Running Out of Gas on a Boat: What Now?


Almost everyone has run out of gas while driving their car. A phone call to a family member, friend, or roadside assistance can usually resolve the issue with little danger other than a bruised ego. Even acquaintances or coworkers will usually go out of their way to help. But what do you do if your boat runs out of fuel?

When renting a boat on or through our app, a day on the water should end with the vessel and its crew returning safely to their home port with smiles on their faces.

While we strongly recommend paying close attention to the gas gauge, we understand that sometimes barnacles happen! So you ran out of gas, what now?

Boat Out of Gas.

Follow our helpful fuel emergency protocol to guide you in a safe return:

  • Check how far are you from the shore
  • Check for cell phone service (or a VHF radio on board)
  • Locate drinking water and weather gear

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Check how far are you from the shore

If you run out of fuel, one of your first tasks should be to stop the boat from drifting farther out to deeper water. If possible, drop the anchor and let out enough line to secure the boat to stop the boat from drifting offshore. By doing this, you’ll be easier to locate!

Check for cell phone service

You will need to alert someone of your situation and call for assistance. If your cell phone is still connected, call your family to tell them you are ok, share the details of your trip, and ask for help.

If you don’t know anyone with a boat who you can call for help, you have two other options: contact the U.S. Coast Guard or call a marine towing service like Sea Tow or BoatUS.

Check for a VHF radio on board

Boat Radio.

You can reach the Coast Guard via VHF radio on channel 16. The Coast Guard typically responds to emergencies like a fire, sinking, or a life-threatening physical issue such as a heart attack or injury.

If you are broken down or out of fuel and not in immediate danger, they will contact Sea Tow or BoatUS for your rescue!

It’s important to know that being towed in or having a marine towing company bring you fuel is not cheap. However, by becoming a member of groups like BoatUS, like car owners can join AAA, your emergency expenses will be covered entirely (in most cases), including out-of-fuel emergencies.

To make it easier for emergency personnel or towing services to find you, learn to work the VHF radio properly and know how to find your exact position on a GPS.

Locate drinking water and shelter on the boat

Boat Shelter.

Keep in mind that on a boat, even if there is some shelter, you will be more exposed to changing weather conditions and changes in sea conditions.

So please be prepared! Keep extra drinking water and extra clothing on board in case it takes time for an emergency crew to find you.

Luckily, running out of fuel can be avoided by carefully planning your trip, watching your fuel use, and ensuring you leave the dock with a full tank of gas or diesel.

Keep a great day on the water great by eyeing your fuel meter and heading home while there is still plenty left in the tank!

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