A word on boat fuel efficiency

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The news reports about the price of gasoline over the last few weeks have been pretty ominous. I actually dread the nightly news because the report usually included a report that a barrel of gasoline had hit another new record.

As the price of gas climbs jobs will be effected, as will some things all of us take for granted.

One particular area that will especially hard hit is the world of recreational power boating. Power boating requires fuel and as the price goes up the effect will directly impact every powerboat owner. With this in mind I’d like you to consider a few tips that may save you money through better fuel efficiency.

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Getting the most performance out of a gallon of gasoline is one of the most important things you can do. Doesn’t matter if you talking about the fuel in your car, motorcycle, lawn mower, weed whacker, snowmobile or aircraft saving money through a good maintenance program and safe operation always pays big dividends, especially when a barrel of fuel costs over $46.50.

The idea of using every drop of fuel efficiently is especially important to recreational boating. In the 22 years that I spent on active duty with the Coast Guard and Navy I had the opportunity to work with some truly smart engineers. I especially remember the two Chief Engineers who were stationed onboard the cutter I commanded. These two individuals were incredibly smart at not only maintaining and repairing equipment and systems such as our rigid hull inflatable outboard motor, but, also at offering ways to get the maximum out of each piece of equipment we had onboard.

One the many things I learned from both these men was some simple ideas to get the most out of outboard engines.

They are actually quite logical.

Idea #1: Get a tuneup!

This is the number one recommendation made by experts that I have spoken with. I am surprised at the number of boaters that have both inboard and outboard engines that have not had a tune-up in years! They start the engines, run them for hours on end, and then shut them down cold…with little regard to the most basic of maintenance. A tune up provides a system wide check, cleaning and update.

It allows a mechanic (and you want one that is intimate with marine engines) an opportunity to look at everything within the outboard. Sail boaters – if you have an emergency outboard don’t neglect it either. The time you take in getting a tune up will make all the difference when you really need it.

Idea #2: When loading the vessel distribute the weight evenly. This may seem like a small thing, but it really isn’t. Distributing weight evenly will allow the engine to perform evenly, and reduce the drag inherent when one side of the boat sits lower in the water than the other. Remember you want to reduce your friction to increase your efficiency.

Idea #3: Keep the hull clean. In a marine environment growth of any kind living on your hull is a forgone conclusion. By making sure your hull is cleaned on regular intervals the friction caused by the fouling marine growth and organisms will be reduced and your fuel savings increased. The easier you can make it on your engine the better. I recommend at least once a year. If you recently applied new paint on the hull wait a minimum of 90 days before you clean.

Consider these three simple ideas for maximizing fuel economy. We will look at more next week. Until then…Boat Safe… and Boat Smart!

Joe DiRenzo is a retired Coast Guard Officer. A five- time winner of the JOC Alex Haley Award for published articles he has written the safe boating column for the Suffolk News Herald for over four years.