How To Improve The Fuel Efficiency On My Boat

It used to be that there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes – but now there seems to be a third: the rising cost of fuel.

Keeping and maintaining your boat can be an expensive pastime – which means many people look to making savings when it comes to running a boat.

Sure, you can’t cut corners when it comes to safety and there are a heap of labour-saving gadgets out there to spend your cash on which all go to making boating fun, but there are measures you can take to make your boat as fuel efficient as possible.

And here’s a tip: keep a note on how much fuel you use as you put some of these measures into practice. Also keep records on how far you travelled and at what speeds – at the end of the day, the best way to control fuel costs is by easing off on the throttle but if you monitor how your boat’s fuel efficiency changes depending on changes you make and the way you use your boat, you’ll be able to keep track of the money you can save.


  • 1. Keep a clean and well-maintained hull: This time of year is perfect to get your boat out of the water and check on the hull. Removing barnacles and weeds and coating the hull in a good anti-foul paint will help reduce drag in the water and let your boat perform more efficiently whether under sail or motor – of course, when you’re motoring, the more efficiently you move through the water, the less fuel you’ll use. While you’re under there, also check that all your zincs and transducers are properly fitted to reduce drag, and that your propeller is in good nick – bent blades, eroded edges and dings will decrease fuel efficiency as much as having the wrong size diameter prop.

  • 2. Keep an eye on how your engine’s running: A well-tuned engine should create an exhaust which is virtually invisible. Black smoke means the engine is overloaded, isn’t getting enough air or has worn injectors – blue smoke means worn rings or valves are letting oil into the combustion chamber. In either case, you’ll need to get your hands dirty or get a mechanic in to improve the engine’s efficiency. Dirty fuel will also damage your efficiency as well as the engine, which means investing in additives which clean the engine parts or filters to remove the dirt will save you cash in the long term.

  • 3. Watch your weight: It’s not only how much weight you carry that affects the amount of fuel you use on a journey, but also how you stow that weight. Depending on your style of boat, you’ll be able to alter how it handles in the water and its trim by distributing weight around the boat. This is something you’ll be able to get a handle on the more you use your boat.

  • 4. Watch your speed: Nothing will save you more money than easing up on that throttle so try to give yourself a little more time for your journey and settle back to watch the world pass by at a little slower pace. It might seem strange, but running the engine faster doesn’t always translate into an equivalent increase in speed – so simply keeping an eye on fuel consumption at different RPMs will give you a taste of the most optimal speed for your specific boat. A displacement hull will require significantly more fuel the faster you go so it’s important to stay well below the maximum hull speed. With a planing hull, which lowers drag by having less of the hull in contact with the water, you should get on to the plane as quickly as possible and then reduce your speed a little – but you’ll have to keep the speed at a certain level to maintain fuel efficiency as planning hull rely on speed to keep most of the hull out of the water.

  • 5. Know your wind and tide charts: If you’re under sail then you know how much extra energy it takes to go against the flow of wind and water. But the same applies to motoring too. Having up-to-date weather reports and planning your travelling around the tides can help your fuel efficiency immensely.

  • 6. Invest in power-saving gadgets: Whether you kit out your boat in energy efficient LED lighting as opposed to normal bulbs, or you get hold of solar cells or a wind turbine to help recharge batteries or run instruments and heavy duty kit like fridges and freezers, it all goes towards helping your boat’s overall energy efficiency. You might not notice the saving at the fuel pump, but it will certainly help in your overall cost savings.

  • 7. Get your navigation right: On dry land, it’s easy to calculate distances because the road networks tend to limit your options – but at sea you can find yourself adding many extra kilometres and engine hours to a journey by poor planning. Learning navigation skills is a good start but investing in an autopilot also means that some of the onus on efficiency can be taken out of your hands.

For more information on Burnsco Marine’s range of products to help you keep your fuel costs low, contact us on 0800 102040, email us, or Livechat with one of our staff via the website.

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