High Gas Prices Compromise Summer Boater Enjoyment | News, Sports, Jobs
ALPENA — Rising gas prices across the country could mean fewer boaters browsing local stores and lingering at local ports to swap fish stories, local boaters say.
Alpena resident Paul LaBrecque, captain of the motorboat Seize the Day, typically pays around $450 to fill his tank.
This year, with the price of recreational and diesel fuel nearly doubling from last year, LaBrecque may need to spend more time in port and less time on weekend getaways to beaches or islands. of the region.
Usually about a dollar per gallon above the going rate at gas stations, expensive boat fuel could mean more expensive charter fishing trips and fewer visitors exploring the northeast Michigan coastline and traveling to local businesses.
Boaters from elsewhere are still calling to reserve slips, and the town of Alpena is doing what it can to keep boat gasoline prices low, said Alpena Harbor Captain Shannon Smolinski.
Still, LaBrecque said, many boaters will think twice about taking to the water this summer, and those who do will feel it in their pocketbooks.
“It’s going to be a tough year,” LaBrecque said. “We’re going to drink a lot on the dock.”
In a working-class town like Rogers City, residents rely on boating and fishing as rewards after a hard week’s work, said Wayne Saile, harbor master at Rogers City Marina.
This year’s gasoline hike will rob them of needed downtime — and possibly mean fewer visitors to the city, Saile said.
Recently, a boater who has been in Rogers City for over 20 summers told Saile he won’t be returning this year because he can’t afford to go fishing on the lake.
Current high gasoline prices could rise further by mid-summer when, Saile said, he won’t be surprised to see gasoline at $6.50 a gallon for boaters.
Saile hopes to hold parties and other events at the marina to help boaters have fun on their vessels without shelling out money for gas.
“We’re going to have to sing, dance, do something,” Saile said. “It’s going to be tough going this year, I’m telling you.”
Darrell Irwin, a Bay City fishing boat captain who prefers the port of Rogers City to the busier ports further downstream, gets only an eighth of a mile from a gallon of gas.
He will continue to take groups on Lake Huron this summer, but will have to pass on high fuel prices to customers, Irwin said.
LaBrecque, chatting with fellow boaters at the Alpena Marina on Thursday, relishes boat trips to his favorite pristine beaches north of Alpena.
At 26 miles away by water — half a mile to the gallon in his boat — that trip will cost him a pretty penny this summer, LaBrecque said.
The Alpena Yacht Club could see additional business this year from people eager to be near their boats but unable to afford gas, as will a new gourmet grocer and take-out grocery store set to open soon. at the marina, LaBrecque suggested.
Then again, he said, people who enjoy boating can get out on the water, no matter the cost.
“You just bite the bullet and try to have fun,” he said. “Life is too short.”
Based on phone calls to the city showing interest in boat rentals, the summer boating season should still be strong, Smolinski said.
Like a gas station, marinas base their fuel prices on rack prices, factoring in the added cost of taxes and insurance needed for the boat’s fuel, Smolinski explained.
With some recreational fuel remaining from last season, the city has averaged last year’s prices with the high costs this spring to keep costs as low as possible for as long as possible.
Prices at the Alpena Marina had climbed to $5.34 a gallon for recreational fuel and $5.53 for diesel on Thursday.
At a recent meeting, harbor masters across the state worried that gas prices would keep boaters away, but boaters surveyed this spring said they still plan to travel this summer — but maybe not as far or as often, Smolinski said.
At Alpena Harbor on Thursday, Anne and Bobby Szmagaj of Hubbard Lake prepared a friend’s boat for the summer season.
They don’t envy their motorboat-owning friends, at least this year.
“It costs $15 to warm up and get out of port,” Bobby Szmagaj said.
The couple are sailors, so they won’t notice much of the rising gas prices on their lake trips, Anne Szmagaj said.
“We’re going to do the same things that we always do,” she said. “If you have a motor boat, it will affect you for sure.”
Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.