Save Boat Fuel

By Tom Neale
Published: June/July 2012

Don’t let the dollar signs at the pump get in the way of your boating season. While different boats and circumstances require different tactics to minimize fuel consumption, there’s usually more than one trick of the trade that’ll work for your vessel.

1 Watch Your Wake

If your stern is digging a hole in the water, you’re wasting fuel. Your boat may be unbalanced because of weight distribution, it may be overloaded, and/or it may be running at inefficient RPMs for the load, engine, boat, and other circumstances. It’s true that you can usually save fuel by running slower, but if you’re digging a hole at the slower speed you’ve chosen, you’re probably doing more harm than good.

2 Give Seat Assignments

To keep on an economical trim, don’t let everyone sit in the bow or stern, and don’t run on a heel (unless maybe if you have a sailboat). Keep safety and stability as an utmost goal as you do this. You may have to experiment to get the right trim, if it’s safe to do so. Only move people around while the boat is traveling slowly, or stopped, considering the circumstances.

3 Experiment

Be creative with trim tabs or motor trim for the best ride with the load you have. Usually you can feel this and also tell by the wake. Fuel consumption meters help immensely. Optimum trim-tab position will vary with factors such as chop, wind, rpm, and load.

4 Ditch The Dings

If your prop looks the least bit askew or has any dings, pull it and send it in to be swung and reconditioned by a good prop shop. Just a little deviation in a prop can cost a lot of fuel. Often it’s good to send it in every few years for checking even if it appears to be OK.

5 Have The Proper Prop

Ask a good prop shop or experienced engine installer to check if you have the best prop for your rig and usage. Often a motor will come with a standard prop that may not be the best for your boat. Determining this may require experimental running by qualified shop personnel.

6 Run At An Even Pace

Frequent speeding up after slowing down can consume extra fuel.

7 Diminish Windage, If Possible

For example, consider removing the bimini cover or T-top cover, if practical.

8 Pick Calm Days To Travel

Waves and wind can slow the boat and cause more fuel consumption. Even a little chop can slow many fast planing boats. Learn wind patterns for your area. For example, in many areas it’s normally calm in the morning but a sea breeze kicks in during mid-afternoon.

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