Record-high gas prices have many boaters throughout the country saving and waiting for Independence Day to get out on the water, which could result in one of the busiest on-water holidays in decades. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), the nation’s largest advocacy, services and safety group with more than 800,000 dues-paying members, is advising boaters to be prepared and boat safely.
“We are anticipating a tsunami of boaters like never before seen,” said John Condon, vice president of towing services for BoatUS, which operates the nation’s largest on-water towing fleet, TowBoatUS. “While trends showed a steep decline in our service calls for assistance since Memorial Day, our members are telling us that they’re waiting until the July Fourth holiday weekend to take their boats out.” The number of requests the on-water towing service receives from boaters can be a barometer of boating traffic, indicating peak boating periods.
Boaters waiting until key holidays to get out on the water due to gas prices is a trend this year. As gas prices started to rapidly increase during the second quarter of 2022, TowBoatUS’s 24-hour call centers experienced a 22% increase in calls for on-water assistance during Memorial Day weekend, but then dropped 30%. The most common requests for on-water assistance from recreational boaters included engine breakdowns, running aground in a shallow area, needing a jumpstart, and running out of fuel. TowBoatUS 24/7 call centers typically receive more than 80,000 calls annually for routine assistance.
“We have decades of experience and statistics that point to things being different this year, and we’re contributing that to high gas prices, which are now above $5 a gallon in most parts of the country,” Condon added. “If you’re going to be on the water this Independence Day, it’s going to be busy, but there are still plenty of ways to be prepared, stay safe and have fun.”
Capt. Clayton Tieman, owner of TowBoatUS Tampa Bay, Florida, which covers more than 120 miles of coastline on the west coast of Florida from southern Tampa Bay north to Cedar Key, is already preparing for what he anticipates to be the busiest July Fourth on record. Tieman has 20 boat captains and 16 boats ready to assist boaters in need. He and his team of captains are already offering advice to families who are planning to go boating during the holiday.
“In these situations, when there are a record number of boats on the water, it’s important to slow down and be patient, whether you are on the water or preparing to launch from a boat ramp,” Tieman said. “We know from experience that boaters run into problems when they try to go too fast.”
Capt. Travis Coleman, owner of TowBoatUS Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, is also anticipating a record number of boaters this year and makes the point that boaters should prepare before they even leave for the lake.
“There are some essential steps boaters should take before they launch a boat at the ramp or from a slip,” Coleman noted. “Make sure your boat is safe for you and any passengers by inspecting your bilge pump, control cables, electrical components, fluids, and safety gear, to include properly sized life jackets for the operator and all passengers.”
Boaters who find themselves in need can summon routine on-water assistance by calling 800-391-4869 or downloading the BoatUS App. More information on towing services can also be found at BoatUS.com/Towing.