Boating on a budget

Over half (28) of the 50 United States are charging more than $4 for a gallon of gas, and if you end up filling the boat at a marina, it could be a lot more than that.

Although it was reported by the Michigan State's Marine Research Center that only 1 percent of boat owners planned to leave their machines in the garage in 2008, many anglers are taking action to try and reduce fuel consumption while they're out.

Billy Holmes, vice president of Gulf Coast Marine out of Corpus Christi, Texas, said they get a lot of boaters coming in to swap their old, inefficient two-stroke motor with a newer four-stroke.

"We're seeing a little bit of downsizing on horsepower, but it really depends on what people want to use the boat for," Holmes said. "If they are tournament anglers and need to get back and forth in a hurry, the larger motor might only cost them an extra $20 in gas a day, which is worth it.

"But the casual angler is learning that he can slowly work his way to a spot and save money."

Guides like Chuck Naiser, who has been guiding in the Gulf for over 25 years, decided to sell his boat with a 90 hp engine and replace it with smaller setup with a 70 hp.

"I think it was the only thing to do," Naiser said. "I had a diesel Chevy truck I loved to death, but I sold it too before the diesel got out of hand.

"The day of having a big boat with a 200 on it for the working man, I think that day is gone. He can afford to go fishing once every two weeks, but if he's running a 25, he can afford to go fishing every day. It doesn't burn but two or three gallons of gas."

Not looking to overhaul the entire setup like Naiser but still want to save on gas? The Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) has a few tips that could help stretch a tank of gas:

1. Leave the extra 'junk' home: Don't load the boat up with weight you don't need. Do a little spring cleaning - unused equipment that has been collecting mildew in the bottom of lockers for years should be taken home.

2. Water weight: At 8.33 pounds per gallon, why keep the water in the tank topped off if you're only going out for the afternoon?

3. Tune her up: An engine tune-up is an excellent investment and should easily pay for itself over the summer.

4. Tune your prop: If your boat goes 30 mph with a like-new prop and only 27 mph with a prop that's dinged and out of pitch, that's a 10 percent loss in fuel economy, or, you're wasting one out of every ten gallons you put in your tank.

5. Paint the boat's bottom: When boating in salt or brackish waters a fouled bottom is like a dull knife. It takes a lot more fuel to push your boat through the water.

6. Keep the boat in trim: Using trim tabs or distributing weight evenly will help move your boat through the water with less effort and less fuel.

7. Go with the flow: Consult tide tables and try to travel with the tide whenever possible.

8. Install a fuel flow meter: A fuel flow meter is like a heart monitor; when consumption starts to rise, it's an early warning that something is amiss. A fuel flow meter also allows you to select a comfortable cruising speed that optimizes the amount of fuel being consumed.

9. Do the math: If you don't want to spring for a fuel flow meter (about $300), you can calculate your fuel mileage by dividing distance traveled by gallons at fill-up. Using your logbook, you can then approximate fuel flow using average speeds and time underway.

10. Get a discount: Many of the 885 BoatU.S. Cooperating Marinas around the country offer up to 10 cents off a gallon of gas. To get the discount all you have to do is to show your BoatU.S. membership card.