Friday, March 18, Maryland became the first state in the country to temporarily remove its gasoline tax. Gov. Larry Hogan has signed emergency legislation declaring a 30-day gas tax holiday. Marylanders will save 36 cents per gallon on gasoline and about 37 cents per gallon on diesel fuel, though prices are still 60 cents per gallon higher than just a month ago.
The measure gave drivers a small sigh of relief, but leaves boaters wondering what this season on the Bay has in store for them.
“The challenge for us in the boating industry is that the season is just getting started,” says Susan Zellers, outgoing executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland. “Most of our members haven’t even splashed their boats.
Motorboats are usually launched with full tanks of gas leading to a big bet on whether or not it is better to launch now or wait until closer to summer. .
“We have clients talking about toning down their springs and canceling trips until later in the season,” says Port Annapolis yacht project manager Steve Macauley. “People certainly consider gas prices when determining what to do.”
We spoke with an Upper Bay marina manager who asked not to be identified about what he sees at the docks. Barrel rentals are down significantly, at about 60% capacity, and they believe it’s all down to gas prices.
“Our average LOA here is 28 feet,” they said. “But a 28-foot boat can have a gas tank between 80 and 400 gallons, depending on the boat. It’s a big chunk of change.
A boat owner in Annapolis who also asked not to be identified told us he was waiting because of the size of his fuel tank. “My tank holds 400 gallons,” he said. “And gas is $1.50 more per gallon than this time last year. It’s hard to say if it’s best to wait and see, but considering how little I expected to be in the water in April, I decided to wait.
If the issues of supply and demand are not significantly impacted for automotive gasoline, on water it is another story. We have spoken to several operators who have raised concerns about bad gas entering reservoirs if gas demand on the water is significantly lower this year.
At Herrington Harbor South, fuel tanks are polished before the start of each season so operators can be sure the fuel is clean when it enters your boat.
“A fuel screening service is in place each winter,” says Tyler Rice, harbor master at Herrington Harbor South. “It’s something we’ve done historically and we think it makes a real difference. They show us the before and after, and that’s a significant difference.
Rice mentions that boats that have ethanol in their gas may want to be careful about how long they keep their boats out of service with fuel still in their tanks. “Ethanol attracts water, so if you’re ethanol-free, you don’t have to worry about it as much.”
Now is the perfect time for all boaters to become (more) fuel conscious. BoatUS Foundation offers some smart tips on how to do this.
For one, an annual engine tune-up can help you save money at the gas dock. An efficiently running ship burns less gas than a rusty ship. And on that note, make sure your propeller is suitable for your boat. The right accessory can increase energy efficiency by 10%, so it’s worth having yours checked by a professional. While they’re there, have them look for knocks, bumps, or barnacles. A clean ride is a smooth ride.
Also consider how much water you carry. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. If your water tanks can hold 100 gallons, you are carrying significant additional cargo.
For boaters who like to see the big picture while in operation, installing a fuel flow meter can help you gauge when you are working most efficiently.
Most importantly, avoid excessive idling. It’s a common misconception that engines need time to warm up. Modern engines are fuel injected, so when you start them, they’re ready to go in a minute or two.