Marine Advisory Program offers boaters tips to conserve fuel, save money

6/20/2008

Contact: Greg Fisk, fishing consultant, 907-586-4090, prawns@alaska.net.

NR: SG-2008/NR275

Homer, Alaska—Whether you are a commercial or sport fisherman, recreational boater, charter skipper, water taxi or tour operator, saving money on your vessel fuel bill can be as easy as slowing down.

It can also be as complicated as deciding whether to replace that tired old fuel-guzzling engine, or even the entire vessel.

“How much a boater saves on fuel is determined by many factors,” said Terry Johnson, a Marine Advisory Program agent and boat owner based in Homer. He also has written articles on fishing vessel maintenance for a popular trade magazine.

“While there are some general steps all boaters can take, maximizing fuel savings comes down to a number of personal decisions about a specific vessel. No two vessels will be exactly alike.”

To help boaters weigh their options, Johnson recently prepared a list of steps that can help lessen the impact of high fuel costs.

First on his list is simply slow down. Seems obvious, but the savings can be dramatic. For vessels that plow through the water—that is, they displace water rather than skim over the top—even a small decrease in boat speed will save fuel on most boats. Johnson said published data indicate that reducing power as little as 10 percent from full throttle will lessen fuel consumption by 20 percent. Back off the throttle to the point where the stern wave starts to flatten out and the savings will be greater. Reducing speed by just one or two knots can cut fuel consumption by 30 percent to 50 percent.

Running your diesel engine at its most efficient rating also will save fuel. Johnson said diesel engines are most efficient at 80 percent of maximum continuous rating (MCR). That means they produce the most power for the fuel consumed. But be careful, most fishing vessels are over-powered and achieve their most efficient vessel speed at a power setting well below optimum engine speed and load. To get the most nautical miles per gallon you'll probably have to run your engine at a speed slower than its most efficient setting. Running too slow for too long, however, could damage your engine.

Things get a bit more complicated for vessels that plane or displace little water. These boats rely on skimming the surface; slowing too much causes the vessel to ride lower in the water, lowering fuel efficiency. Johnson suggests using a fuel flow meter, or keeping accurate records of gallons burned divided by miles traveled at different revolutions-per-minute (rpm) until you find your vessel's most efficient engine and boat speed.

Other tips for beating the fuel crunch:

For more information, visit the Marine Advisory Program's Alaska Boating Fuel Efficiency Resources Web site.