RAYMOND — Riley Tardiff is doing more drifting and docking at sandbars on Sebago Lake this summer, and sees many other boaters doing the same in an effort to save fuel.

“The sandbar by the state park was packed on July 4 this year. I love cruising around. But this year, I’m anchoring and swimming from sandbars more. A lot of people are,” said Tardiff, of Naples. “The gas prices definitely have had an impact.”

Meanwhile, George Madden of Gorham said the joy in taking his friends and their children out for a day of summer fun on the water is worth it, despite the soaring cost of fuel.

Recreational boaters this summer are pretty much divided into two camps: Those trying to find ways to save a tank of gas – costing between $200 and $300 – and those who will enjoy their favorite summer sport regardless of the cost.

A boat pulls into the launch at Sebago Lake Station Landing in Standish as a storm rolls in earlier this month. The price for a gallon of gas topped $5 a month ago and was about $4.72 early last week, according to AAA. That’s compared to $3.12 at the same time last year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The popular outdoor activity, along with fishing, accounts for $2.3 billion of the gross domestic product in Maine, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

But this year, those feeling the pinch to their wallet from trips to the pumps are tweaking how they go boating: anchoring more and cruising less, or simply staying closer to home. Hauling a boat on a trailer is also a greater fuel investment this summer.


“I’m working a little more (to earn more money), that’s the only change,” said Josh Brown of Standish, who owns a bass boat. “I’m sick of hearing guys who own big trucks complain about fuel prices. My thing is, you shouldn’t own these things if you can’t afford it.”

George Madden of Gorham helps pull out a friend’s boat at the launch at Sebago Lake Station Landing in Standish. Boaters have have altered their habits with higher fuel prices – more floating, less water skiing – but boat landings and traffic on the water has not suffered. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Brown was on his way to Sebago two weeks ago to meet up with a buddy. Both have found ways to lessen the impact of higher fuel prices. Jason Reali of Raymond said he’s still boating as much as he did in the past, but now he asks his friends to chip in for gas when they pile onto his boat on the weekends.

In the last month, gas prices in Maine have hovered around $5 per gallon for regular unleaded. The price topped $5 a month ago and still was as much as $4.72 early last week, according to AAA. That’s compared to $3.12 at the same time last year, AAA reported.

Considering that on-the-water fuel at a marinas runs as much as $2 more per gallon – because of the convenience in filling up while cruising on a lake – the cost of filling a tank of 25 to 75 gallons can run in the hundreds.

“I paid $305 to fill up 40 gallons this week at $7.49 a gallon. Not that I’m counting,” Rob Kimnach of North Conway, New Hampshire, said with a laugh as he waited to get his Boston Whaler inspected at the Raymond boat launch two weeks ago.

As a result, many boaters said they’re trying to fill up at roadside gas stations, if they can safely fit their boat and trailer beside the pump. Sometimes the height of a boat riding on a trailer makes filling up at a standard gas station logistically impossible. The gas hose often does not stretch to the fuel door if the boat is high off the ground.


Some boaters say they’re giving up water skiing for now, since it involves gunning the engine, which requires more gas.

“I’m a huge wakeboard and waterboard fan. But I’ve had to slow down on that because I’m more conscious of gas. To fill up 25 gallons at $7 (from the marina) costs $175,” said Cameron Lepage of Bridgton. “I usually go out and turn the motor off now.”

At Lakeside Convenience and Marina in Rangeley, Charyssa Farris said the lake seems less full of boats on some days now, she assumes because of the soaring gas prices. At Sebago Lake Marina, co-owner Karen Frechette said people are not cruising around as much, although the marina’s slips are full and the rental appointments are booked solid.

Meanwhile, at Moosehead Marina in Rockwood, co-owner Mark Gilbert said it’s clear that fewer people are filling up on the water at marinas. But boat traffic seems high, still. “As far as our 450 to 500 customers, we haven’t seen anyone use their boats less based on the fuel cost,” he added.

As a storm rolls in, Hai Pham of Old Orchard Beach hooks up his boat after pulling into the launch at Sebago Lake Station Landing in Standish. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Tim and Rachel Fiori of Raymond have been boating on Sebago for 20 years. As they hauled their Jet Ski out of Sebago onto a trailer two weeks ago, they said they haven’t changed one thing, though they have noticed the Sebago boat launch in Raymond has been quieter than usual on some days.

“In years past you couldn’t get on (the lake), the boat ramp was so crowded. It does seem less crowded this year,” Rachel Fiori said. “It’s nice.”


The Maine Warden Service reported that overall boater traffic in southern Maine has been about the same as last year, and complaints about rogue boat drivers are definitely not down, said Sergeant Carleton Richardson with the Warden Service.

“The thing is, the boating season in Maine is so short. People are spending $20,000 to $60,000 on these boats, so they want to use them,” Richardson said.

Julie Butler of Standish agreed wholeheartedly.

“I grew up on this lake,” Butler said as she took her pontoon boat out of the water two weeks ago. “This is what we do for fun.”

As Ashley and Lance Couture of Hollis put their pontoon boat on a mooring at the southern end of Sebago Lake, they said weekday evening cruises and weekend day trips still fill up their summer. It’s business as usual for their family.

“It’s an expensive sport. So is snowmobiling. That cost more this winter, as well,” Lance Couture said.

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