What savings for boaters tips can you learn from a lifelong boat nut?

Smart Savings for Boaters

by Rich Finzer

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As a lifelong and self-confessed boat nut, I treasure the time I spend on the water. What I've never been fond of though is spending a pile of extra money on the care and feeding of my vessels. So here are some time-tested tips on savings for boaters. For the record, I earned my power boat license in 1960 when I was only 11 and I've been sailing since 1966.

Avoid the Gas Dock: Gasoline at the fuel dock typically runs nearly a dollar more per gallon than at a gas station. If your boat is powered by a small outboard with a portable tank, fill it on the way to the water and save some money. And carrying a few spare gallons in another tank will help you avoid the inevitable "I forgot" problem we've all experienced.

Avoid the Diesel Dock: If your sailboat has a small diesel engine, stay away from that fuel pump too, sailor. You'll also save about a buck a gallon if you fill a jerry can with diesel from a truck stop. But there's another reason. Truck stops sell thousands of gallons of fuel per day. Their fuel is always fresh. The diesel at the fuel dock is how old? It may be contaminated with condensation or bacteria (yep, bacteria can grow in diesel fuel). Old or dirty fuel will ruin a diesel engine.

Two-Cycle Oil: New environmental rules have sounded the death knell for the two-cycle outboard, but there are still millions of older motors in use. Buy your two-cycle oil in quarts or larger containers. Then measure out in advance what you'll need for a tank of gasoline and keep it onboard. A clear plastic soda bottle with a screw top is perfect for storing some oil onboard. You can always use the extra oil in your weed whacker or chainsaw. Two-cycle oil doesn't care where it gets used. Buying 2 cycle oil in those little "convenience" bottles nearly doubles your cost on a per quart basis.

Roll Your Own: Steer clear of the ice locker at the corner convenience store and definitely avoid the ice machine at the marina where just like the fuel dock markup, the price of ice is expensive. Plan ahead and make your own ice at home. Your freezer is already on; make it earn its keep.

Cleaning: Add the word "boat" to the name of any cleaning product and the price automatically skyrockets. If your gelcoat has gotten dingy and dull, a good scrub with Bon Ami® cleanser will remove the oxidation. I buy cans of the stuff for 89 cents at my local grocery. Pick up some soft bristled nylon brushes at the dollar store. If scrubbing the boat wears them out, it doesn't matter because you only paid a buck apiece for them anyway.

Wax: A good quality wax will help protect your hull and help prevent future gelcoat oxidation. The one I use is very expensive, but by shopping online, I can usually save 30% over what the big blue marine store (you know the one) wants to sock me for it.

Recycle: If something wears out and needs replacement, hang onto the old unit. Don't discard it. As an example, I needed to replace one of the wire shrouds on my sailboat. I kept the old one, and the following spring, I fashioned a perfectly serviceable topping lift from it. I saved about $40.

Pool Your Purchases: If you and your yacht club/marina buddies have similar needs, consider pooling your purchases from a common website and leverage a quantity discount and maybe free shipping. Then divvy up the stuff when it arrives.

Surplus vs. "New": If you're installing upgrades or refitting an older boat, you might want to visit the website for Marine Connection Liquidators. This outfit sells all manner of boat gizmos sourced from manufacturer's production overruns, and boat companies that are closing up shop. They are the largest surplus marine merchant in the entire US. I've personally purchased from these folks and their prices are as much as 60% below normal retail. It's all new inventory; it's just sold at "surplus" prices.

Follow these common sense tips and you'll avoid being taken to the cleaners while you're trying to get to the water.

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