How Expensive Can It Get?

Gas prices have been hovering around a $1.50 a gallon in my neck of the woods. In other areas it has gone beyond $2.00 a gallon. We all know that your marina will probably be even higher due to the economics of running a fuel dock. Watching all this has made me start to wonder just how expensive gas has to get before it changes the average boaters attitude towards fuel economy. It obviously isn't $1.50 a gallon, we've been beyond that for a couple years now!

Whenever I read an article about fuel economy, it almost always seems to be written by someone whose real goal is to convince all the planing hull owners of the world that they are destroying the earth and that going fast isn't necesary. Basically, they are sailboaters and paddlers who would gladly outlaw planing powerboats if they could. Why is their solution always to change the lifestyle of everyone else to be more inline with what they consider acceptable? Now, I won't get into the whole global warming debate. Lets just say that I'll believe it when someone can tell me what the temperature of the earth is supposed to be, how they determined it, and what method we should use to measure it.

Years ago, small planing boats had much smaller engines. This was mostly because large engines were not available. This led to very efficient hull shapes as there was no other way of getting good speed with the limited horsepower engines of the day. These boats, with their wood hulls, were also generally lighter than the average production boat today. Granted, they didn't have the accomodations of our modern boats, but somehow people were able to go out on them and enjoy a day on the water without a blender or microwave. It almost seems that the more horsepower we have available, the more willing we are to waste it!

Doesn't it seem logical to think we could come up with hulls that were efficient, build them from modern lightweight materials and push them with the smaller and more economical four-stroke outboards we have available today? Yet whenever I go to a boat show, or look through the boating mags each month, all I see are the same old heavy, wide deep-V hulls being pushed by a big V-6 outboard (or 2 or 3 . . . ). I know the builders are trying to build boats that will find favor with the greatest number of buyers, but it would be nice if once in a while they would try something a little more experimental. This is one area where the consolidation of builders will not be to the benefit of the consumer as it will reduce the choices available and the willingness to experiment by the builders.

So where is this rambling assemblage of partially related topics going? I guess in my own meandering way, I am trying to figure out how many miles-per-dollar your wallet can handle before you give up your present boat and look for something different? As a boat designer, my threshold is pretty low, as befitting my meager income! But for those of you with more disposable income than the average boat designer, just how high does fuel have to get before you decide to change your boating habits? If I could answer that question, maybe I could be ahead of the curve for once!

Timm Smith
December 1, 2003