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Ethanol a Smarter Fuel on the Water

May 23, 2023

Ethanol in Boats


By Robert White, Vice President for Industry Relations


It’s that time of year again when recreational boats leave their trailers and lifts and find their way back to the water. Next weekend marks the ceremonial beginning of summer with the Memorial Day holiday, and many boats will take to the waters for the first time this season after a long storage period this past fall, winter and spring. Fuel quality is always important for a boat, as is proper maintenance. Neglecting your fuel and ignoring maintenance can leave you stranded on the open water.


RFA has been educating boat owners for decades, both with technical information, and demonstrations on the water. We have sponsored the National Boat Racing Association and the  Crappie Masters National Tournament Trail, and now we are sponsoring individual anglers that compete across the country. Racers and anglers spend a lot of the time on the water and they depend on safe, affordable, clean fuels to get them where they need to go—ethanol-blended fuel checks all of those boxes.


In 2023, we’re sponsoring Dylan Faulconer, a crappie angler from Kansas who fishes in tournaments throughout the Midwest. Dylan has been using E10 in his boat for years. In fact, he was using it before he even was aware of it, given his home state in the Corn Belt.


We’re also supporting Ryan Armstrong, an active participant in Major League Fishing, a league that travels the countryside chasing the biggest bass. Ryan is based in Illinois. In just a span of three weeks, this league will travel from the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri to the Potomac River near Washington, DC, and then to Wisconsin. Ryan is no different than Dylan on fuel use; he not only appreciates the cost savings with ethanol, but also the benefits to our air and water quality.


The goal of our work is to educate boat owners that fuel containing 10 percent ethanol is approved by every engine manufacturer, and in some cases, recommended. It is also important to note that no ethanol blend above E10—such as E15 or E85—should be used in marine equipment. The fuel is not approved for those applications, nor was the equipment designed for it in most cases.


There are always of stories and misinformation around ethanol and boats this time of year. But in reality, if there are ever any fuel-related issues, it is oftentimes because of a failure to conduct routine maintenance, especially if the boat is rarely used. Several years ago, BoatUS put out an ethanol myth-busting piece with the help of Mercury-Marine. This article highlighted the most likely bits of misinformation you have heard about ethanol-blended fuels in boats. Many of these myths are perpetuated by companies that are trying to get you to buy more expensive fuel, install unneeded equipment, or use costly additives with questionable benefits:


Myth 1: Ethanol-enhanced gasoline (E10) loses octane much faster than regular gasoline.


Myth 2: E10 attracts water, so it’s important to install a water separator to prevent the water from reaching the engine.


Myth 3: Certain additives can prevent phase separation.


Again, read here to learn how all these statements are false.


In the end, millions upon millions of hours are logged each year by boats running on E10 on our beautiful waterways across the country. If you follow the guidance of your manufacturer, and the information we have linked above, you should have years of fun in the sun while using a product that is better for the air and water, and better for your pocketbook.


I will see you out on the water. Fuel right—and boat safe!