High Fuel Prices Keep Boats Docked

The summer season in New Hampshire's Lakes Region is just getting started, but as gas prices continue to set records on land, some boat owners are keeping their vessels in storage or selling them altogether. That's already starting to affect marinas that store, dock, rent and sell boats. Other businesses, such as charter boats and tourist cruises, are setting their summer rates and weighing whether to swallow high fuel costs or pass them on to customers.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Closer to the ground or maybe you might say in the water, boat owners are also feeling the pain of high fuel prices. And it's affecting business owners in New Hampshire's Lakes Region, which normally draws millions of tourists every year.

Shannon Mullen reports.

SHANNON MULLEN: Glendale Marina has been selling, renting and storing boats on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee for 26 years. Owner Paul Dupre says a big part of his business is moving 20 to 30 foot power boats between the water and his storage racks as their owners come and go.

Mr. PAUL DUPRE: We're inside the storage building. You can see some of the empty racks as we start to remove stuff for spring launch.

MULLEN: Most of the spots in Dupre's three-story racks are full. The building holds upwards of 150 pontoons, outboard runabouts, speedboats, and bow-riders. And this year, he says, 30 percent of the boats' owners plan to leave them here.

Mr. DUPRE: They're saying put my boat up for sale or put my boat in storage for the year. We're not going to use it.

MULLEN: Dupre blames high gas prices.

Up the road at Mountain View Yacht Club, manager Phil Arel says members tell him fuel is not the only factor.

Mr. PHIL AREL (Owner, Mountain View Yacht Club): The economy is real bad and they're all weighing what they cut out of their lives. And in most cases it's the toys or the pleasure. And most boats are pleasure craft.

MULLEN: Arel says about 20 percent of the facility's nearly 300 privately owned boat slips are empty, while in past years there have been waiting lists to fill them.

Sales of some new boats are up. Marinas here say the most expensive models are moving. But there are also more used boats on the market. Mike Audesse has listed his gas guzzling Baja speedboat for weeks without an offer.

Mr. MIKE AUDESSE (Boat Owner): It's a 28-footer and the average cost is about $400 now to fill the tank.

MULLEN: Whether he sells it or not, Audesse says this summer he'll be taking his family out on the water on their 24-foot sailboat.

Mr. AUDESSE: Because even the worst day on sailing, you get back to the dock, you haven't spent a dime.

(Soundbite of whistle blowing)

MULLEN: The 230-foot cruise ship Mount Washington burns about 70,000 gallons of diesel fuel per season, running several tours of the lake each day. Owner and captain Jim Morash says this is the first year fuel costs have been a threat to his bottom line. But he's not raising rates. Instead, he's hoping to fill up the boat with tourists taking local vacations to save money.

Mr. JIM MORASH (Cruise Ship Owner): People staying closer to home this year for the summertime and visiting maybe some of their diamonds in their own backyard.

MULLEN: And Morash says for most New Englanders the Lakes Region is a jewel that's just half a tank of gas away.

For NPR News, I'm Shannon Mullen.

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