Top 10 Fuel-saving Tips for Boaters
February 1, 2006
To combat rising gas prices, noted marine do-it-yourself author Don Casey and West Marine, Inc., one of the world’s largest specialty retailers of boating supplies and accessories, have joined forces to provide boaters with a free pamphlet on “Lowering Your Fuel Costs.”
Photo by Yamaha Motor Corporation
By following these guidelines, boaters can go faster and farther for less.
1. Clean that bottom. If you moor your boat, be sure to fight plant and scum buildup because the extra friction it adds burns fuel. On boats with a paintable hull, a fresh coat of antifouling paint prevents growth.
2. Trim properly. Pushing water costs money. As soon as you’re out of the no-wake zone, get up on plane to save fuel. Distribute the weight on your boat evenly and install trim tabs if necessary. If you’ve got an outboard, consider the option of after-market hydrofoils.
3. Change the oil and replace the filter. Gasoline-powered engines require mindful tuning. Replacing the air filter and changing the oil every 100 operating hours is an intelligent way to keep your engine efficient and in tune.
4. Cruise gently. Apply only as much power as necessary to plane. And don’t cruise at top speed – pushing your engine to its limits wastes fuel. Try to make as few throttle adjustments as possible, and find your boat’s optimum cruising speed.
5. Watch your gauges – and get a flow meter. Monitor your speed, RPMs and fuel consumption to help find your boat’s “happiest” speed. If you install a fuel flow meter, you can monitor fuel consumption in real-time. This allows for accurate adjustment of throttle and trim.
6. Pay attention to your prop. Dings and irregularities in your propeller cause cavitation or turbulence – so get it reconditioned. If you’re running a three-bladed screw now, consider switching to four. You’ll plane quicker, stay on plane at lower speeds and get more power at similar RPM levels. The downside of four-blade props is a lower top end speed – but you don’t care about that because going full-throttle burns gas, right?
7. Watch the WOT. WOT, or Wide Open Throttle range, is key for maximizing power and fuel efficiency. Check your owner’s manual to find your recommended optimum RPMs and select a prop that allows your engine to reach its WOT (generally between 5000 and 5500 RPM). Increasing the prop pitch reduces RPM and vice versa. Too much pitch is better than too little, because exceeding your WOT will burn fuel.
8. Reduce the weight. Hauling around a bunch of extra gear forces your boat to do unnecessary work. Take a hard look at what you’re carrying. Can you leave behind extra deckchairs, coolers or bulky barbeques? Cutting weight brings your fuel efficiency up. One of the major mistakes boaters make is carrying as much fuel as their boats will hold. Carry only what you need – gas is heavy!
9. Navigate intelligently. The shortest distance from A to B isn’t always a straight line. Be familiar with the area where you boat, especially on large bodies of water. You’re less efficient in messy chop, so do what you can to avoid nasty water. Avoiding opposing currents and riding sympathetic currents also can be helpful.
10. Use a trolling motor. If you’re an angler, buy a trolling motor. Running your boat’s main engine(s) at idle speed burns a lot of fuel and reduces engine life. Switch to a small outboard (“kicker”) trolling motor that uses very little gas when you’re fishing and you’ll save money. Better yet, use an electric trolling motor, and consume no fuel at all!
“Lowering Your Fuel Costs” brochures are available at West Marine and Boat US Marine Stores while supplies last. For more information on West Marine’s products and store locations, visit www.westmarine.com or call (800) 262-8464.