The Fuel Duel

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Simple ways to save fuel on your boat

The buildup of algae, barnacles, dirt and other marine growths that attach themselves to the bottom of your boat’s hull, outboard motor or outdrive, can create unnecessary drag which will negatively affect fuel economy. Keeping the hull free of a marine growth and dirt can be done by applying anti-fouling, which is a specialised coating applied to the hull of a boat, to slow the growth and stop marine organisms attaching themselves to the hull. A clean hull will equate to improved fuel efficiency and better overall performance.

It is recommended that the fuel filter be changed every 100 hours or at least once a year for best performance. This regular changing of the fuel filter allows for a proper fuel flow to the engines and ultimately improves consumption. A dirty fuel filter means the engine needs to work harder to get the fuel it needs, resulting in increased fuel consumption.

Most boats have a water separator built into their fuel line or situated in the actual motor. The water separator eliminates water condensation that builds up in your fuel tank and reduces engine efficiency and increases consumption. It is recommended that the water separator be changed every 100 hours of use or once a year.

Small dings, bends, cracks, chips and other surface imperfections in the propeller can cause it to cavitate and form air pockets around the blades. This results in the propeller having to circulate more to catch or grip the water. Common sense tells us that cavitation results in the excessive spinning of the propeller and this can drastically increase your boat’s fuel consumption – even on short trips.

Prop Damage
Prop Damage

Optimum trim goes hand in hand with improved fuel consumption. Trimming the boat reduces the wetted surface on the boat’s hull and thus reduces drag, improving consumption. To trim properly, trim the motor out until the propeller starts to ventilate, and then reduce the trim slightly for the best fuel efficiency.

It is common knowledge that T-tops, hardtops, towers and Bimini tops all create aerodynamic drag, causing the engine to work harder and increasing fuel consumption. If you can fold away your Bimini or canvas T-top while you are underway, it will improve fuel consumption.

Boaters are always guilty of carrying too much gear on their boats. It happens over a period of time, with the slow accumulation of unnecessary items. The problem is that extra weight equates to increased fuel consumption. Get rid of any excess and unwanted gear aboard your boat (not safety equipment) and watch your fuel consumption improve. Depending on how much unwanted gear your have on board and how much weight you can alleviate by removing it from the boat, you could well see a reduction in consumption of anything from 5% to 15%.

One of the most important aspects of improving fuel consumption is ensuring that your motor is in excellent shape. Adhering to the maintenance requirements set out in the owner’s manual is imperative for the smooth running of the motor and for improved fuel consumption. A tired, dirty motor with old oil is going to work much harder to get the job done and will result in increased consumption.

Backing off the throttle will burn less fuel. Unless you’re in a fishing competition and racing for the deep, slowing down will dramatically improve your boat’s consumption – guaranteed! Improving the fuel consumption of your boat is as easy as following the simple suggestions set out above. Ease back on the throttle as your well-trimmed, finely-tuned motors power your clean hull with ease through the water and relish the fact that your fuel bill will be considerably less than it was before.

[list style=”check”]
[li]Reducing speed will reduce consumption and fuel costs.[/li]
[li]Trimming your boat properly will allow you to run optimally and save fuel.[/li]
[li]Minimise the amount of time spent idling at the dock.[/li]
[li]Work out a float plan so you know exactly where you’re going.[/li]
[li]An under-powered boat will use more fuel due to the motor being overworked.[/li]
[li]A well-tuned engine that is regularly serviced uses less fuel.[/li]


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