By MARK JENKINS
Holiday travelers are feeling the pain from record high fuel prices this weekend. A gallon of regular unleaded in Florida costs $4.07 ($.03 below the national average). If you think motorists have it bad, think about those who also boat.
“It’s getting ridiculous,” said boat owner Stephen Gryszowka, who paid $120 to fill the gas tank on his boat. That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to other boaters. Filling up a medium-sized boat can cost about $1,000.
“I really didn’t see a big decline in the number of boaters, but the amount of time they spent in the water,” said marina employee Joseph Jansenious. For charter boats, it’s worse. Try $3,000 for a full tank.
The price has a definite trickle down effect. “You can’t believe how bad business is,” said Jim Chapman is captain of the “Get Back” charter boat. He says business is down 85 percent from two years ago. The price to insure his two boats is up 25 percent. Renting a slip at the St. Andrews Marina also went up 15 percent. “They’re going to make their money whether we go down the tube or not. They should be trying to help us out and reduce slip rent.”
To make matters worse for fishermen, Federal Regulators reduced snapper season from six to four months. For Captain Chapman, the price increase is passed on to his customers. An hour excursion went up from $125 to $150. A third of the money goes towards gas.
“Charter fishing is a thing of the past. It’s over with,” he said.
Boaters should not expect much relief from high fuel prices. In fact, retail prices are expected to rise again. Nervousness over the potential Israel-Iran conflict has already pushed crude oil above $146 per barrel.