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Gauging the effect of high fuel prices

MAY 25 — Rising gas prices might not keep boaters off the water, according to the results of a national survey released Wednesday, but they might throttle down the number of offshore runs.

The survey of about 1,900 U.S. boaters — conducted by the RecreationalMarineResearchCenter, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and West Marine — indicated that 94 percent of boaters plan to be out on the water as usual this summer.

The findings are part of the Boat Owners’ Spending Habits Monthly Survey, conducted on a monthly basis from April through September each year. The May study revealed that 57 percent of boaters’ vacation plans will be affected by rising gas prices and 25 percent will reduce the amount they go boating.

They are apparently more likely to curtail other activities this summer — dining out (45 percent), entertainment (45 percent) and driving (52 percent).

“Boaters are out on the water to relax and spend time with friends and family,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich says in a news release on the association’s Web site. “Boating is a lifestyle that isn’t going to be significantly affected by what happens with prices at the pump.”

The NMMA also released its initial findings from its 2005 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, which highlights boating sales and participation during 2005. Last year the industry saw 71.3 million overall participants, up 2.3 million over 2004. New boat sales “remained steady,” the association says, dipping less than 1 percent to 864,450 units. Dollar sales increased by 8 percent in 2005 to $11.6 billion.

A hard copy version of the NMMA’s 2005 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract will become available in mid- to late June, the association says. Copies can be ordered by calling (312) 946-6209.

Jason Fell