways (privilaged) “areas”.

    The marinas who rely on sales of fuel are really going to feel the pinch. The hands that pump the fuel better know how to read as business may not be brisk.

  17. Jeff Grigg

    We saw the downturn last year. Fewer boats and shorter trips. A 20 foot center console that cost $125 to fill up a few years ago is now costing over $300. Add to this the truck to pull it to the landing and it is becoming cost prohibitive.
    The one bright side is the small under 100 hp segment.
    All we ever hear is the possible problems in Nigeria. or Chavez might not send his oil our way or heaven help us there may be a hurricane in the Gulf, or one of a dozen made up stories. It is time our government levels with us and does something to relieve this burden. The speculation in oil needs to stop. Next stop after this recession is depression.

  18. Schwarzel

    Will fuel cost hurt boating……You bet! We are seeing fisherman selling the bigger fishing boats and moving into smaller low horsepower motors. They are going to fish, but at smaller lakes and rivers. This is going to be a trend. People can’t afford 4 buck gas. And if your running big horsepower boats….forget it. It is going to kill boating. Just mark my words. Now we all are here bitching about the high price of fuel, what are WE as a industry going to do about it? Come on people we are talking about your livelihood here. We all know what must be done. Drill in Alaska
    drill offshore for more oil. Build more refineries. We need to shut up the global alarmist with FACTS…. But I for one don’t see anyone in the marine industry doing anything about it. Heck your taking money for grow boating…..Lets use it for a forum for getting things done. I don’t have all the answers BUT I think we all need to band together for the good of the industry.
    I challenge the leaders of the industry to put something together, after all, if the customers don’t come threw my door, I will not be buying your products. And like a HOUSE OF CARDS it will all come down. I will leave you all with this thought……Go vote, we have brought part of this on our selfs.

  19. Gary Linden

    I was worried last year that fuel prices might stall out or significantly slow my business down, but much to my surprise we had a pretty darn good year inspite of the high fuel prices.
    I did notice a big shift from the MY/ Cruiser propellers, to the OB / Sterndrive props.
    It seems the larger boats were sitting in the slip more or not traveling as far.
    But rather their owners were buying and boating with the 18 – 20′ runabouts with the smaller 4 cyl. engines and the V-6’s.
    Gotta admitt, those boat and motor combinations are pretty fuel efficient…
    So all in all I am optimistic that things will be OK in the long run.

    Lets concentrate on positives !!!! Not DOOM and GLOOM

    Save the DOOM and GLOOM to the funeral parlors.

    Gary J. Linden
    Linden Propeller Co. Inc.
    Dubuque, IA

  20. Gordy McKelvey

    In my neck of the woods (Middle Tennessee), I believe there will be a drop off in the number of boats on the water this year. The higher fuel costs will affect the Memorial Day to Labor Day crowd and the folks that trailer their boats. As far as the “Lifestyle” boaters or the serious fishermen and water skiers, I don’t expect to see a drop off. Actually the boating conditions for the aforementioned groups should improve a bit simply because the lakes will be less crowded.

    The “hard core” skiers, fishermen, houseboaters will go regardless of fuel cost. Hey maybe this year I can sleep in on Saturday and Sunday instead of getting up at day break to find decent water to ski on. I’m looking forward to that!

  21. Bob Taylor

    I am fortunate to be at a marina that shifted to a “members” price last year. My marina is always the least expensive in our inlet. Another benefit of this marina is that they are not price gouging. When a load of fuel is delivered, the next day the price rises or falls depending on what the marina pays for the fuel. Many times, just last month for example, gasoline was less expensive at our marina than on the street until the next load of fuel was delivered, but not until then. More marina’s should consider this “members” philosophy.

    As a general observation, when the “big boys”, the 40, 50 and 60 ft Offshore battlewagons sit at the dock and stop running to the canyons, then you know that fuel prices are reducing boat usage overall.

    Last summer, one of the marinas catering to these large sportfish saw week after week of only four or five boats going offshore when normally on any given weekend they saw fifteen to twenty. Needless to say they’re fuel sales were off close to 70% for the summer.

    I still feel there will continue to be those willing to pay the price for the rewards of owning and using a boat. I think it will be more of the 20 to 33 foot outboards with four strokes on the back, fewer of the cruiser style and fewer battlewagons as these owners are switching to the 31 to 35 center console with twin four strokes for their regular offshore trips.

  22. Roy Kaplan

    Diesel fuel is $ 2.32 a gallon in Ensenada, Mexico. 68 miles by water south of San Diego, CA. $ 2.00 if you are in the marina for a month. What are we doing wrong?

  23. Jerry Davis

    Saturday and Sunday was beautiful and Lake Conroe was filled with boaters. Lake Conroe is 40 miles west of Houston TX. We feel that people will go boating if the weather is good regardless of the gas prices. Right now the price is running about $3.18 (highway) per gallon. For so many, boating is a way to get away with the family either for a few hours or the weekend. We race boats and travel across the county and every place you look there is new construction and people seem to have a good attitude. The main thing that turns people off is all of the negative doom and gloom. Cheer up!

  24. Joe Conway

    Would a look at the Med be a foretelling of what our boat types will look like in the future? These countries have been absorbing the high cost of gas/diesel for yrs and , notwithstanding some differences in water types, have reacted to that. I have spent 2.5 yrs in the Med and you just don’t see 25-45ft high power motor very much. Plenty of sail, big motor yachts, small watercraft, and slower diesel cruisers. I guess they figured , ‘cept for a few, that MPH trophies didn’t make sense. Slow down and enjoy the voyage?

  25. David Sheriff

    I’m afraid the falloff in boat usage for larger planing boats is going to last for years. Energy prices are driven by world demand which is only going up. My sole proprietorship Marine electrician business is off this year for the first time. A larger percentage of the business that I do have is from sailboats and trawlers which use a lot less fuel.

    It will be interesting to see how this affects marina re-development plans. The trend in California has been to reduce the number of small slips in favor of more larger slips. If this gets bad enough, we may see redevelopment curtailed completely. I still have big boat customers using their boats, but they are partying in the slip more than they are going out.

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