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No oil for troubled waters
Hugh D. Whall
October 29, 1973
Little Annapolis, Md. awoke last week and shook itself with relief. Not since they burned the brig Peggy Stewart to protest tea taxes in 1774 had the town been rocking to such an uproar. On one flank was homecoming at the Naval Academy. On the other flank a crowd decked out in white flannels, gold-buckled loafers and turtleneck sweaters hit the U.S. Powerboat Show on the waterfront, the largest exhibition of its kind, where there were 250 new boats ranging from a 68-foot, $350,000 floating Taj Mahal from Chris-Craft to a mighty mite called the Vega 30, price $30,000.
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October 29, 1973

No Oil For Troubled Waters

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Little Annapolis, Md. awoke last week and shook itself with relief. Not since they burned the brig Peggy Stewart to protest tea taxes in 1774 had the town been rocking to such an uproar. On one flank was homecoming at the Naval Academy. On the other flank a crowd decked out in white flannels, gold-buckled loafers and turtleneck sweaters hit the U.S. Powerboat Show on the waterfront, the largest exhibition of its kind, where there were 250 new boats ranging from a 68-foot, $350,000 floating Taj Mahal from Chris-Craft to a mighty mite called the Vega 30, price $30,000.

All in all it was the most sumptuous array of powercraft ever put on review on a single stretch of American water: fishermen, cruisers, runabouts, trawlers—above all, trawlers. Although they have a Tugboat Annie look about them, trawlers are drawing increasing attention with their no-nonsense practicality and sturdiness. Unfortunately, they are also inducing a few unscrupulous manufacturers to stick trawler-type tops on cruiser-style bottoms in their hurry to get aboard the bandwagon. This is akin to fastening a truck cab onto a Formula I racing car chassis.

The proprietors of the extravaganza were Peter Carroll and Jerry Wood, the pair that launched the in-the-water concept with sailboats several years ago. Last year they had a go with motorboats but, not too cleverly, they emphasized the word "yacht" in promotional spiels. The ploy frightened off powerboat men, who stayed away in droves, apparently in the belief that snobs were in charge. This year the people came out, but despite the brightly striped marquees and sparkling hulls there was an undercurrent of nervousness. About fuel.

True, powerboat sales are soaring and one could hear words from such as Nina Vogt, an industry spokesman, that "our contacts in the four corners of the U.S. report no great gas shortages." The plain fact is that it is not easy to get all the fuel one might want. Indeed, mention of the gas shortage at the show caused faces to go somber and hands to tremble.

Chris-Craft's elegant 68-footer motored from her building site at Holland, Mich. to Annapolis, and was limited to 100 gallons of diesel fuel at most marinas. Since she burns 50 gallons an hour, Captain Tom Routh was forced to stop time and again to keep the tanks safely topped up. At one place he was refused fuel altogether.

The prettiest boat in the show, the Wasque 32 out of Vineyard Haven, Mass., also came in under her own steam. "I was refused fuel at Stamford, Conn. and also Oyster Bay, N.Y.," said David C. Thompson, president of the company that builds this fiber-glass takeoff on a downeast lobsterman. "I finally got some gas at City Island near New York, but I had to slip the guy 10 bucks."

Among other crisis stories told at Annapolis was the case of Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, which pumps more than one million gallons of gas and diesel oil a year. Fuel ran short in June. Since then, Marina Manager Ronald Stroud has placed his steady customers on a precautionary quota.

While Pier 66 probably sells more fuel than any other marina on the East Coast, West River Marina off Chesapeake Bay prides itself on trying harder. Last Memorial Day, one of the busiest weekends of the season, West River suddenly found itself out of gas while boats impatiently queued up at the dock.

"I called up Phillips 66," said Owner David Radack angrily, "but all they told me was I'd used up-my allotment. I found another source. Don't ask me where. I have no problem now."

But others do. Some marinas now restrict boats to two gallons of fuel per foot of length per visit to the pumps. Others refuse any but old customers, while still others will sell only to members of yacht clubs. Trailerable boats, meanwhile, fill up at gas stations on land rather than run the risk of being starved on the water.

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