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Fuel Saving Tip for your Day-Cruiser:

Buy a Bigger Boat!

Prologue: This was written in 2008, but seems relevant even today as fuel prices head north again. -Eric

After having a day cruiser for a few years, we bit the bullet and moved up to a bigger boat. In our case, we found a nice 37' flybridge convertible that was built in the mid nineties and came with a five-figure price tag. If you have considered such a move, the time has never been better to find a bargain on a big boat. Interest rates are still good, and the credit crunch during early '08 has left the market with a great selection of boats to from which to choose. Moving up will, of course, increase some of your expenses. These include fixed expenses such as insurance, maintenance and property taxes. The surprise for us, however, has been the decreased fuel bill for 2008. This is hard to believe, considering we've been boating more, and fuel prices have increased almost a dollar per gallon at the pump.

Most of this relates to how you use a boat. When we had a day-cruiser, in our case, a Sea Ray 280, we found ourselves cruising at 25 mph, finding a spot to swim and eat, then we'd get hot, so we'd cruise some more. We frequently brought guests and zipped downtown for dinner, which was also fun. With a larger boat and more room to hang out, we found that the boat itself became the destination.

Sure it's fun to go to Buckheads for dinner, but with a larger platform, you can find you own spot on the river, and comfortably serve your own food and beverages. In our case, we found that 1400-1600 RPM yielded a nice slow cruise, and with 37' of boat and twin 454s, we were getting 1.5 mpg. That's roughly what we averaged overall with the 280 and its twin 350 blocks, but the difference was the amount of time spent running and the speed at which we'd do so. Instead of keeping everybody cool at 25 mph, we were happy opening the sliding glass door and retiring to the salon for a little cool air. Whereas our day-cruiser was a little crowded with guests, the larger platform offered more room for everybody. We found that we'd usually have a few adults swimming out back, with the rest hanging out in the shade on the back or lounging inside. When it was time to eat, instead of tripping over a cooler, there was ample room in the galley to prepare a nice meal. The full-sized shower was nice after swimming all day, and the kids could watch a DVD in the salon while the adults hung out on the back deck for the evening. As for the fuel use, I started to wonder after two months if the gauge was even working.

As it turned out, the 375 tank, which we kept about 1/2 full, just wasn't getting depleted much. We found that instead of moving all day like we did in the Weekender, we would make a 3 mile trip to 12 Mile Island, hang out all day or weekend, then make a 3 mile trip home. The time on the boat was much more comfortable, and when it was all said and done, we'd use less than 10 gallons of roundtrip fuel. Even if you figure roughly 1.0 gph burn for the genset, which we lightly used, we were still using less fuel for a "day on the river" than we did in an hour at cruise of the smaller boat.

At this point, maybe you're saying to yourself, "but I want to go fast sometimes." That's great. A larger boat makes for a great mothership and a great platform to spend time on the water. You can invite your friends over and trade some skiing time on the runabout for some relaxing time and dinner on the mothership. Friends with PWC are also welcome. A Zodiac inflatable would be great, too, down the road.

Above, tied up at River's Edge Marina. Photo by Capt. Eric

To be fair, I'll be the first to admit that running the 280 and 37'er side by side will show double the fuel burn on the 37. But, that's only half the story. What we didn't account for was the different way we would use a bigger boat. Sure, we still take it downtown for big events, and yes, we burn twice the fuel on those days. But for the other days on the river, our fuel budget has actually gone way down. If you're thinking about moving up to a larger boat, don't let fuel be the show-stopper.

-Capt. Eric



Eric Grubb
Founder, Port KY
Licensed Master

Eric grew up around boats, trading summers on board his parents' Sea Rays for many man-hours of swabbing the decks. He grew up by the little town of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, overlooking the the Dashields Locks and Dam. He has traveled the Great Lakes, Lake Huron's North Channel, Gulf of Mexico and several rivers to include the Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Mohawk (Erie Canal), Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Mobile Rivers.

As a commercial pilot, Eric flies jets and is a flight instructor. He has owned recreational boats ranging from PWCs to most recently, a flybridge convertible that he keeps in a Louisville marina (MM 590). You can also find him with his family on the "Escape Pod," an 18' fishing boat. His most memorable journey was aboard the J. S. Lewis, a 155' towboat in service since 1931.

Eric is a USCG Licensed Master with a Commerical Tow Assistance rating, and is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Riverman and the Louisville Sail and Power Squadron. After moving to Louisville, he conceived the idea for Louisville's Port KY website while searching for information to help him become a safer and more knowledgable local boater. He has worked hard over the years to educate other boaters by promoting safety classes through Port KY and by hosting captain's classes and related events.










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