This Is What You Need to Do if Your Boat Runs Out of Gas

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You’ve spent an entire day on your boat loving nature and doing a bit of fishing. It’s getting pretty late in the evening now. Time to pack up and head back.

When you try to turn on your boat, it doesn’t respond. You try again and get nothing. Panic starts to set in as you realize that the fuel tank is empty.

What do you do when your boat runs out of gas? Do you just sit around and wait for a good Samaritan to come by?

Take a deep breath and keep reading as we take you through all the steps to get yourself and whoever is on the boat with you, back to shore.

Don’t Panic 

The worst thing you can do when you run out of gas is to give in to panic. Especially if you have people on the boat with you. If you work yourself into a frenzy, your passengers will too. 

Take a deep breath and assure yourself and those with you that everything is alright. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to clear your mind and think of a way out of your current problem. 

Try to Call for Help

After you’ve calmed down, you can start trying different ways to call for help. If you have a VHF radio with you, that should be your first means of communication. There are several stations on call for such an emergency. 

If you don’t have a radio on board, you or at least one of your passengers should have a cellphone. Try to use what signal you can get out in the middle of the water to call for help. 

You can also attempt to flag down other boaters. You can use airhorns or emergency flares to gain their attention. If you don’t have airhorns or flares, you now have something to put at the top of your shopping list before your next trip. 

Set the Anchor 

If you do get someone on the phone or radio, it will be hard for them to find you if you’re moving around. You also don’t want to drift toward any hazardous rocks or other objects while you’re waiting on help. 

Set your anchor and stay where you are. It’s important to note that you should do this even if you didn’t get in touch with someone. If you remain still, you’re bound to come into contact with another boater eventually. 

Be Observant 

When you’re stranded out in the middle of the water, it’s important that you stay observant. You need to be on the lookout for other boaters at all times. You should also check your inventory. 

If you have oars and enough people to use them, you might be able to get yourself to shore without calling for help. Still, you’ll have to stay on your toes.

If you’re not, you may accidentally guide the boat into a field of sharp rocks. You’ll have an entirely different set of problems on your hands if you manage to do that. 

Stay Safe and Comfortable 

Being stranded isn’t an ideal situation but you’ve got to do what you can to keep your passengers and yourself safe and comfortable. You’re not sure what will happen on the water so equip everyone with life jackets. 

Make sure that everyone is wearing sunscreen if it’s a hot day. If you’re stranded in the middle of winter, provide passengers with some kind of blanket.

Break out the food and water when people get hungry or thirsty. The last thing you want is for someone to get dehydrated and pass out while you’re in the middle of nowhere. 

Get a Float Plan Together Before You Leave 

You can avoid some panic by getting a float plan together before you head out on your trip. Write down on a piece of paper where you’re going, when you plan to return, the details of your course, and any possible stops you plan on making. Give these notes to a neighbor, friend, or reliable family member. 

This way you know there’s somebody out there looking for you if you have no more gas in your boat. If plans change and you’re going to be coming back a little later, make sure you notify this failsafe person. You don’t want them panicking and sending the coast guard out to find you because you weren’t done having fun yet. 

How to Avoid Running Out of Fuel?

Of course, you won’t have to do any of the things listed above if you stop yourself from running out of gas. Here are a few tried and true methods to monitor your fuel. 

Fuel Monitor 

You shouldn’t rely on the fuel monitor because it can be off but eyeballing it while you’re navigating can give you a ballpark gas amount that you can work with. 

You can back up the monitor with a captain’s fuel log. Write down how much fuel you had when you started the trip along with the date you bought it. 

Rule of Thirds 

You will use up 1/3 of your gas going out, 1/3 coming back, and then there is the 1/3 you should leave for emergency circumstances. Keeping this in mind while you’re out can help you keep tabs on your fuel use. 

Stay Calm When Your Boat Runs Out of Gas 

The worst thing you can do when your boat runs out of gas is panic. You’ve got to stay cool and collected. Try to contact someone via radio or phone and set your anchor so you don’t drift off. 

Doing this along with following the other steps on this list will save the life of both you and your passengers when you find yourself stranded at sea. 

Of course, some fuel issues can be avoided by renting your boat from a reliable source. Contact us to get a quote on one of our boats today. 


GBC has the fastest-growing fleet of cruising and fishing boats in South Florida. our reputation for excellent service and safety is second to none. Wheter you are planning a sunset cruise, ocean fishing, or a family water skiing trip on the intracoastal, GBC makes it simple and easy.

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