15 fuel-saving tips

Maximize your boating pleasure while minimizing your fuel costs

By Doug and Brenda DawsonDoug and Brenda Dawson

boat

Photo by Ian Parkes

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1. Lighten the load

Shed those extra pounds from the bilge and lockers. Empty out all the items that you really don’t need aboard and keep just the essentials.

Some recommend running on the bottom half of the tank to lighten up. You will have to visit the fuel dock more often, but it will save you money. Empty your bilge often to reduce extra weight.

2. Tune up the motor

Boat engines that are well tuned and regularly serviced, are more fuel-efficient than those that aren’t, so keep on top of regular maintenance, including oil and filter changes once a season.

3. Prop right

Make sure you are propped correctly and that the prop has no dings or gouges. Speak to a propeller expert to ensure that you have the right diameter, pitch, blade area, and prop configuration. You could save up to 10 per cent in fuel cots.

4. Adjust your speed

Don’t drive at top speed all the time. This can cause extra engine wear, as well as costing you more in fuel.

Cutting your speed by one-third could save you 50 per cent in fuel consumption. It might mean that your trip takes longer, but why not just enjoy the view and save?

In a planing hull, you will have the greatest fuel economy when the hull first comes onto plane and skims the surface of the water. Limiting the amount of time before coming on or off plane will also use less fuel. But, you need to bring the boat up onto plane at a quick, steady pace instead of hammering the throttle or taking forever to get there. The most efficient speed varies from boat to boat.

Large wakes mean you are using more fuel because the boat is desperately trying to climb up on top of the water’s surface. Either slow down or speed up onto plane to create a smaller wake. Either way, you will save fuel.

5. Keep your boat bottom clean

Don’t drag a carpet of marine growth. Keep the bottom of your boat clean and free of weeds and barnacles. If you can get your boat out of the water on a trailer, scrub the bottom regularly away from shore. On a larger boat, use a long-handled scrub brush.

6. Paint your hull

If you boat in water that encourages the fast growth of algae on your bottom, it would be worth your while to paint it with anti-fouling paint. It is important to use a paint that reduces friction.

7. Buy a diesel

If your boat has diesel power, you probably paid more in the beginning but you will save in ongoing fuel costs over time. Diesel engines cost less to run than gas and are most efficient when run at 80 per cent of maximum speed.

8. Idle less

It is amazing how many boaters feel they have to idle their engines in the harbour as long as they warm up their cars in the dead of winter. You only need to warm up the engine for a few minutes so it doesn’t stall when you shift into reverse.

9. Go with the flow

Get a boost from Mother Nature. If your course is flexible, go with the current or downwind.

10. Drive straight

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you are zig zagging or leaving a snakes trail in your wake, you are burning more fuel than you need to.

11. Use a kicker

If you are planning on going a long distance at a slow speed (as you do when trolling), then buy a 9.9 hp outboard motor and use it instead of your big V8s.

12. Reduce drag

Take off the canvas—especially the vertical panels—because they act like a parachute and increase drag. If you are going to run fast, run topless.

13. Use a fuel flow meter

Adding a fuel flow meter will give you visual feedback on exactly how much fuel you are burning so you can adjust your speed and driving habits. You will also have proof that your efforts are paying off.

14. Trim your boat

Using trim tabs and power trim wisely prevents plowing and reduces drag, allowing you to run on plane at a lower rpm.

15. Do the math

To find out which changes that you make give you the best results, you need to do the math. Keep a detailed log of your fuel usage before and after you make changes. After every fill-up, record the fuel replaced, operating hours, and distance travelled. You will be able to tell which changes work best for your boat to give you the best fuel savings.

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pghpa611@hotmail.com

pghpa611

Apr. 28, 2012

1:59 pm

I am purchasing a pontoon for our lake. The pontoon will be about 20 - 22 feet and seat approx 10. Fuel efficency is a concern as is overall cost. My concern is while buying a smaller engine seems practical and cost efficient, the possibility of it being too smal is a huge concern. I am not looking to tube or ski behind the pontoon, nothing looks worse than a pontoon resembling a UPS truck flying up and down the lake. I do however want enough speed to fight wakes when neccesary. Is there a huge difference between a 40 50 or 60 hp 4 strok engine in performance???


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