With Labor Day marking the end of the summer recreational boating season for many Americans, BoatU.S. reports that some good weather, some great fishing and a less-than-anticipated impact of fuel prices have kept boaters boating and it's on-the-water towboats busy this year helping disabled vessels, providing fuel drop-offs and tows back to port.
BoatU.S. on-the-water towing companies, --TowBoatU.S. and Vessel Assist -- report the following general observations on recreational boating activity:
Northeast/Mid-Atlantic: Continued good weather has meant more boats on the water and an increase in requests for on-the-water assistance over last year. However, in the north boating activity is expected to wind down shortly after the Labor Day holiday. If hurricane activity stays low and if fuel prices continue to soften, the fall boating season could remain strong in Mid-Atlantic states, including more snow bird boaters heading south through the ICW.
Florida: Boating is booming as hurricanes have stayed away -- so far -- and some boaters, having lost vessels in recent back-to-back years of storm activity, are returning to the water in new boats.
Gulf: Still greatly affected by the 2005 hurricane season, recreational boating in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama has dramatically decreased. Much needed boating-related infrastructure, such as boat clubs, marinas and service yards continue to struggle to rebuild.
California: "The season is not over and we plan to go full speed well into October with phenomenal fishing," reports Vessel Assist San Diego owner, Capt. Robert Butler. "The difference between this year and last year is 'buddy boating,' or the practice of fishermen sharing trips to the fishing grounds," he adds. Unusually warm water and less red tide throughout the Southern California coast is helping the trend. "We see no end sight with the current weather pattern," says Butler, who says he'll be delaying the seasonal lay up of part of his fleet to meet continued demand.
Pacific Northwest: With less than a quarter inch of rain since early July, waterway traffic has been generally above average -- especially on Seattle's Lake Washington. Fuel prices spiked in 2005 but since then have remained stable or slightly decreased, allowing many power boaters to return to their old summer cruising patterns in the San Juan Islands and beyond.
Great Lakes: With "The best walleye fishing in 10 years" reported by Capt. Vern Mienke of Lake Erie's TowBoatU.S. South Shore, recreational boating traffic has been up. With a short season, Great Lakes boaters have enthusiastically responded to good summer weather patterns.
Midwest/Inland: Capt. Charles Meyer of TowBoatU.S. Lake of the Ozarks says that volume has been up, especially weekday boating activity. "It's not as concentrated on the weekends anymore, and boaters are still spending more time in raft ups rather than burning fuel."
Why Recreational Boaters Call for Assistance
Nationally, the top five reported reasons why boaters called for assistance are:
1. Unknown engine failure: 49%
2. Grounding: 16%
3. Out of fuel or other fuel problems: 10%
4. Battery jump starts or electrical problems: 12%
5. Engine overheating: 4%
Often referred to as the "boat owners auto club," BoatU.S. Towing Services offers on-the-water assistance plans starting at around $30 a year and has over 500 response vessels at 260 ports across the country. Boaters can call 800-888-4869 or visit http://www.BoatUS.com/Towing for more information.