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Marine fuel prices, why so hard?

Written by Ben Ellison on May 9, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

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I'm so close to home!  But good old Maine welcomed me with a full menu of fog, rain, and wind -- topped off with a foul tide -- so it seemed wise to take a break behind the Rockland breakwater, make some tea and discuss marine fuel prices. One of many things I learned on this trip to South Carolina and back is how much diesel prices can vary, even within the same harbor. So I was quite keen to give the new MarineFuel.com IOS app a spin. Thanks to partner Fugawi it's quite a piece of work just as a free marina-oriented mapping program with goodies like tracking, go-to navigation, and photo waypoints. But you won't see the $Fuel icons unless you subscribe to the pricing data, and so far that's been quite a disappointment...

When you tap into any of those three $fuel icons in Rockland, you'll find that the prices are from last August, which isn't very useful. And Rockland isn't unusual; I've seen very few current prices since I started using the app in South Carolina. It made me wonder if something was wrong with the app or the company but then there marinas like my home harbor's Wayfarer Marine that are showing prices as current as a week or two. Admittedly, it's pretty early in the boating season -- and silly me thought he was going to surf Spring home -- and Flori da pricing generally looks much more up to date. But is something amiss at MarineFuel.com?...

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The MF app certainly has potential as the $10 I paid for a month's use is trivial compared to the savings possible on a boat like Gizmo, let alone the bigger or faster-moving ones. Wayfarer's price, incidentally, is probably pretty good for these parts (and there's lots more info on their facilities further down that page, which again is available in the free portion of the app), as I know you can find plenty of $4.70 diesel along the New England coast right now. But I'm glad I'll be getting home with possibly enough fuel for the summer already purchased right in New Bedford. I was going there anyway (entries about visits to Imtra and Edson will follow) but found Sea Fuels Marine Services thanks to ActiveCaptain...

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Yes, ActiveCaptain information like fuel prices and my Sea Fuels review now show up in Garmin HomePort planning software, but I'm also using the screen above as another tease. Note that a test Garmin Quatix watch had recently been downloaded to HomePort and thus you can see a track of me going the city dinghy landing and then the Whaling Museum and then briefly back to the boat (wine pick up ;-) before going to Fairhaven for dinner (where I should have shut off the watch's GPS). Not everything works but it's a phenomenal boating watch, more soon.
   At any rate, I've seen a lot of up-to-date (and completely free) fuel price info in ActiveCaptain but there is no way I know of to access it quickly, which is why I've sought other sources like the Waterway Guide reports. They are not complete by any means -- no source I know of is -- but they are quick to scan...

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My favorite resource, though, is CruiserNet (look under the State tabs on the right). Not only does CruiserNet call marinas along the ICW every week (I'm told), but they let you sort the results in several useful ways, as shown below. It's a great help for cruising boats like mine that can go about 500 miles between fill-ups (depending on my throttle hand), and can thus shop wisely if they have the information. And, yes, I did happily fuel at Top Rack Marina both times I passed by (and got a free night's south-bound dockage in exchange for dining well in their restaurant).
   But CruisersNet only covers the ICW. Why can't ActiveCaptain sort marinas for a given region by fuel prices? And certainly MarineFuel.com should. Why is this so hard? And why would an embarrassed secretary for a marina in New Jersey (Hoffman's) have to tell me that they don't give out fuel prices on the phone? Let's discuss (but now I need to get home ;-). 

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