Jeremy Hendricks, a mechanic at the Lake Springfield Marina, works on a Mercury outboard motor Friday. A mild winter and early spring have kicked off the boatingn season almost two months ahead of its traditional Memorial Day weekend start.Photo by Chris Young
Boaters taking to the water weeks early
The State Journal-Register
Warm weather seems to have trumped concerns about high fuel prices, with central Illinois boaters taking to the water weeks early this spring.
“You might as well get out and use your boat while the weather is nice,” said Scott Tucker, sales manager of the Lake Springfield Marina. “And people have definitely taken advantage of it.”
Fishermen barely had an off-season this winter.
“This winter has been very conducive to people getting out, and it’s the fishermen primarily,” said Steven Poe, owner of Eastside Marine, 2525 North Grand Ave. E. “But there have been people water-skiing already on Lake Springfield.”
The Marina’s parking lot on weekends tells the story.
Two weekends ago, the lot was full.
“Last Sunday was really busy, too,” Tucker said.
Memorial Day weekend traditionally is considered the start of boating season, but that weekend is nearly two months away.
“We definitely had an early start to the year,” Tucker said. “Our slips did not officially open until the first (of April), but we started pulling boats out of storage about four weeks ago.
“We’ve had 15-20 boats in our slips for a few weeks now.”
That’s nowhere near capacity — the marina has 250 available boat slips, plus another 46 for personal watercraft — but Tucker said more and more boats are coming out of storage and getting ready to go early.
4 to 5 mpg
Warmer weather has helped heat up business for local boat dealers.
“This mild winter has been very helpful to the marine industry,” Poe said.
Poe said his business has finally moved all the boats held over from prior years, and all his inventory is now current.
“And $4-a-gallon gas has not had an impact so far,” he said.
Gas prices have flirted with $4 before, Poe says, so the $4 mark seems to be a little less traumatic this time around.
Still, it takes more fuel to push a boat through water than to propel a car down the highway.
“Even with advances in technology that have made boat motors more efficient, it still takes a lot of fuel to go a short distance,” Poe said. “If you are getting four to five miles per gallon in a boat, you’re doing pretty well.”
But central Illinois lakes are relatively small, so boaters have shorter distances to travel.
“On smaller lakes, you run for five minutes and you fish for four hours,” Poe said.
‘Room to run’
Tucker said regular unleaded gasoline for boats is holding steady at $4.49 per gallon.
“We just got a new shipment in,” he said. “It’s not in our interest to scare people off the water, so we are trying to keep the price down as much as we can.”
Poe said fuel prices also make recreation close to home more attractive.
“We have enough lakes that are close enough that you don’t have to drive 500 miles,” he said. “People are looking at these boats as an opportunity to have recreation close to home.”
Both Tucker and Poe said their showrooms have been busy.
“If the rest of the season stays like it has so far, it is great opportunity to stay close to home and not have to travel far for recreation,” Tucker said. “There’s plenty of room to run around on Lake Springfield.”
Saving gas on the water
The Boat Owners Association of The United States offers the following fuel-saving tips for boaters:
*Lighten the load: Remove little-used gear and other unnecessary items.
*Get a tune-up: Just like with automobiles, boat fuel efficiency can be improved by having the engine checked and tuned.
*Check the prop: Have the prop examined by a local dealer and repair any dings.
*Take care of your trailer: Make sure the trailer’s tires are properly inflated. Use a tight-fitting cover to decrease wind drag. A decrease in towing speed of 5 to 6 miles per hour will decrease fuel consumption.
The average cost of regular unleaded and diesel fuel per gallon this week, a month ago and a year ago for Springfield, Chicago, Illinois and nationally:
* Regular: $3.99; $3.87; $3.78
* Diesel: $4.08; $3.99; $3.88
* Regular: $4.39; $4.03; $4
* Diesel: $4.20; $4.06; $4.07
* Regular: $4.19; $3.94; $3.92