Marinas see successful holiday weekend despite increased fuel prices

The rising price of fuel has not only affected travel expenses, but also how much a day on the lake might cost.

The average price of fuel in Arkansas was $4.33 per gallon on Thursday, according to AAA. Boaters, however, have had to pay more than $6 per gallon.

At $6.08 per gallon for 89 octane fuel as of Wednesday, Hot Springs Marina still saw a successful July Fourth weekend on Lake Hamilton, co-owner Gabe Galster said.

“We were prepared for a little slower holiday season, but were elated at the end to see that we actually did better than last year as far as our total revenue.”

Jorge Lopez, the assistant manager at Mountain Harbor Marina on Lake Ouachita, said although the number of visitors out at the lake over the holiday weekend was lower than years in the past, the marina still saw a “fantastic” crowd.

While Hot Springs Marina only offers mid-grade fuel, Mountain Harbor Marina offers mid-grade as well as premium fuel. Lopez said Mountain Harbor Marina’s fuel was priced at $6.19 per gallon for 89 octane mid-grade and $6.39 per gallon for 91 octane premium as of Thursday.

“Around this time last year, I believe they were around $3 to $4,” Lopez said. “Nothing over $4, not until prices start going up.”

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Even with the dramatic increase in the price of fuel, Galster said boaters will do whatever it takes to get on the water.

“This is their break, their escape,” Galster’s cousin and co-owner of Hot Springs Marina, Jefferson Talbot, said. “A couple dollars more at the pump, I’m not going to say it doesn’t affect them necessarily, but they’re going out on the water.”

Lopez said he has noticed fewer people out on Lake Ouachita than previous summers “because of inflation and everything,” noting it hasn’t affected the marina’s sales too much.

Customers at Hot Springs Marina, however, are finding ways to save on fuel on the docks, Galster said.

“We’re seeing people say ‘I just want to put $50 in’ or ‘I just want to put 10 gallons in.’ Now, we see that every year, but I would say that I witnessed it a little bit more this year,” he said.

“Majority of the time, people just ask us to fill up their boat or just to top it off, but now we get more people asking us to stop the fuel at a certain price when they get fuel for their boats,” Lopez said.

“We’ve seen people averaging less fuel consumption,” Galster said, “So instead of going out and just hammering down all day long, I think they’re going out doing a little tubing, but then they’re renting a mat, rolling it out and just anchoring off and hanging out for a few hours instead of just running gas all day.”

Hot Springs Marina only offers mid-grade fuel in order to provide customers with quality fuel, but also keep the price reasonable, Galster said.

“There’s a misconception in general, whether it be the mom and pop gas station or the marina, is that because gas prices are way up that we’re just raking it in,” he said. “It’s actually gone just the opposite. We have actually cut our profitability significantly, about one-third over what we normally have a markup in our fuel, just trying to keep it as affordable as we can for our customers.”

Fuel on the water is more expensive than regular fuel from a gas station for different reasons.

“It’s a completely different fuel,” Talbot said. “Typically, it’s going to be a higher octane and it’s going to be a 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. The transportation fees are completely different .

“The marinas aren’t just making money hand over fist on the gas, we’re paying more than the cheap gas at the pump just to get it to our parking lot before even putting it in our tanks.”

Co-owners of Hot Springs Marina, Gabe Galster, left, and Jefferson Talbot discuss the rising price of fuel. – Photo by Courtney Edwards of The Sentinel-Record
photo The price of mid grade 89 octane fuel from Hot Springs Marina was $6.08 as of Wednesday. – Photo by Courtney Edwards of The Sentinel-Record
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