The Gas Fast
By Tom Neale, 6/15/2006
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Saving gas is easy when you don’t care where you’re going. And why should you care a lot about where you’re going when you’re on the water? You’re already in the best part of the world. If you’re really up for moving you can leave the dock, but you don’t have to go far. Having fun on the water doesn’t require burning much gas at all. Pain at the pump is for the people who need to go somewhere else. Pain at the pump isn’t as bad if you’re happy to be where you are.
I’m sitting on my boat Chez Nous right now, on Memorial Day weekend. I’m watching boat after boat drift past, slowly turning on the current. Some of them are fishing, dragging bait across the bottom for flounders or spot or croaker. Several are in kayaks, each with 3 or 4 lines hanging out on rods and reels, towing bait floats and optimistically carrying large catch bags. Some of the drifting boats have inner
tubes and other water boat toys. Usually they’d be pulling them skipping across the wavelets. Today, they’re using them for floats tied alongside the big boat while people get in and cool off.
A lot of boats left their docks and traveled about a mile and then anchored. The people are swimming around, laying out, feeling with their toes for clams while wading in the shallow water closer to shore or out on sandbars.
And then there are the sailboats with the little diesels that burn about a spoonful an hour. They putt out and put up. Put up the sails. There isn’t much wind today, so they’re not going far, but they don’t seem to care. Why should they? They’re already there—on the water.
I can’t help thinking about what it would be like to be someone who isn’t into boating. They have to get in a car and drive it for hours, maybe all day, just to get to a place where they hope to have fun. And sometimes when they get to the place it isn’t as much fun as they’d hoped and they find themselves driving among the hordes looking for the cheapest gas pump so they can get back.
Boaters have it better than non boaters in another way. Web sites and TV news reports are all talking about saving money on gas or diesel. People are spending big bucks just driving around to find the best pump prices. When you’re on a boat you know you’re going to get really ripped at marina pumps, and often there’s only one fuel station around, so you just go do it, knowing that you can get back at them another way. You’re not going to go fast and you’re going to drift or anchor and still “have a nice day.”
Boaters can avoid high gas prices in ways that are better than what you can do with a car. You can take your car into a shop and spend all kinds of money to have it tweaked and twacked so that it might, if you’re lucky, get better fuel efficiency. You can inflate your tires to “just the right pressure” like the lady with the pretty fingernails told you to do during the morning talk show —and maybe pick up an ounce or two of savings over the next six months. You can go slow on the highway (sure, that’s what all the big oil company executives are telling us to do) and watch everything from 18 wheelers to motor bikes making an 80 mile per hour bee line for your exhaust pipe, ready to shove your gas tank up to your radiator.
But with a boat? Well, if you’re into that sort of thing, you can find a pretty anchorage without current, hop over the side, spend a pleasant time in the water, and clean your bottom and running gear. (You’ve got to be in good shape, be able to swim well, and have a capable partner to watch you—but that’s OK, maybe the partner can help.) You’re not paying any expensive mechanic to do it, you don’t have to drive anywhere to get it done, you’re having fun while you’re doing it and you know that cleaning the bottom and running gear is one fuel saving tactic that always works and works significantly.
If you’ve got some good ablative paint on your bottom (we use Interlux Micron 33) on our Mako) you’ve even got a fuel saving excuse to go fast for a while. The speed will clear your bottom of stuff and you know you’ll save fuel.
This brings up the fact that sometimes we on boats have legitimate excuses to go fast and burn gas, even if a billionaire oil executive riding around in a limo is telling us to slow down. Every once in a while on a slo-mo summer day you see someone throw it to the throttle. You see a boat dig in, leap forward, and settle out on a fast plane, spray whipping back from aft the bow. But usually this lasts for but a few minutes. I know what they’re doing. I do it too in my Mako. I’m “exercising” the engine. It’s a great excuse for a not-so-cheap thrill, but hey, it is good for the engine every once in awhile.
If a storm’s coming, revving her up and spending some fuel may be the safe thing to do. No guilty conscience there. And those aboard may toast and praise you for saving their lives. Who knows, maybe they’ll even chip in and buy you some fuel. On that subject, everybody knows boats use a lot of fuel. You might never think of hitting up your friends for some gas money for a car trip. But you can sure think of doing it if they want a boat ride. And nobody would think you’re being tight. After all, they know that you have a boat.
As I sit here writing this, I’m getting an idea. I’ve got an even better excuse than most. I’ve been all the way down south and back on my 53 foot motor sailer, Chez Nous. I’ve been going slow all winter long. I’ve been going slow for thousands of miles. My boat couldn’t go fast if you tickled her backside with a barbed wire switch. I’ve earned some fast points and I think it’s time to collect. All I’ve got to do is jump in my Mako, throw off a few lines, and turn the key. A few minutes later, as soon as I clear those *?@# no wake signs, I can be flying. The heck with writing about all this. I’m leaving this story. I’m going to get out in the sunshine and spray and put the throttle to the wall. I’m going to go FAST in my boat, if just for a little while. Oh boy, do I love boating!
Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale