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Balance your fuel budget

Develop new habits that save fuel. Different boats and different circumstances require different tactics, but there’s usually more than one trick that’ll work for your boat.

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• Watch your wake. If your stern is digging a hole in the water, you’re wasting fuel. You can usually save fuel by running slower, but if your speed causes you to dig a hole, you probably need to adjust a little.

• Avoid bottom drag. As your hull moves over a relatively shallow bottom or close to steep channel walls, it will meet resistance in pushing aside the water and slow down and dig in, causing fuel waste, not to mention safety issues. Never let this happen. Slow down.

• Keep your boat on an economical trim by wise passenger distribution. Don’t let everyone sit in the bow or stern, and don’t run on a heel (unless maybe if you have a sailboat). Keep safety and stability as an utmost goal as you do this. You may have to experiment to get the right trim if it’s safe to do so, but moving people around while the boat is traveling fast is probably not a good idea.

• Experiment with trim tabs or engine trim for the best ride with the load you have. Optimum trim will vary with such factors as chop, wind, rpm and load.

• If your prop looks the least bit askew or has any dings, pull it and have it swung and reconditioned by a good prop shop. Just a little deviation in a prop can cost a lot of fuel.

• Ask the prop shop or an experienced engine installer to check whether you have the best prop for your rig and usage. Often an engine will come with a standard prop that’s not the best for your boat.

• Run at an even pace when you can. Frequent speeding up after slowing down can consume extra fuel.

• Reduce windage, if possible. For example, consider removing the Bimini cover or T-top cover.

• Pick calm days to travel. Waves and wind can slow the boat and increase fuel consumption. Even a little chop can slow many planing boats. Learn wind patterns for your area. For example, in many areas it’s normally calm in the morning, but a sea breeze kicks in during midafternoon. Or you may want to go in a direction that’s with the chop rather than against it, or travel on the calm side of the river.

• Pick close destinations. You can have fun just sitting out at anchor for the afternoon.

• Remove weight you don’t need. For example, full fuel and water tanks add a lot of weight, so you’ll use more fuel. However, don’t run with partially full tanks if this may sacrifice safety or range that you will need.

• Look for lighter gear that’s of good quality. For example, the Fortress anchor is exceptionally light, but it has been shown in rigorous tests to be exceptionally tough, with excellent holding power.

• Keep the bottom and running gear squeaky clean. You’d be amazed at how much drag just a few barnacles or a little grass can cause.

• Keep the engine tuned, oil fresh, air filters clean and carbon deposits down.

See related article:

- Love the boat you've got and have some fun

December 2012 issue