- A clean hull is a happy hull, so why run a boat of any size with a gas-guzzling coat of marine growth on the bottom? Regardless if you keep your most prized possession moored at a marina or on a trailer closer to your heart, combat vegetation and barnacle build-up because the extra friction equals extra fuel. A thorough power-washing and a fresh coat of antifouling paint prevents growth and saves money at the pump.
- Running your boat on plane above the waves rather than through the water is a substantial fuel-saver. Distribute the weight on your boat evenly and if necessary, install trim tabs. Run as much trim as possible for the boat's speed. On most vessels, this will lift the bow, which reduces drag in the water. You go faster at the same throttle setting and gain fuel efficiency. If your bow starts to bounce (porpoise), you've over-trimmed. Another sign of over-trimming is the prop(s) breaking free of the water. Watch your speed on the GPS as you trim the motor(s) in small increments. When your speed over the water starts to decline, you've just passed the most-efficient trim setting.
- Gasoline-powered engines require mindful tuning and a regular schedule of preventive maintenance. Replacing air and fuel filters and changing the oil every 100 operating hours are intelligent ways to keep your engine(s) in perfect tune. There's not much more that you can do on a modern four-stroke outboard. But older two-stroke motors can benefit from being timed correctly, having the carburetors adjusted properly and being treated to a fresh set of spark plugs on a regular basis. Keep your routine maintenance up to date. A well-serviced outboard will achieve greater fuel efficiency than one that needs service. Clogged fuel injectors, dirty filters and fouled spark plugs are common issues that can drain outboard performance.
- Make sure your propeller is perfect. Even the smallest ding or irregularity can cause cavitation and unnecessary vibration. Imperfections in the blades are bad for efficiency and hard on the prop-shaft bearings and rest of your powertrain. If your prop is damaged, get it resurfaced or purchase a new one. At $5.00 a gallon for fuel, a new prop might pay for itself in only one season. If you're running a three-bladed prop, consider a four. You'll plane quicker, stay on plane at slower speeds and get more power from the same RPMs. Furthermore, you're less likely to ventilate on sharp turns and the prop will hold better in rough seas. The downside of four-blade props is a lower top end speed - but what do you care? You'd never pin the throttles anyway because it burns too much fuel.
[Editor's Note: iboats has some great Fall prop specials, click here to find your new prop]
- Hauling around a bunch of extra gear forces your boat to do unnecessary work. Your cabin and fish boxes are not a self-storage unit. If you are carting around fishing gear in need of repair, extra coolers, deckchairs, rusty tools and two extra batteries, you are wasting fuel. Get that stuff off of the boat. If you don't need it, don't bring it!
- As soon as you're out of the no-wake zone, apply only as much power as necessary to plane. Don't cruise at top speed - pushing your engine(s) to its limits burns a tremendous amount of fuel. Once on plane, make as few throttle adjustments as necessary, and determine your boat's optimum cruising speed. Keep a close eye on your gauges and if you don't already have one, install a fuel flow meter. Monitor your speed, RPMs and fuel consumption and determine your boat's optimum speed for greatest efficiency.
- One major mistake new boaters make is carrying full tanks of fuel. Do you always need enough fuel for 500 miles of cruising? Instead, carry just 25-percent more than what you need because fuel is heavy. Besides, stored fuel isn't healthy for your engine. Fresh fuel will keep you running cleaner and leaner.
- The shortest distance from Waypoint A to Waypoint B isn't always as the crow flies, especially in the backcountry. Use your chart-plotter and always carry paper charts of your area. Be familiar with where you boat. Prevalent currents and tides make a difference, which is why riding or trolling with the current can be extremely helpful. Plus, you're boat runs less efficiently in a sloppy chop so do what you can to avoid nasty weather and bumpy seas. Plot your courses with fuel savings in mind.
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