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Will gas prices change your boating plans?

Rising gas prices might not keep boaters off the water, but some might pull back on their number of offshore runs.

A national survey of around 1,900 U.S. boaters — released in May and conducted by the Recreational Marine Research Center, National Marine Manufacturers Association and West Marine — indicates 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 from April through September each year.

The May study revealed that 57 percent of boaters say rising gas prices will affect their vacation plans, while 25 percent will reduce the amount they go boating. They are apparently more likely to curtail other activities, such as dining out (45 percent), entertainment (45 percent) and driving (52 percent).

The NMMA also released the initial findings from its 2005 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, which highlights boating sales and participation in the sport. Last year there were 71.3 million overall participants, up 2.3 million from 2004. New-boat sales remained steady, dipping less than 1 percent to 864,450 units, and dollar sales increased by 8 percent to $11.6 billion.

Copies of the 2005 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract were to be available by late June, according to the NMMA, and copies can be ordered by calling (312) 946-6209. www.nmma.org

— Jason Fell

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Marine safety inventor, advocate left his mark

The Norwegian immigrant credited as a pioneer in the development of cold-water survival suits died May 11 of congestive heart failure. He was 77.

Gunnar Guddal, who had been a longtime Seattle resident, said the inspiration for creating his neoprene immersion suits was the death at sea of his grandfather, a commercial fisherman. Though his wasn’t the first survival suit when he developed it in the late 1960s, Guddal’s design — along with his safety advocacy — eventually made immersion suits a staple of the commercial maritime industries. Guddal reportedly gave suits to Pacific Northwest fisherman to encourage their use and attended maritime trade shows, where his daughter displayed the suits while floating in a wading pool.

In 1991 the Coast Guard began requiring commercial ships to carry immersion suits as part of their life-saving equipment. In 2003 the Coast Guard gave Guddal an award for his contributions to marine safety. His company, Imperial International (www.imperialsuit.com ), still makes survival suits and now is run by his daughter, Kari.

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Boats on the block in ‘ultimate toy auction’

Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers is auctioning off the assets — including 17 boats and personal watercraft — of a Texas man who plead guilty to embezzling more than $77 million.

“In over 40 years of business, we’ve never seen such a vast array of unique items,” says Nick Nicholson, Ritchie Brothers senior vice president. “It truly is the ultimate ‘toy’ auction.”

Among the 1,100 items up for bid are two 42-foot Fountain go-fast boats, two pontoon boats, a ski boat and several personal watercraft. Other merchandise includes 13 automobiles, including cars from Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Lincoln and Cadillac; 11 SUVs; three motorcycles; three airplanes; a helicopter; heavy-duty ranch equipment like tractors, dump trucks and forklifts; and antique furniture.

During the “unreserved” auction, everything sells to the highest bidder, regardless of price. The auction was scheduled for July 15 at the Town and Country Air Park in Lubbock, Texas. For information, call (817) 237-6544. A full listing of items can be found at www.rbauction.com .

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Nordic Tugs Web site a ‘home study course’

Nordic Tugs has revamped its Web site to better educate boaters about the builder’s tug-style pilothouse cruisers from 32 to 52 feet. Laura Kaestner, Nordic Tugs marketing manager, says her company realizes experienced boaters want to learn from the site, which includes information on design, construction methods, and how the boats are sea-trialed.

“The new site is so informative we could call it Nordic Tugs 101, the home study course,” says Kaestner. www.nordictugs.com