While gas pump prices on the street ramped up to more than $3.70 per gallon earlier this week, boaters will say that sounds like a bargain. Fuel at local marinas ranged from $4.71 to $4.89 a gallon this week.
John Plekker said he's given up on fueling his 38-foot Power Quest. The twin-engine powerboat is sitting on a trailer in Plekker's pole barn in Rockford, and he has it up for sale because of its fuel-thirsty ways.
Plekker opted to cruise around Grand Haven during Coast Guard Festival week in his 8-foot dinghy. He can motor all day with his 9.9-horsepower Evinrude on less than 3 gallons of gas.
The Power Quest averages about 1 mile to the gallon, Plekker said. It could suck down 200 gallons in four hours at fast speeds.
You do the math.
“I'm here on a frickin' dinghy, a rubber raft,” Plekker said. “Gas prices are that bad.”
Instead of piloting the boat to Mackinac Island as in low-cost-fuel days past, he trailered it, saving about $2,500.
“I used that boat 21 days last year,” Plekker said.
Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith said he's noticed a marked decline in the number of pleasure boats motoring into Coast Guard City USA for the week's festivities.
“I think there are less boaters because, not only is there the cost of the boat, it's a very limited season for boats in Michigan some years, especially this one,” he said. “The cost of fuel definitely adds to any trip they may take out of the marina.”
Smith said “the wall” — where boats moor along the Grand Haven boardwalk — was packed on many sunny summer days a decade ago.
“I think there's a whole different boating mentality now, and it does factor in fuel costs,” he said. “I see less people on the wall and I'm not so sure they're coming from far distances.”
The city holds a lottery in the early spring to dole out slips at its Municipal Marina for festival week. Many of those landing spots are locals, according to marina crew leader Christie Boeve.
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.