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Old 13-09-2010, 06:12   #1
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Fuel Costs, and How the Other Half Live

Sunday morning saw me motoring round the corner to the marina and the local fuel pontoon. We used half a tank of fuel getting back from France on our last trip. With winter approaching it was time to top it up and add a dose of snake oil to keep the condensation and bugs at bay.

Found a pretty semi displacement motor cruiser infront of me in the queue. About 35 feet long with nice blue hull and husband and wife crew. Seemed to take while to fill up, so I asked the fuel attendant after he left how much fuel did he take. Answer 1500 litres, thats 400 US gallons or about $2000 worth

Thank god we have a yacht, I just managed to squeeze 62 litres in @ $85. We shouldn't need to fuel up again until June 2011

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Old 13-09-2010, 06:22   #2
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I'm going to help a friend bring his new 48' sport fisherman from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Nevis in January. At a burn rate of about 2 USG/nm we'll probably use about 10,000 liters of diesel for the delivery. Mind-boggling!
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Old 13-09-2010, 06:57   #3
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The price here for diesel at my marina in Qld Oz is $1.38/ltr and thats cheap. ($5.23/US Gal)
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Old 13-09-2010, 07:05   #4
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We use the ice/diesel ratio to measure how good the sailing was on a particular trip. If we spent more on ice than we did on diesel, I/D>1, we had good sailing. If I/D<1, we motored too much.

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Old 13-09-2010, 07:06   #5
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Interestingly, the Dashew's are arguing that the total costs for their new power boat are actually slightly less than operating their previous sailboat, including the costs of sail/rigging maintenance, etc....

They do seem to have used pretty conservative (as in high) fuel and maintenance costs, too.
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Old 13-09-2010, 07:30   #6
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I converted to electric propulsion in 2008. My fuel needs are much lower now with solar, a windgenerator and a Honda 2000 EU generator onboard. I used about five gallons of gas on my recent two week cruise and most of that was to run the Honda 2000 to keep the house bank charged because I was operating my Engel refrigerator in freezer mode. Normally my solar panels would have been enough to keep things charged up. When I need more gas I just dingy over to the fuel dock and fill a 2 1/2 gallon jug. No waiting for one of those sport fisherman to finish putting a couple hundred gallons into their tanks.
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Old 13-09-2010, 07:35   #7
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I would think that the annual cost comparison would have a lot to do with how far you traveled each year. For us an average year is about 7000 miles--at 2 gal/m and $3/gal, thats $42k. We change out rigging and sails every 10 years, and the last bill was about $15k, or $1500/yr on average. Looking at a different way, if we were on a motorboat, our annual budget would have to double.

However, if you are a weekend sailor and go less than 1000 miles/year, the fuel bill isn't as much a factor...
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Old 13-09-2010, 07:39   #8
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it's all about speed while cruising also. I worked for a while on a 112' westport motoryacht. At 20kts we'd stuff around 140 gph into the engines (took every bit of fuel to hit key west like that. 5000 gallons). But reduce the speed to a more realistic 8 knots and consumption dropped to a mere 16 gph. Twin 16V2000 Detroits.
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Old 13-09-2010, 07:40   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Healer52 View Post
Interestingly, the Dashew's are arguing that the total costs for their new power boat are actually slightly less than operating their previous sailboat, including the costs of sail/rigging maintenance, etc....

They do seem to have used pretty conservative (as in high) fuel and maintenance costs, too.
I would suspect they are not "typical power boats". The engine they have seems awful small for the length of boat they have. They also report rather high speeds. They have also have spent a large amount of money, and displacement on not having to utalize their generator system on stand by. Instead they have a set of very large batteries and inverters to provide electrical power during most times of the day. Together these should dracticaly reduce the amount of fuel that their vessel needs. I'd argue that they are on the extreme economimical side of the range.

On the other hand, I'm also suspect that their costs for their sailing vessel where rather high, if they really did sail at the speeds they mentioned. Can you really sail at 10+ knots without wearing things in the rigging out?
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Old 13-09-2010, 07:53   #10
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We can travel at 5 knots consuming 2 litres per hour on a single engine. So 400 litres per 1000 Miles = about $1200., say $1.20 per mile.

Say the average cruiser motors about 1/3 of the time, and does 10,000 miles per year:

Fuel: 3,300 miles x $1.20 = $3,960 p.a.

Which leaves an imputed budget of 6,700 miles x $1.20 per mile = $8,040. for the sailing stuff to break 'even'. I wouldn't spend $8K per year on sails nor, I suspect, would most cruisers. The racers might though....

But then the Dashews were sailing really large boats like the Sundeer so maybe their running rigging etc. was at parity with fuel costs on a per mile basis. I guess the only true comparison can be made by doing both!!
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Old 13-09-2010, 07:53   #11
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Yes the cost of fuel is a factor when cruising now. It was not when I started (.99 a gallon) , now it's $3 to $4.50 a gallon. Met a cruiser as I was lugging two jerry jugs of fuel from the gas station to the dinghy dock. He says to me, " did you ever think you'd ever be that strong that you could carry $50 worth of fuel all at once".
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Old 13-09-2010, 08:18   #12
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But then the Dashews were sailing really large boats like the Sundeer so maybe their running rigging etc. was at parity with fuel costs on a per mile basis. I guess the only true comparison can be made by doing both!!
I think that is what makes the Dashew's numbers somewhat compelling. They were sailors and convinced of it's virtues. They have good numbers over long distance and many years on both sail and power boats that most consider well done, even if bigger then most of us can afford.

There comparisons are probably as valid as any test we can reasonably do because they occurred over time in real conditions.

It doesn't make sailing any less interesting to know that you can motor an 84 foot boat cheaper then you can sail an 82 foot boat. It does allow those who are interested in power to feel a little better about the decision and in some ways opens up many more possibilities to cruisers who can afford the off shore heavy displacement boats like the Nordhavn and Dashew's FPB.

The only real possibility for the "unwashed masses" though, is sail, as finding a small, cheap power boat to go across oceans is a task infinitely harder then finding a "blue water" sailboat.

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Old 14-09-2010, 09:56   #13
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Hull form and design is a significant determinant in fuel usage. Dashew is a master at designing efficient hulls and it would affect his fuel efficiently claim.
- - The emergence of power cat's versus displacement monohulls amongst power yachts I think also looks to significant fuel usage savings.
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Old 14-09-2010, 11:38   #14
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My 44' sailcat has twin 40 hp engines and will cruise at 6 knots burning about .7-.75 GPH in relatively smooth water and light winds. If the wind comes up and the seas get rough I can get 7 on two engines and 1.5 GPH. Since the wind always seems to be coming from where I'm going and I don't yet have the ability to sail any distance without a sail I often end up motoring or motor sailing(schedule). I get about 150 engine hours per tank or a maximum range of about 900nm without sails. The power cat version of this boat has twin 315 hp engines and burns 3 GPH at 8 knots, but can go 16. Interestingly If I operate at max continuous power I too can do 8 knots, but burn even more fuel. The maker does not give fuel burns at 6 or 7 knots for the power version. A friend once put it this way, a sailboat is a boat where you only use the engine 90% of the time. A bit of an exageration, but sometimes it feels that way. It may be that I use the engine 50% or more on longer trips. So if the rigging and sails age wether they are used or not and cost 12-15000 to replace every 10 or so years then one must add those costs to the use of the auxillary engine(s) and their fuel and the fuel use may approach the use in a power cat if the power cat is used at trawler speeds. I've often wondered if I might not just remove the rigging next time it needs replaced and convert to a power cat with small engines. Note that the maker does not offer a power cat with smaller engines. I guess people who buy power cats are more interested in getup and go.
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Old 14-09-2010, 12:49   #15
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I guess people who buy power cats are more interested in getup and go.
Granted we're several years from an actual purchase, but we're leaning toward a power cat for several reasons. 1) we've never sailed (there's still time to learn) 2) we plan on more coastal / river / inlet cruising than bluewater 3) we'd want the space a cat provides and 4) cats tend to be more stable in weather. So, we're probably not the typical buyer, but get up and go for speed's sake isn't the draw. Although, it certainly is for some others.

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