Pain At The Pump?

For savvy Midwest houseboaters, it's all about preparation

Published online: May 31, 2006 News AP Wire Report
Viewed 409 time(s)

According to a recent wire report from the Associated Press, Owners of marinas in Minnesota are advising boaters to slow down and tweak their engines to conserve fuel so rising fuel prices won't hit them so hard in the pocketbook.

But many boaters say they won't let high prices keep them off the water.

Bill Buth says he heads for the Stillwater Marina where he keeps his boat on Thursday nights and stays until Sunday or Monday if he can.

But he expects paying nearly $4 a gallon for boat fuel on the St. Croix River will mean some changes.

``There'll probably be a lot less hard running,'' Buth said. ``...Worst-case scenario, if I don't take the boat out of the slip, it's a great lake home.''

A recent survey of 1,900 boaters by a national trade association found that about 25 percent plan to cut their time on the water because of rising gas prices. But the majority said they were more likely to cut back dining out, entertainment and driving than cut the amount they go boating.

Larry and Michelle Stiehl of Stockton spend most summer weekends in their air-conditioned houseboat docked at Dick's Marine Inc. in Winona.

They recently upgraded to a 44-foot Gibson, which they bought in Hastings and cruised the 90 miles downriver to Winona.

Before leaving Hastings, they forked out $400 to fill the two 60 gallon gas tanks that power the boat's twin 270-horse-power engines. The boat gets 1.5 miles per gallon.

``Boats need gas there's no way around it,'' Michelle Stiehl said. ``Once the boat's in the water for the season, there's no turning back.''

At Watergate Marina in St. Paul, employee Sandie Zak said putting gas into her two 40-gallon tanks ``is like filling up two cars instead of one.'' Zach said she expects to make fewer overnight trips to places like Minneapolis and Red Wing because of the high gas prices. She figures each trip she skips will save about $150.

The typical overnight trip cost of $150 to $400 in gas might keep boaters closer to home, said marina manager Adam Wilson.

``There'll be evening cocktail cruises, just nice and easy, not running open throttle,'' he said.

On the other hand, Wilson thinks people are more prepared for the price this year than they were last year.

``Most people buy a boat to use a boat,'' he said.

Chuck Dillerud fits that mold.

The Lake Elmo city planner captained his new 38-foot cruiser Charlie's Angel II from Dubuque, Iowa, 260 miles up the Mississippi to Watergate Marina last week.

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