With last Tuesday marking the first day of spring, and balmy weather marking the change of seasons several days before that, the time has arrived when pleasure boaters traditionally de-winterize their crafts and take to the South Jersey waters.
The year, though, the boat business is hurting.
The current high price of fuel – including both gasoline mixes and diesel – has affected all aspects of the boating industry, from pleasure and commercial cruising to the facilities where the boats are docked.
“We’ve only put in about 100 slips,” said Steve Fleetwood, manager of the Port Norris Marina in Cumberland County and a lifelong resident of nearby Dividing Creek. “We have room for about 200, but we just haven’t put them in because we can’t rent them out.”
Fleetwood explained that the marina business, or at least the Port Norris Marina, has been in decline for more than a decade now.
Many see boating as an expensive hobby, but Fleetwood said that at about $900 per year, the average price for renting a slip has not changed for the past decade. But the price of gas is nearing an all-time high, and that’s a rising tide that, in this case, does not float all boats.
“The marina is a break-even business,” he said. “The price of fuel is constantly going up and we don’t buy in volume, so it’s not like we’re really making money on it.”