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Boating Season Feels the Pinch From High Gas Prices

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Boating Season Feels the Pinch From High Gas Prices

The Chicago boating season officially starts today. There are more than 58,000 registered boaters in the Chicago area. But marinas might not be filling up like they have in years past.

The Chicago Coast Guard reports fewer search and rescue missions in the last few boating seasons. Petty Officer Michael Arnold credits boating safety classes for some of that decrease. But he says perhaps a bigger reason is that there have just been fewer boats out here on the water.

ARNOLD: If I had a boat and I’m paying 6 bucks a gallon at the marina for fuel, instead of going out every weekend, I’m only going to go out one or two weekends a month and cut back on what I used to. Plenty of people still out here, just not as busy as it what it has been in the past years.

Belmont, Burnham and Jackson harbors have fuel stations with prices determined by the park district. Last year, marina gas cost between $3.50 and $3.70 per gallon. But this year prices are expected to start at around $4.40 a gallon. Filling a tank can cost anywhere from $80 to thousands of dollars depending on the size of the boat and how fast it goes. But Chicago Harbor manager Scott Stevenson says that’s nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that it can cost to buy and maintain a boat.

STEVENSON: Once a boater has invested that much money into his or her boat, they’re going to not like it, but in many cases still buy fuel even though it’s expensive.

Stevenson thinks rising gas costs won’t keep boaters off the lake, but it will force them to be more fuel conscious. One way to conserve fuel is to drive more slowly. And the Coast Guard says that’s actually a good thing since many boating accidents have speedy drivers to blame.

Chicago’s boating season ends on Halloween, October 31.

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