Fuel management 5, Northstar & Smartcraft


Mad Mariner just polled 400 U.S. boat owners about how they’re handling goosed up fuel prices, and the results are depressing. Though not terribly surprising, which is why I’ve gotten so keen on fuel management (part four is here, and you can work back). Actually it was years ago that I first saw the benefits of combining a simple gasoline flow meter with a GPS and software able to do calculations like miles per gallon, using Navman gear with the 250hp Volvo I/O on Ralph (still for sale, make an offer!). I could see the most economical spots in the boat’s power curve, and I could see them change with weight, sea state and other factors. I’m not sure I ever got it perfectly calibrated, so the numbers shown above may be inaccurate, but in terms of relative nm/g—and sweet spots—that’s not critical. And of course the subtleties are at least twice as important wallet-wise as they were in 2002, when I took the picture above.

That Navman equipment, novel in its day, is still available, but under the Northstar brand name. The Web site isn’t completely clear on the subject, but I’m pretty sure that the Explorer and M Series all know what to do with the input of Northstar’s inexpensive fuel sensor (even two of them). The M124 and M84—now also rejiggered as the Simrad NX series (which unfortunately are not as N2K copasetic as I originally thought, more to come)—also understand SmartCraft fuel information coming from Mercury outboards and Cummins MerCruiser diesels, as does the Northstar 6000i series. It appears that there’s also full featured fuel management in Mercury’s own VesselView, shown below and techier info here, which bears a striking resemblance to Northstar’s 8000i Series, which—you guessed it—also understands SmartCraft. There’s lots of way to keep on eye on boat fuel usage, and I haven’t yet discussed the Lowrance LMF 400 gauge and sensor I’ve just installed on Gizmo.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

2 Responses

  1. HolySmokes says:

    I’m glad you’ve got the Lowrance unit.
    After 4 months of evaluating the unit, I can only support how great this low-cost unit is. It monitors multiple engines, multiple tanks, and it (so far) seems accurate enough to count on for 1/mileage; 2/fuel usage; 3/fuel remaining, and if you don’t like what it is reporting, you can re-calibrate it to your liking.
    Since I started with a full 240g tank, I haven’t had the opportunity to see what the bottom line is, but usage (from 3+ to near 15 gph with a 175 merc 2stroke) seems appropriate.
    best, HS

  2. DefJef says:

    I think we are going to need more than better fuel management to maintain all the “power” boats out there. Fuel is such a huge cost to the use and maintenance of these boats a lot of owners are just not using them when they cost thousands of dollars in fuel for a weekend of fun.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *