Go­ing the Dis­tance


Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - CAPT. DAVE LEAR

Gas prices aren’t as high as they were a few years ago, but while fill­ing up your boat is not as painful, ev­ery dol­lar you save on fuel can be put to bet­ter use, like buy­ing fish­ing tackle, for in­stance.

Mod­ern di­rect-in­jec­tion out­boards are now sig­nif­i­cantly more fuel ef­fi­cient, how­ever, there are a few tricks to help you squeeze an­other mile or so per gal­lon, which will end up sav­ing you some dough and per­haps also the has­sle of hav­ing to carry ex­tra fuel dur­ing long runs. With that in mind, here are five easy ways to im­prove your mo­tor’s fuel econ­omy and ex­tend the range of your boat.


Boats pur­chased from rep­utable deal­ers are usu­ally rigged for stan­dard per­for­mance, with the out­board or out­boards set at nor­mal en­gine height on the tran­som and usu­ally matched with a stock, gen­eral-pur­pose pro­pel­ler. But that’s not nec­es­sar­ily the ideal setup for your par­tic­u­lar needs.

“Hav­ing the boat propped cor­rectly max­i­mizes en­gine ef­fi­ciency,” says Tim Reid, Mercury’s vice pres­i­dent for prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and en­gi­neer­ing. “Higher pitch props have less slip, and there can be as much as a 5 per­cent dif­fer­ence be­tween pro­pel­ler de­signs. If your mo­tor has a larger gear case, it can sup­port a big­ger prop that will carry the load of the boat more ef­fi­ciently. Prop dam­age, even a small ding, can lower fuel econ­omy, as it won’t de­liver the proper thrust. If you’re look­ing for bet­ter fuel econ­omy, try two or three dif­fer­ent props and see if that makes a dif­fer­ence.” con­tin­ued


The heav­ier the boat, the lower it sits in the wa­ter, which in­creases both drag and fuel con­sump­tion. The so­lu­tion may be as easy as put­ting your boat on a diet.

“Your boat is the light­est it will be when you first buy it,” ex­plains Ry Landry, a prod­uct in­for­ma­tion spe­cial­ist with Yamaha Out­boards. “As you start to use it, you bring stuff on board and much of it stays there. I call that weight creep. If you pe­ri­od­i­cally go through the com­part­ments and the con­sole to re­move stuff that’s not nec­es­sary for the next trip, you’re bound to lighten the load sub­stan­tially and im­prove your mileage ac­cord­ingly.”

“Weight is a killer,” adds Eric Miller, a tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor and en­gi­neer­ing man­ager with Mercury. “Any­thing you can do to shed weight is a good thing, and that might be some­thing as sim­ple as drain­ing the livewells be­fore head­ing back in af­ter fish­ing.”


Fol­low­ing your en­gine’s rec­om­mended main­te­nance sched­ule — that in­cludes chang­ing spark plugs, oil and fil­ters at nor­mal in­ter­vals — will keep it run­ning at peak per­for­mance. Us­ing the right gaso­line helps too. With a few higher horse­power ex­cep­tions, most late-model out­boards are de­signed to run on reg­u­lar or midgrade oc­tane gas. High-oc­tane gas will only cost you more money and pro­vide no real ben­e­fits.

Per­for­mance bul­letins are an­other way to check how well your boat is run­ning. Most boat­builders of­fer per­for­mance data, which shows each model’s speed and fuel con­sump­tion with var­i­ous en­gine and pro­pel­ler con­fig­u­ra­tions for com­par­i­son. Many are also ac­ces­si­ble on­line on out­board man­u­fac­tur­ers’ web­sites.


“Boats in gen­eral are in­ef­fi­cient, the drag is so high,” Reid says. “Ide­ally, you want to get as much of the wet­ted hull sur­face as pos­si­ble out of the wa­ter. More horse­power al­lows a bet­ter cruise and fuel econ­omy, since the en­gine isn’t work­ing as hard. You’ll get the best mileage when you’re run­ning at 60 to 80 per­cent of the top speed of the boat. Ex­ceed that 80 per­cent mark and you quickly start burn­ing more fuel.”

“Ad­just­ing to sea con­di­tions by chang­ing the trim re­ally helps per­for­mance. Max­i­mum trim is usu­ally best,” Miller adds. “Auto-trim systems, which ad­just trim con­stantly based on boat speed and run­ning an­gle, are ben­e­fi­cial, since they take the guess­work out of set­ting it your­self at the right level. Fuel-mon­i­tor­ing systems, like the Eco-screen fea­ture on Mercury SmartCraft, mon­i­tor en­gine rpm, speed, fuel con­sump­tion and trim level to cal­cu­late for the max­i­mum fuel ef­fi­ciency.” Yamaha has a sim­i­lar sys­tem in its CL7 touch­screen dis­play that mon­i­tors and dis­plays fuel flow, econ­omy and miles per gal­lon.

“It ul­ti­mately comes down to a bal­ance be­tween dura­bil­ity and fuel econ­omy,” Reid says. “You’re al­ways look­ing for the sweet spot. At times you might be burn­ing a lit­tle more fuel, yet the en­gine will be run­ning more ef­fi­ciently, which will keep it cooler and pro­long its ser­vice life.”


No mat­ter what other mea­sures you take to im­prove your boat’s per­for­mance and fuel ef­fi­ciency, don’t for­get about what’s be­low the water­line. Marine growth quickly ac­cu­mu­lates when your boat stays in the wa­ter, and that added tex­ture on the bot­tom con­sid­er­ably in­creases drag, zap­ping fuel econ­omy in the process.

“It’s not some­thing you nec­es­sar­ily see or think about, but marine growth — al­gae and bar­na­cles — re­ally de­grades per­for­mance,” Landry says. “If you just man­age to keep the bot­tom of the hull clean, you’ll no­tice a ma­jor dif­fer­ence.” Reg­u­lar haul-outs and clean­ing or ap­ply­ing bot­tom paint will keep the fuzz and bar­na­cles at bay.

TOP PRI­OR­ITY: Im­proved fuel ef­fi­ciency and range are of­ten more im­por­tant than top speed.

By Capt. Dave Lear Add these easy fu­el­sav­ing tips to your bag of tricks to boost your boat’s range and save money in the process.

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