Chesapeake fishing charters feeling fuel price pinch

BALTIMORE – High gas prices are burning a hole through the money made by charter fishing and tour boat operators on the Chesapeake Bay, who already run on thin profit margins, the Baltimore Business Journal reported in a recent story.

Officials at the Annapolis Boat Shows, which began Oct. 6, and trade associations say they are concerned about the long-term impact on the industry, if gas prices remain high, according to the story.

Prices in the area are way up. At the Inner Harbor Marina, diesel fuel was selling for $2.79 and mid-grade gasoline for $3.99 per gallon in recent days. Diesel was selling for $2.99 at Annapolis City Marina Ltd., while gasoline cost $3.99 per gallon. The average price of diesel fuel in the Central Atlantic region was $3.04 per gallon this week, 89 cents higher than one year ago.

“Fuel used to be a very small part of my costs. Now it’s a major part of my costs,” said Capt. Don Marani, who runs Capt. Don’s Fishing Charters in Fells Point, Md. He spends $600 fueling his 46-foot Baybuilt fishing boat, three times what it used to cost him before the price spike. Marani can burn nearly $100 in fuel costs for an eight-hour trip with six passengers, which brings in $425.

“I don’t want to pass along [the costs] to customers,” Marani said.

At the 34th Annual Powerboat Show in Annapolis, which takes place Oct.13-16, there is some concern that high gas prices might make first-time boat buyers think twice, said Susan Zellers, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland.

But gas prices have left many leisure boaters undaunted. Gas is just one of the many expenditures associated with maintaining a boat. A $250,000 powerboat might cost $6,000 a year in maintenance, dockage and insurance, said Rick Franke, general manager of the Annapolis Power Boat School. In addition, the owner might pay $2,500 a month in loans, making the price of fuel just a fraction of the overall costs.

Officials at the Annapolis Boat Shows don’t anticipate sales to slow down this year. This year, boat owners are “biting the bullet,” Franke said. But if the price of gas remains high until spring, boaters could cut down their boat use, he said.

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