Fuel-Efficient Boating

With the economic turmoil and rapidly increasing fuel prices, motor boat owners have been hit hard, and some are looking for ways to minimize the amount of traveling they do to reach their favorite fishing hole in order to save on fuel costs. There are two ways of doing this. First of all, you can maintain and tweak your boat to improve efficiency through the water, and second, you can change your driving habits.

Regular scheduled maintenance and upkeep can significantly increase your fuel economy. When your boat is laid up, take the opportunity to remove any barnacles and growth and coat the hull with a smooth anti-fouling paint (for boats that are kept in the water). The aim is to reduce the friction of the hull. Have the engine checked over and serviced, as well. It is highly recommended that this be performed by a knowledge outboard technician. As a guideline, if it is leaking, smells funny, makes a noise or is producing an odd-colored smoke, something is wrong.

Vessel weight is another important factor. Obviously the heavier the load, the more fuel you will burn. On short trips, you most likely will not need full fuel and water tanks if equipped. This will only make the boat sit lower in the water, which will enhance fuel consumption. However, on certain classes of boats, extra weight and even distribution around the boat can improve performance, particularly in displacement hulls where it will aid in driving the boat more directly through the water.

In spite of this, you must always travel with the proper emergency equipment and a little surplus fuel just in case you require it. The simplest thing you can do to save on fuel consumption is to slow down a little. Going at cruising speed (or slower if allowable) can drastically reduce fuel usage when compared to moving along at full throttle. You should also bear in mind that if you own a vessel that is designed to run up on the pad, you should run it like that because these kinds of hulls require moving rapidly along the water, reducing drag and thereby increasing efficiency.

Offshore boaters should use the tides to their advantage when applicable. While some may think this is something that only sailboats need to factor in, this is not the case when trying to improve efficiency, as going against the tide requires a lot more effort from your engine than traveling with the tide. The same goes with the wind. While going with the wind may seem to produce negligible gains in speed and time in the short term, over time you can save a lot on fuel costs. Checking the wind and tide predictions before heading out can not only help you decide where to fish, but it also can help with fuel consumption.

And finally, we all know that the shortest distance between two points is in a straight line. While out at sea, it is not as easy as it sounds to head and maintain a straight line over some distance. If you are a boater who makes long journeys, it is best to have a reputable, reliable autopilot, which will ensure you do not have to worry about going in circles. Another way to better monitor proper fuel consumption is to have a flow-scan instrument installed on your boat.

Ronnie Granier, Owner/Operator
R&D Marine
(985) 960-2578