Marine fuel prices, why so hard?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 9, 2013
MarineFuel_app_cPanbo.jpg

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 Florida 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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Comments

This is a great resource for the Pacific Northwest.

http://www.fineedge.com/fuelsurvey.html

Seems to be updated regularly. We will certainly use it when we return there next week.

Herb

Posted by: Herb Stark at May 9, 2013 5:26 PM | Reply

For a short time as we continue to roll out enhanced features, all registered members of MarineFuel.com (free or premium subscribers) are able to use their login credentials from the website to access the mobile app premium data (without purchasing the app subscription) which includes fuel prices and vital contact information for marinas and fuel docks.  One of the 'differences' about MarineFuel.com and the mobile app developed by Fugawi, is the ability for boaters to contact MarineFuel.com Data Integrity Agents directly, and request updates for a specific region if the displayed pricing is older than desired.  See here:  http://marinefuel.com/update-request

The app will ask for a one-time fee of $4.99 for the update request, but this particular service is included in any of the website's Premium Subscriptions. Also note, MarineFuel.com released a new membership menu this week, which significantly reduced the cost of accessing Premium Data and Customer Services, allowing boaters to only pay for Premium Data & Support when they need it most.  We also offer the ability to filter the database and search for fuel prices by region.

Lastly, MarineFuel.com displays icons which indicate whether or not a marina/fuel dock is only open seasonally (it is a blue box with a snow flake in the center).  Many of the Northern facilities closed down in August of last year, but we have begun working our way through these areas and are updating pricing / information on a daily basis.  Our core service is fuel pricing and a comprehensive marinas directory, and we are dedicated to supporting the boater's need for up-to-date information on-demand, or when trip planning.

Please take advantage of the Data Integrity Support that is available to you... simply alert us if you are unhappy with price dates in your area, and we’ll promptly do the work so you won't have to!  Thanks for the write-up and providing us this opportunity to help the market be aware of our services!  We encourage all users to contact us directly as we are here to serve, and happy to help explain how to make the most of our services and technology.

Posted by: MarineFuel Christine at May 10, 2013 10:54 AM | Reply

Wow, that cheep?
We pay that price twice

Posted by: Hendrik at May 10, 2013 12:36 PM | Reply

Ben, We just returned from 3 months in the Bahamas and the first thing we need is fuel. Fortunately we filled up before leaving and made it all the way back to Stuart without buying that expensive Bahamian diesel. I have found the most current prices on cruisersnet but there is still a lack of coverage from any one source. We were heading to a marina in Manatee Pocket that showed the lowest price in the area and finally stopped at another marina that was cheaper still, just by seeing the price sign. Having worked for Waterway Guide, I have an understanding of the difficulty in getting marinas to report prices on a regular basis as well as the enormous amount of time it takes to gather and post the information.

Posted by: Capn. Chuck at May 10, 2013 7:54 PM | Reply

MarineFuel.com Data Integrity Department has contacted all marinas listed as offering fuel from Maine to Rhode Island. Many are not offering fuel until next week, or closer to Memorial Day weekend. We have pulled nearly 70 listings from the database that we will reinsert as facilities open up, and we are able to capture current fuel pricing. All the pricing shown in this area is now current, and we will keep following up, as well as working our way down the coast... it's simply "what we do, in your service"! Please always feel free to contact us and let us know when you would like to see more current pricing in a specific area.

Posted by: MarineFuel Christine at May 11, 2013 3:55 PM | Reply

MarineFuel is an interesting concept, but it remains to be seen how many boaters are willing to pay for data that is available for free from ActiveCaptain, Waterway Guide, and CruisersNet.

My concern is that fuel price reporting, marina rating, and navigation alerts is becoming too fragmented, and that nobody is doing a really good job. It would be nice if the three free services could get together and reduce the duplication.

Posted by: Rick R at May 11, 2013 11:55 PM | Reply

Hi, Christine. I can see the changes your data department made and they make the MarineFuel app a lot more useful. I also appreciate it when a developer is willing to discuss their product on a blog like this. Thanks!

I must add, though, that I still see old data in some places I recently passed through, like Cape May, NJ, and New Bedford, MA. Fuel docks are definitely open in those ports, especially since both are home to numerous year-round commercial fishing vessels. I'm pretty sure that those fuel docks and many others with August 2012 prices in MF actually kept their pumps running much later and are pumping again now.

At any rate, I'm sure you're working hard to get your database current, and I imagine it's not easy. But the recent updates show why your service has value. There is more fuel price disparity right here in midcoast Maine than I had realized, so knowledge can equal significant savings.

I'm not sure that my entry was very articulate (after too much driving in thick fog), but a feature I'd like to see is the ability to search and sort prices over a fairly large geographic area as I have enough range to strategize fuel stops and amounts. I think there might also be value in historical pricing since it's so hard to get all the current data, but I'd like it segregated somehow, or filterable. Is MarineFuel.com working in these directions?

Posted by: Ben in reply to MarineFuel Christine at May 12, 2013 5:53 PM | Reply

In terms of good pricing, my rule of thumb is to find a place where a local heating oil truck can deliver diesel directly to the boat. I have almost never seen marina/fuel dock prices undercut these.

Posted by: Tom Clements at May 12, 2013 6:43 PM | Reply

Hello Ben and followers of this panbo.com blog!

Thank you for your continued outreach - to answer your questions Ben, yes we do collect and store historical data, as well as offer the ability to sort the database (on the web) via various options, such as one state at a time, ICW MM or Lat/Long. Using the search feature via the Lat/long tab will allow you broaden your search results. http://marinefuel.com/dock-prices

As for other comments regarding 'free' sites offering fuel pricing information, it has been known to us for several years that some of these alternate resources rely on our website to enter prices into their websites, despite the specific notice in the Terms and Conditions stating this is not allowed. We know this because we have received calls from employees who identified themselves as working for these other sites, and stating that they are trying to find current pricing for specific marinas / fuel docks, thusly calling to ask for our help. In the interest of 'fair play' and professional courtesy, I shall refrain from naming names.

Our core business is maintaining a comprehensive directory, and supporting active users who are ready to make buying decisions. The 'fuel price update request' feature helps us identify which areas to focus on, as data collection is very labor intensive, but our response is prompt (as you hopefully noticed over the weekend). My Data Team is 'on top of' collecting current pricing along the east coast this week... once again, I appreciate your feedback, and always welcome you to contact me directly for further discussion.

Please keep an eye on things as we ramp up for the Season, as priority number one is to keep our members and visitors happy by providing quick and easy access to the vital information they seek.

Thank you again for your comments.
Christine

Posted by: MarineFuel Christine at May 13, 2013 4:10 PM | Reply

Writing that "CruisersNet only covers the ICW" fuel prices was shortsighted of me!

"Please be advised that we report many fuel prices for marinas and other fuel retailers from southern Virginia to the Western Florida coastline which are not directly on any of the Southeaster USA Waterways. We also report fuel prices for marinas in the Florida Keys, on both the inside and Hawk Channel passages, as well as extensive fuel price reporting on the Western Florida coastline. As I'm sure you know, this latter coastline is only partially serviced by the Western Florida ICW, but we cover fuel prices everywhere from Marco Island to Tarpon Springs."

Posted by: Ben at May 17, 2013 12:23 PM | Reply

Captain Ben:
Many, many thanks for your excellent review of the fuel price reporting services of the Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net (http://www.CruisersNet.net). And, yes, we DO INDEED actually telephone all the fuel outlets each week (usually on Wednesdays), to gather our price data. We learned early on that by relying on marinas and other fuel retailers to send us their pricing, resulted in a 33% (or so) response. That was unacceptable, so we have a long suffering fuel price editor, Captain Kaye Adams, who makes dozens and dozens of phone calls each week.
Also, be advised that when, even after several attempts, we are not able to reach a fuel dealer, we do NOT just leave last week's price in place. Rather, we report, "Could Not Obtain Data." We feel that is a far more useful approach for the cruising community, rather than just leave the old pricing in place.
Finally, many thanks for your above correction on the areas for which we provide fuel price coverage. Yes, indeed, we have fuel prices for many Southeastern USA marina and fuel price retailers which are not located on any of the official southeastern "Waterways," including both sides of the Florida Keys and Western Florida.
Keep up the GREAT work Ben, and, once again, from the entire Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net bunch, THANKS!
Claiborne Young
Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net
http://www.CruisersNet.net
[email protected]

Posted by: Claiborne S. Young at May 18, 2013 10:06 AM | Reply

I find active captain fuel prices to be all over the place, similar to waterway guide.
Cruisers Net seems to have the most reliable info.

Posted by: Captain Jeff at May 24, 2013 2:54 PM | Reply

Excellent! ActiveCaptain has vastly improved its fuel price services. You can now look at price sorted lists by state (and some foreign countries) if you are registered member:

https://activecaptain.com/fuelLists/fuelIndex.php

There are still plenty of missing marinas, but we users can fix that. I'm particularly tickled because it looks like one of the best deals on the East Coast is right down the coast from me at the Port Clyde General Store. If "3.41 USD per gallon including all taxes" is close to true, Port Clyde will be first stop on the way south on about 9/7.

Posted by: Ben at August 27, 2014 9:49 AM | Reply

Doh! Port Clyde fuel price seems to have changed radically. Just quoted $4.15 over the phone. But AC's data for Journey's End in Rockland -- $3.75 including taxes -- is correct. Plus I was able to buy a Fuel Key -- $25 for life, fill yourself any time, $.20 off per gallon -- over the phone.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Ben at September 4, 2014 11:20 AM | Reply

Looks like GIGO still applies.
I begged Claiborne to expand SSECN further north!

Posted by: captain Jeff at September 4, 2014 11:31 AM | Reply

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