On With The Show

Fuel prices not thwarting Lake Union boat buyers

Published online: Sep 10, 2006 News
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Despite higher prices and a drop-off in volume sales, local fuel dock owners believe that boaters are as enthusiastic as ever and are now looking for value with their marine fuel purchase.

"Culturally we are way more sensitive to fuel prices than other retail items," says Michael Elliott, a 14-year veteran of the marine fuel business and owner of Seattle's Elliott Bay and Shilshole Bay fuel docks.

Elliott estimates that fuel sales volume at his two docks have dropped only 5 percent from 2005 to 2006, compared with a 12 percent drop the previous year. A sign that customers who originally sought better prices are looking for convenience and value along with their fuel stop. Value that on-water fuel docks provide.

"Our drop in sales represents more than meets the eye," says Elliott. "Boat owners were not staying away from the water, just looking to save a few dollars," says Elliott, who has seen a stabilization of pricing since the July 4 holiday with marine gasoline now at $3.79 per gallon and marine diesel at $3.59 per gallon.

"Although some customers will always be motivated by price, most that I talk to want to stock up with supplies at the same time they fuel-up," says Elliott whose central locations offer a host of other in-demand items such as ice, bait, snacks and beer, to help fuel a day on the water. "Our phone is still ringing off-the hook. Boaters are looking for the same convenience that we expect at the local mini-mart."

For owners of larger boats, when you factor in insurance, maintenance and moorage, fuel prices have always been one of the least expensive components to operating their vessels - regardless of price says Elliott. "Most boaters that I talk to with vessels over 40-feet have done the math and are not going to stop boating."

On the other hand, Elliott believes that owners of smaller, trailerable boats in the 18 to 22 foot range tend to be more price conscious. "They are still enjoying their boats. They just have other options - such as filling-up on the way to the water. Options that larger boat owners don't have," he says. A shift that varies between 30 and 50 cents-per-gallon between land and water-based service stations. Three years ago at $2 per gallon, the difference was only a dime. A difference that is affected in part by higher pumping volumes on land and the high environmental and maintenance costs of operating an over-water stations.

"We're starting to see some of our customers that were shopping for creative alternatives come back," says Elliott. "It's just easier to get everything you need for a weekend on the water, while you're taking on fuel at the dock."

About the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association
The Northwest Yacht Brokers Association (www.nwyachtbrokers.com) is a non-profit marine trade group founded in 1988 consisting of over 340 marine brokers, dealers and other industry professionals representing over 230 marine-related businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Subscribing to the strictest code of ethics, NYBA members are committed to bringing integrity and professionalism to the buying and selling process of new and previously owned pleasure craft. NYBA plays an active role in marine youth and education programs and is active in creating a greater interest in the welfare and safety of the boating public. Along with the Northwest Marine Trade Association, NYBA's January and September Boats Afloat Shows connect thousands of boating enthusiasts with marine professionals and the finest pleasure craft the Northwest has to offer.


Seaing is Believing! 2006 Lake Union Boats Afloat Show
Mega-yachts up to 130 feet, trailerable boats for every budget, even a 32-foot submarine and everything you need to know to help you get on the water. All on the water at South Lake Union's Chandler's Cove.

Wednesday, Sept. 13 - Sunday, Sept. Sept. 17

Weekdays - 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Weekends - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

$10 Adults, $5 (Children 12 and under)
$18 Three Day Pass
Available in August at www.boatsafloatshow.com or at the show
Or listen to the following Seattle-area radio stations to win free tickets:
AM: KIRO 710, KOMO 1000, KVI 570, KTTH 770, KPTK 1090
FM: KING 98.1, 570, KJR 95.7, KWJZ 98.9

Getting There
Located at Chandler's Cove on South Lake Union, the Boats Afloat Show is just off the I-5 Mercer Street exit. Designated parking for $5 per day is located at 5th and Mercer about five blocks west of the show near the Seattle Center. A free shuttle runs between the Boat Show and the 5th and Mercer parking lot every 15 minutes during show hours.

Help Ease South Lake Union Traffic - Take the Lake Union Water Taxi
Seattle's Electric Boat Company will provide water taxi service on-call and from various locations around Lake Union throughout the show, beginning one hour prior to opening and concluding one hour following closing. Cost is $5 each-way. Call 206-223-7476 to arrange for pick-up.

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