Better Boating Tips

Green Boating…Fuel Savings

Are you concerned about about fuel consumption when purchasing your new bowrider boat or how to reduce fuel consumption during normal use? Most new car buyers consider fuel consumption when purchasing a new car or truck. The boat type, boat hull shape and boat horsepower can influence significantly just how much fuel you will be buying on a going forward basis. A smart decision with regards to the boat purchase in combination with good driving techniques and proper on time maintenance will significantly reduce your carbon footprint and leave more of that hard earned cash in your wallet.

Do not buy an underpowered boat!
This is a common mistake and although smaller displacement engines in cars will frequently save fuel costs, this is not true in boats. An underpowered boat uses up to 25% more fuel in situations of heavy loads and family recreational water sports. Due to drag a boat is working against a drag coefficient 5 times higher than than your car experiences travelling on the 400 Highway. Consider the facts…. A powerboat whether outboard or sterndrive consummes the most fuel initializing from a near zero speed position to on plane speed (normally 20 to 25 MPH). Consider that you are moving the mass weight of the boat, motor, plus the passenger load mass and skier or tuber mass and drag coefficient to the desired speed quickly. The more stress and engine capacity required in combination with the extended periods of maximum engine power to achieve actual planning speed will negatively effect fuel consumption by as much as 40%. Manufacturer’s place a maximum horsepower rating on all boats and it is adviseable to be close to this in your purchase to reduce your fuel consumption.

Some boat hulls are more effecient than others.
Boat builders such as Campion with its Apex hull design can save you over 10% in reduced fuel consumption. A pontoon boat will utilize less fuel than a fiberglass runabout or bowrider. A dedicated ski boat or wakeboard boat is not fuel or environmentally friendly. Get the fuel useage data before you buy or just do some research.

Choose your engine wisely!
Mercruiser Sterndrives and Mercury Outboard use regular fuels. Many competitive products require mid grade or premium fuels. This can amount to considerable savings especially over the life of ownership. Choose multiport fuel injection (MPI) over carburetor operated fuel delivery systems as the savings can be significant and in the area of 10%. A four stroke outboard is not necessarily more fuel effecient than a direct injection two stroke engine. Quicker on plane time with direct injection outboards ( Mercury Optimax) will in most cases save fuel when the boat is used primarily for watersports.

Size your boat properly!
A good rule of thumb is to size your boat based on activities and loads that you plan to do 75% of the time with your family. Remember boats are generally a long time investment so allow a little room for growth of the family. The boat size must also be balanced with average wave conditions you will operate in or you must be prepared to really pick your times. The boat builder is required to afix a sticker for load compliance on all new boats which is expressed in max persons and or max weigh. The Canadian and American capacity rates will not necessarily be the same but only the Canadian one matters. If you choose to pick a boat with the largest bow section, you will pay a significant penalty for fuel consumption. Larger bow sections in many cases particularly in 16 to 19 modeles increase water push by the front leading edge forming a bow wave.

Get the right propeller for your boating!
Manufacturer’s recommend basic 3 blade propellers on most engines for average operating conditions. Aluminum propellers are most common but the right stainless steel propeller can save considerable fuel as well enhance your families boating adventures. Most dry land operations cannot optimize your boat for the right propeller as it is difficult to test and do proper set up without water testing. The edges of each blade are cupped for maximum preformance. Striking the propeller and damaging the edges will dramatically effect preformance. The propeller is a balanced flywheel with any impact damage normally placing the propeller out of balance. This can place additional strain on the bearings and shafts in the drive unit resulting in premature wear of the internal parts or in the worse case drive failure. Propellers are avialable in 3 blade, 4 blade and 5 blade formats for outboard and sterndrive runabouts. One of the best all round performance enhancing and fuel saving propellers today is a Mercury High Five for sterndrives.

Maximum fuel consumption is determined by operation!
Removing under powering from the equation, maximum fuel consumption occurs from zero to 25 miles per hour when the boat is working itself up onto plane. A slight S type turn just as the boat hull starts to rise out of the water at about 1500 to 1800 RPMs will normally reduce required time to plane and therefore save fuel. Underpowered boats or boats in general will plane faster with a balanced load including some weight in the bow. Placing the majority of the person load at the stern will increase time to plane and therefore fuel consumption. When choosing a boat, one with the rear bench in front of the engine or a sunsport package will position the load in a more favourable location for reduced fuel consumption. Once the boat is on plane keep it there as much as possible. On plane fuel consumption is at its lowest between 2500 and 3500 RPMs. The two highest fuel consumption zones are 1200 to 1800 RPMs when you notice a large wake and of course wide open throttle. The boat properly trimmed will ride at cruising speed slightly bow up. To achieve this trim weight balancing may be required from bow to stern through the movement of the distribution of passenger weight. Proper use of the power trim button on your shift/speed control handle, will reduce frictional drag above 2500 RPMs resulting in a 5 to 10% reduced fuel consumption. Learn how to use your trim properly and save money. If you notice either a large bow wave or a large rear wake, you are not efficiently utilizing your fuel.

Choose water sports activities wisely!
Towing a tube is the most fuel efficient water sports activity. Wakeboarding is the highest fuel burning activity. Minimize the passenger load when doing watersports but remember you are required to have a spotter for safety, If you are using your boat primarily for watersports, have it set up prop wise for this purpose. Boaters should have a spare propeller and know how to change this as required. Purchasing a spare which can be used for watersports makes good sense.

Keep your running surfaces clean!
A boat bottom covered in algae or hard water deposits is coating you as much as 15% penalty in fuel consumption. Purchase a simply soft brush on a long handle and just lightly clean the running surfaces on a regular basis. Have your boat bottom professionally cleaned at least once per year.

Do the required maintenance!
A properly running engine saves money on fuel and enhances boating pleasure. Skipping maintenance cycles will shorten the boats power plants life, reduce trade in values and may leave you looking at the water instead of playing on the water on that perfect summer day.

Do not put unnecessary weight in the boat!
I have seen boats that have items in them that have not moved in years. Excessive weight costs money. Remove the not used items and just have the right safety items and gear.

The right canvas can save you money!
Traditional convertible tops with the sides on increase air resistance and therefore will burn more fuel. Operate with as little canvas as is comfortable. A bimini top is preferred for sun shade and reduced drag.

Check your tire pressure on your trailer and car!
Under inflated tires on a car increase fuel consumption by as much as 5%. The same is true for trailer tires as well as low air pressure in trailer tires being a safety hazard.

Huntsville Marine and Recreation would be pleased to discuss this further with you. Contact for more information. For additional boat buying information take a moment and examine the articles in Boaters Chat.

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