Rising fuel prices not only affected travel costs, but also the cost of a day on the lake.
The average fuel price in Arkansas was $4.33 a gallon Thursday, according to AAA. Boaters, however, had to pay over $6 a gallon.
At $6.08 a gallon for 89-octane fuel on Wednesday, Hot Springs Marina still had a successful July 4 weekend on Lake Hamilton, co-owner Gabe Galster said.
“We were prepared for a slightly slower holiday season, but were pleased at the end to see that we did better than last year in terms of our total revenue.”
Jorge Lopez, assistant manager of Mountain Harbor Marina on Lake Ouachita, said that although the number of visitors to the lake over the holiday weekend was lower than in previous years, the marina still hosted a “fantastic” crowd.
While Hot Springs Marina only offers mid-grade fuel, Mountain Harbor Marina offers mid-grade fuel as well as premium fuel. Lopez said Mountain Harbor Marina fuel was priced at $6.19 a gallon for an average octane of 89 and $6.39 a gallon for an upper octane of 91 as of Thursday. .
“Around this time last year, I believe they were around $3 to $4,” Lopez said. “Anything above $4, not until prices started to rise.”
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Even with the dramatic increase in fuel prices, Galster said boaters will do whatever it takes to get in the water.
“This is their break, their escape,” said Galster’s cousin and Hot Springs Marina co-owner Jefferson Talbot. “A few more dollars at the pump, I’m not going to say it doesn’t necessarily affect them, but they come out on the water.”
Lopez said he’s noticed fewer people on Lake Ouachita than in previous summers “because of inflation and everything,” noting that it hasn’t affected marina sales too much.
Hot Springs Marina customers, however, are finding ways to save fuel at the docks, Galster said.
“We see people saying ‘I just want to put in $50’ or ‘I just want to put in 10 gallons.’ he declared.
“Most of the time people just ask us to fuel their boat or just fill it up but now more and more people are asking us to stop fuel at a certain price when they get fuel for their boat,” Lopez said.
“We’ve seen people use less fuel on average,” Galster said. “So instead of going out and pounding all day, I think they go out and do a little bit of tubing, but then they rent a mat, roll it out and just anchor and hang out for a couple hours instead of just doing run the gas all day.”
Hot Springs Marina only carries mid-grade fuel to provide customers with quality fuel but also to keep the price reasonable, Galster said.
“There’s a general misconception, whether it’s the mom and pop gas station or the marina, that because gas prices are up, we’re just doing the rake,” he said. “It’s actually quite the opposite. We’ve actually cut our profitability drastically, about a third of what we normally have a profit margin on our fuel, just trying to keep it as affordable as possible for our customers.”
Fuel on water is more expensive than regular gas station fuel for a number of reasons.
“It’s a completely different fuel,” Talbot said. “Generally it will be higher octane and it will be non-ethanol gas. And then they actually hit us with different taxes and insurance and stuff to be able to have it on the water. completely different.
“Marinas don’t just make money off gas, we pay more than cheap gas at the pump just to get it to our parking lot before we even put it in our tanks.”