Gas prices slowing down boaters

By John Seewer

Associated Press Writer

Toledo, Ohio – John Harbert slapped a coat of black paint along
the bottom of his 31-foot boat, getting ready for the summer
season.

But he doubts he’ll spend much time away from the docks this
year.

Gas prices are making it too expensive for him to go on long
trips; his boat gets about a mile or two for each gallon of
gas.

‘It’s getting ridiculous,’ Harbert said. ‘A lot of people are
going to using their boats like cottages.’

Marina managers in the state say they don’t expect boaters to
curtail their outings this summer despite near-record gas prices.
They do expect boaters to take shorter trips, though.

‘It makes everybody gripe a little more, but they’re going to
keep going out,’ said T.J. Wright, who works at the Harbor North
Marina in Huron. ‘What we generally find is people are making fewer
trips.’

The growing cost of fuel is likely to cut into travel plans this
summer for many.

About two in five people said they have changed their vacation
plans to stay closer to home as a result of energy price increases,
according to an AP-Ipsos poll released June 1.

Boaters have it even worse than drivers.

They pay, on average, 40 or 50 cents more per gallon at
marinas.

And the fuel mileage is enough to make a boater cry.

Harbert said it would cost him at least $250 just to make a
weekend trip from Toledo to the Lake Erie islands. Even a short
fishing trip will be costly, he said.

‘It’s going to affect everybody,’ he said. ‘We’ll just give up
fishing.’

Barb Hand, who owns Holiday Point Marina, which sits along the
Ohio River near Portsmouth, said she used to see more people who
would take long trips down the river.

Some would take their boats from Pittsburgh all the way to the
Mississippi River.

‘Not as many people are going on for two weeks,’ she said. ‘I’m
sure a lot of it is the cost of fuel.’

Most of her regular customers, she said, will keep coming.

‘A lot of our boaters are working-class people,’ she said. ‘This
is their vacation, their relaxation.’

The DNR estimates that recreational boating puts about $2.1
billion each year into the state economy. And boaters in 2005 paid
$14.6 million in Ohio marine gas taxes.

There were about 412,000 registered boaters in Ohio in 2005, the
eighth highest number of all states.

‘As long as the sun shines and we have beautiful weather, we’ll
see people using their boats,’ said Jim Brown, who owns Sutherland
Marine in Ashtabula.

Mark Weiss, a boater from Toledo, said he won’t change his plans
for this summer.

He owns a sailboat.

His friends will be staying behind at the docks.

‘They used to laugh at me for how slow I go,’ he said.

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