A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Fuel blues

The endlessly skyrocketing price of boating fuel has now become a relentless headache for the American boater. Accustomed to paying no more than two or three dollars per gallon for decades, boaters are now paying more than twice that amount for fuel. As a result, boaters are unable to decide how to adjust to this change.

The entire American boating industry has been built on the principle of low-priced fuel. Millions of registered boats were built and sold on the premise that gas prices would remain relatively low and steady. But that has changed: not only is fuel cost not about to decline, it is still rising.

American boating requires fuel—and lots of it—to satisfy boaters’ insatiable appetite for speed. The greening of boating through the use of alternative energy may come some day, but it is not here yet. It remains a dream on the distant horizon, a challenge made more difficult by boaters demand for speed and the inefficiency of conventional hull design. Alternate renewable energy sources remain unable to deliver the performance offered by gas and diesel. Unless we begin the difficult transition into modifying our ways of boating by slowing down and reducing use, the future of boating as we know it is in jeopardy.

In Europe, boaters have been living with nearly $10-per-gallon fuel for quite some time. I recently returned from Istanbul, where I saw enormous marinas filled with thousands of boats of all sizes. Rather than quitting boating, it seems Turkish boaters, not all of whom are rich, have found ways to deal with the challenges of high fuel cost.  

For many years, America has stood strong as the land of plenty. No demand has been left unsupplied. Now, however, it is now becoming apparent, that fuel supplies are finite. The need for inexpensive fuel can no longer be met as it once was.

America’s thirteen million boaters can deliver a strong message to the marketplace by adjusting how we boat and using less fuel. The ball is in the boaters’ court, and we can affect the way the game is played. Boaters don’t have to give up boating by yielding to the marketplace of high fuel pricing. By moderating how we boat, boaters can deliver a collective response that could alter the high cost of fuel.

Other additional fuel-saving measures are available. Keep your boat’s bottom clean, make sure your props are pitched properly and check that the engine is operating at its most efficient level. Most engines operate at 10% to 15% below their maximum efficiency due to the buildup of carbon deposits that normally form in the fuel injectors, carburetors and combustion chambers, as well as on intake valves.

Carbon deposits also increase the octane requirement of gasoline engines. Fuel additives known as detergents can prevent carbon deposit build up and even remove these fuel-robbing deposits to drastically reduce fuel consumption and increase engine performance.

Times are a changing, but boating remains magic. Boaters may be facing some difficult challenges, but they are not insurmountable. We may have to adjust our habits to keep our pastime affordable, but we don’t have to give up our boats. 

 –  F. Ned Dikmen
Great Lakes Boating Federation


6 comments on “Fuel blues

  1. arch

    WHO WAS IT THAT JUST RECENTLY SAID THAT FUEL PRICES WAS NOT KEEPING PEOPLE FROM GOING BOATING? It was an headline article in last months Soundings, or maybe the month before. Was it Norm, or THOM DAMRICH? Either way, we need to remind everyone out there that there is a different between being POSITIVE about our industry and being full of dookie.
    What happened in the last 50 years that has allowed so many of us to be BRAINWASHED? Since when did it become OK to ignore the facts and chalk it up to OPTIMISM?
    I think our GOV’t does this same politically correct non-sense, and you see how much good it’s doing them?
    Let’s NOT be negative, but let’s be realistic. Optimism is fine, but not at the expense of acknowledging the truth.

  2. Joseph

    Man, this is a great editorial! Ned has hit the nail on the head. Boaters should quit whining & start boating!


    Dear Ned,

    I think you’ve captured the essence of the issues that are facing boaters today. I also agree that it’s up to us to solve those problems.
    We at North Pacific Marine/Questar Marine have been aware of these issues for some time. For the past ten years, our R&D department has been working to create a “green” boat. This boat’s unique patented hull results in significantly less wake, creating less friction and resulting in 30-40 better efficiency of moving through the water. In addition, the development of new composite materials has resulted in weight reduction of over 50%. The overall result is a boat using 40-50% less fuel for the same horsepower, or 40-50% less horsepower for the same performance. The reduced wake has also created a more environmentally friendly footprint for our coastlines.

  4. Sunshine State

    Ten knots seems to be the ideal new cruising speed for many larger vessels and many are discovering that is just fine.In fact, due to sprawling development of many waterways a speed reduction is forced.

    A curiosity that is never followed up on when I mention it: In Florida, marina fuels are not subject to road tax.(There are a few pennies per gallon for the state’s office of Boating and Waterways- we had to fight the road builers off hard to win the Waterways Office funding)
    Therefore- why are marina fuels significantly higher than street side?? Psychologically it would be great to know that when you fuel your vessel at a marina at least the price is a little less.

  5. Dock Owner

    Sunshine State must not be connected to a Marina.

    The cost of doing business on the water is signifantly higher per gallon than on the street. The dock sale is so fundementally than the road sale it would be like selling a Crvette to a Pick Up buyer just because they both have four tires.

    When you see the majors on the street selling low grade they are usually at cost or up to $ .05 over cost as a lost leader. There are no more three pump stations left. They are Grocery stores or Wal Mart’s or 20 to 24 pump stations that take less room than most Gas Docks.

    Those stations sell huge volumes of fuel usually with only one attendant. Most dock have one dock attendant per two or three pumps. The road pumps are acticive 24 hours a day seven days a week. In most boating areas we have only four strong selling months a year. Weather issues stop boating. Two days of strong sales with five days of weak sales. The chance of bringing them in for other items at higher margins is minimal.

    It just can’t happen, even if the road taxes were removed. As a matter of fact, due to the high use of credit cards at the high fuel costs my margins are lower than in years of lower gas prices.

  6. Sunshine State

    I am connected to a marina and I have heard all the ‘arguments’ and the premise of my curiosity remains.

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