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Cut Fuel Costs With Your Marine Electronics

by Dave Alston

Marine Electronics Can Cut Fuel Costs
As fuel prices continue to soar everyone is interested in minimizing the negative impact on the cost per trip of operating your boat.  Proper use of your existing electronics or perhaps the installation of some new equipment could not only make your trip more enjoyable and productive but also provide a significant savings of two critical elements, fuel and time.
Chart Plotter:
A good quality chart plotter is one of the best electronic aids available today for the offshore mariner.  Not only does it eliminate the need for old-fashioned paper charts, it provides a highly efficient way to plan and execute your trip.  Furuno NavNet 3D series allow you to layer conventional navigational charts, bathometric charts, and even satellite imaginary on the same screen.  Safe and efficient navigation is easier than you might imagine.
Today’s high quality autopilots such as the Furuno Navpilot series provide tools and features not even imagined just a few years ago.  Intuitive programs constantly monitor and analyze the characteristics of your boat and fine-tune its ability to keep you on course.  Even the very basic functions of a quality autopilot could produce substantial savings in fuel and time.  Just imagine what one that gets smarter every time you use it can do.
Under normal to moderate sea conditions even the best captain can’t match the steering accuracy of a good autopilot.  Conservatively speaking, the general consensus is that manual steering will add 5% – 10% to the total time and distance of a cruise.  Also consider that for each degree off course you will be approximately 100’ to one side of your intended track after only one mile.  Some captains have reported savings of $100 – $300 on a single day run after the installation of an autopilot.  Results will vary depending upon your particular boats speed and fuel consumption rate.
One-Two Punch:
Now combine the features of a quality chart plotter and autopilot for some real savings.  Select your waypoint (destination) on your plotter and let the autopilot take over in the “NAV” mode to get some real bang for your buck.  The potential savings can soar when you consider the autopilots ability to correct for wind and currents on longer runs.  While steering to a waypoint in the autopilots NAV mode it is constantly updating the calculations to keep the boat on a direct route to the selected designation.  Given the right sea and weather conditions, the advantages of using a good autopilot and plotter combination could produce very substantial savings on fuel, time, and stress (for the boat and captain).