As we start the New Year many of us are making resolutions to lose weight. This is a good goal to set and while we’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to help our boats lose some extra weight as well. We all feel and perform better when we are not carrying around extra pounds; this applies to your boat as well.
As a surveyor I get to poke around in a lot of different boats. More often than not when opening lockers and hatches I find the spaces are so packed with equipment it makes me wonder if I will need a back hoe to reach bottom. Ideally you should have the right amount of equipment and gear to help make your boating safe and fun, but not so much that your boat gets over loaded and loses performance. Extra weight will cost the power boater extra fuel (and expense) and the sail boater loss of performance. Yacht designers take into account average equipment and stores when doing their weight calculations. They base their calculations on a half load condition for optimal performance. Too much weight as well as weight in the wrong places can throw off how a boat sits on her lines, and ultimately how well she will perform.
Extra weight will slow your boat down and require more energy in the form of fuel or wind to move through the water. The situation becomes worse when driving through waves as the boat may not be able to ride over the seas as well as a lighter boat would. Weight also needs to be distributed properly. It is easy to tell when your weights are off side to side as the boat will have a list. It is not as easy to spot if your fore and aft weights are properly distributed. A boat riding bow or stern down will not perform as well as one properly balanced. Trim tabs on a power boat can help but they too will rob energy if over trimmed. On sailboats the weight can throw off how she sits on her heeled waterline reducing performance.
The trick is to find a balance in what you really need onboard and avoid ending up with more than you think you need. It is all too easy to end up with more equipment than is necessary, things get throw into lockers and are soon buried and forgotten about. Boats have lots of little cubby holes and deep lockers to lose stuff into. Some lockers are more like black holes that will swallow up anything that gets near them! Many times while doing a survey and pulling things out of lockers I will hear the owner remark “I did not know I had that in there” as I remove a 40 pound anchor or other such item.
I always recommend that boaters take everything out of their boat once a year, clean the lockers and put back only what they really need. Of course this is easier said than done, but it can be worth the effort. As you put things back onboard ask yourself if you really need that piece of equipment or other item. One of the biggest mistakes I see many boaters make is to carry too many spares. Yes spares are important and needed but for normal weekend cruising, ask yourself what you really need. If you are setting out for the Caribbean you might need that spare injector pump or the extra large anchor with 300 feet of chain, but for weekend coastal cruising this extra weight will cost you in fuel and performance. As you sort through things ask yourself if you really need 10 gallons of antifreeze onboard or could you get by with 5 gallons.
Even if you choose not to empty your whole boat in one shot, it pays to attack one locker at a time and sort through what you really need. As you place things back in the lockers stop and ask yourself if you really need it. Be honest and do not fool yourself into thinking you need something that you could get by without. Think about the type of boating you are doing not what you hope to do one day. Yes that spare exhaust manifold or extra 300 feet of chain would be useful for that Caribbean cruise but do you really need now while just exploring the coast and bays on weekends. Look at the small things as well. Even food supplies can weigh your boat down.
While you are at think about where the weight of your stores is placed. Power boats have the center of their water planes further aft while a sailboats the center of water plane is closer to amidships. This means that weight place further aft in a power boat will have less effect on performance than if placed forward. Weight forward will make it harder for a power boat to get up on a plane and will cause it to plow through the waves rather than riding over them. With sailboats weights are better placed amidships and low. Weights in the ends both bow and stern will have a more pronounced effect while heeling that you may not notice. Extra weights in the ends also can make it harder for the boat to ride up as a wave passes underneath.
With the New Year’s resolutions and thoughts of weight loss, think about losing some weight in your boat as well. Start the new boating season off with a lighter boat and more money in your pocket at the fuel dock, or more trophies for your club racing. It is a win, win for both you and your boat.