7 Ways To Improve Your Boat's Fuel Efficiency

August 31, 2018

With today’s high fuel prices, every fisherman wants to maximize the fuel efficiency of his or her boat. After all, an efficient vessel not only stretches the fishing budget, it also helps you spend more time on the water and less time at the fuel dock. 

Increasing your rig’s fuel efficiency will also give you added range — so you can chase after gamefish wherever they are and stay longer on the offshore grounds — while still having the confidence you can make it back to port. 

You might be surprised how even small changes can boost your boat’s fuel efficiency.

  1. Use the right propeller. The type, size and pitch of your boat’s propeller can have a big impact on both performance and fuel efficiency. Too high of a pitch (inches of forward movement per revolution) can result in a poor “hole shot” (taking off from a standing start), sluggish acceleration and overloading of the motor. Too low of a pitch will rob you of top-end speed and cause the motor to over-rev. The right pitch will optimize both performance and efficiency.  Your engine RPMs should fall within the manufacturer’s recommended maximum operating range when properly trimmed and running wide open.
  2. Adjust your “attitude”. Adjusting the engine/outdrive trim (on outboard or sterndrive boats) and trim tabs can help most boats find a comfortable, fuel-efficient ride. A boat that’s plowing through the water in a bow-down attitude is like constantly driving your car uphill. Conversely, a boat that’s trimmed out too much will often “porpoise” or pound in choppy water. Generally speaking, when your boat is riding smoothly and level at planing speeds, it’s riding efficiently.
  3. Balance your load. A simple thing like moving passengers and gear can affect the ride of your boat — and how hard the engine needs to work. Pay particular attention to heavy items like batteries, ice chests, dive tanks and fishing tackle. A well-balanced boat will remain level at rest, be easier to drive and consume less fuel across all engine speeds.
  4. Find the “sweet spot”. Every boat has an engine RPM that delivers the best combination of speed and fuel efficiency. Many boats today are equipped with fuel management systems that help operators determine at what speed their boat achieves peak efficiency.  Go out for a test run to find your own — making sure you test your boat loaded up just as you’d really use it, with fuel, gear, ice chests, fishing buddies, etc.
  5. Cut Down the Weight. It’s amazing how quickly boats fill up with unnecessary “stuff,” and how this can directly affect fuel efficiency. Go through your boat and remove extra gear that doesn’t get used.    You’d also be surprised how many anglers run back from the offshore grounds with bait tanks that are full of water that’s no longer needed.  At more than eight pounds per gallon, this can add the equivalent of several full-sized people to your boat’s workload.  Emptying your tanks and livewells before running home can make a marked difference.
  6. Cruise conservatively. If you’re not worried about beating the competition to a popular hotspot or racing back to make weigh-in for a tournament, lay off the throttle. Build extra time into your day so you can cruise to and from the fishing grounds at your boat’s optimum cruising speed. 
  7. Keep it maintained. Routine maintenance such as changing engine oil, oil filters and fuel filters, checking props for damage, balancing drive shafts, etc. will not only help prevent breakdowns, it will keep your boat running smoothly and efficiently. If your boat stays in the water part or all of the year, regularly clean the hull of algae, barnacles and other marine growth that increases drag and lowers efficiency. Re-apply a good bottom paint as needed to prevent growth from reoccurring. 

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