Suggestions for ways to save, big and small, that really add up on the cost of owning a boat.
1. Anchor Out More
A night's marina fee may be at least $125 during the boating season, or more depending on your boat's size. Anchoring out five times more during the season, when you'd normally go to a marina, saves at least $625.
2. Shaft Anodes
Install your own shaft anodes (zincs) when the boat is hauled. If you have trim tab, rudder, plate zincs, or outdrive anodes, see if you're comfortable replacing those yourself. It's easier than you might think and can save expensive yard time where labor can run upward of $65 an hour. Shopping on the Internet for the anode you need can also save money.
3. Bimini Windows
The "windows" in side curtains or biminis are often damaged by metal tubes that hold up the structure. Star brite has a product, Clear Plastic Window Savers, which are plastic guards to put around the tubes where they impact the windows. This prevents burn marks to the window material by tubes hot from the sun and general abrasive damage. There are also products containing UV inhibitors and ingredients designed to help prevent fading, and special polymers to prevent vinyl from drying out and cracking. Replacing windows usually involves replacing all the side curtain and bimini materials.
4. Aftermarket Parts
If it doesn't jeopardize your warranty, use aftermarket replacement parts rather than those sold by the engine manufacturer. Just be sure they're by a reputable manufacturer and to specs. For example, depending on your engine, an Osco or Barr Marine manifold may cost as much as $200 less than an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part.
5. Non-Marine Products
Buy non-marine equipment from non-marine stores, when it's safe to do so. (Read the labels carefully.) Inexpensive automotive cleaning products from automotive discount shops may suffice for your boat. Everything from home entertainment systems to basic supplies such as tapes, solvents, sealants, and greases are often less expensive when purchased from large retailers than marine stores.
SAVINGS: (UP TO) $400
6. Forget The Fashion Show
If you don't go far and just need a light rain suit for an occasional shower while you get back from your nearby fishing spot, you don't necessarily need the expensive foul-weather gear found in marine specialty stores. Stearns makes an inexpensive rain suit available at West Marine for around $30, which is a big savings over fancy gear.
7. Winterize Yourself
A yard can take five hours or more to winterize at $85 an hour for labor. But it's not hard, and if you want to make it easier and have a typical canister raw-water strainer, buy a Sea Flush kit, which can be fitted into the top of the strainer, following instructions so that you can winterize the cooling system without removing any hoses.
SAVINGS: $425 (PER SEASON)
8. Enclosure Zippers
Inexpensive products are available to help prolong the life of your bimini and side curtains. Typically, nylon or plastic zippers don't last long, and the cost of removing the cover and buying and replacing zippers is expensive. Removing the bimini often results in tears or thread breakage. Save one zipper replacement in your bimini's life.
9. Tow More
If you have a trailerable boat, cover more distance using your towing vehicle and less by the boat. You'll spend less on fuel, maybe $100 per weekend. Use the BoatUS Ramp Locator to look for ramps close to where you're going, as well as the latest ramp updates from fellow boaters.
10. Volume Discounts
Take advantage of volume discounts such as West Marine discounts for new boat owners, outfitting, and advantage quotes. See West Marine for more details.
11. Buy Used
Some products can last forever if they're cared for. Examples include tools, anchors, and fiberglass dinghies. Buying a good used tool set rather than a new one could save lots.
12. Share Boating
If you and your friends frequently go out together in your own boats, take turns riding with each other, taking the kids waterskiing, or anchoring overnight, if size allows. It's fun!
SAVINGS: $300 PER WEEKEND
13. Clean Your Own Bottom
Next time you're anchored in a protected, calm cove, consider cleaning your boat bottom yourself. If you're healthy and can swim and dive well (and the water's warm, or you own a wetsuit), invest in a mask, snorkel, and flippers and have fun cleaning your bottom and changing anodes during the season. Removing fouling yourself for one season saves fuel as well as the cost of having someone do it for you. (NOTE: To avoid the risk of electrocution or of being struck by another vessel, never swim or dive in a marina. Only swim or dive off a private dock where electricity to the dock has been shut off.)