Avoid Grief Afloat By Careful Check Of Fuel System

It’s spring again and I don’t know about you, but my mind goes to grits this time of year, and the strong longing to go voyaging is upon me yet again.

Lots of your boats have been laid up for the winter and maybe we need to take a good look at the fuel system before the fun begins.

Let’s start where this fossil fuel gets into your vessel above deck. Is you deck fill-cap marked “gasoline” and how about the O ring or seal? Does the fuel fill drain overboard if you overfill?

Unmarked deck fills account for lots of trouble at busy marinas. Any spilled gasoline will spread to lowest places if your fuel-fill does not drain overboard.

Does your tank vent terminate outside the hull and have at least a 15-inch separation between compartment ventilation openings and vent line termination? Is the tank vent-flame arrestor clean or has it become fouled with corrosion, mud daubers or possibly paint? If there is a restriction, the vent can’t properly do its job.

Now lets look at the below deck components. Is the fuel-fill hose U.S.C.G. Type A2? Does the hose appear cracked and does it have double clamps and what condition are the clamps in? Aged cracked hose and deteriorated clamps need to be refitted now, not later.

How about the ground wire! You’d be surprised at how many boats don’t have a proper ground wire. These wires are to carry static electricity from the dock hose to ground without causing a spark.. The ground wires should not be clamped between the fill pipe and hose because this could be potential leak.. They need to be attached to the fill plate with a bolt and at the tank with an attachment tab.

Now let’s look at the delivery hose. Is it U.S.C.G. Type A-1 or B-1? A-1 is preferable because it is fire resistant and will withstand a 2-1/2 minute exposure to free burning fuel without leaking. Are the hoses firm, or are they cracked or have swollen ends and feel sticky? If so, replace them and properly secure them. Fuel feed lines are a cheap replacement.

Is the fuel filter or filters securely mounted and is the bottom of the bowl dry or wet? If the mounting bracket is wasted or you feel a damp bowl, you need to address these deficiencies now, not later.

How about your blower hoses? If they are starting to look like they have taken a close range shotgun blast or been run over by a truck, let’s get those boys replaced.

Remember they need to draw air from the lowest point but be above normal bilge water. Make the most direct runs possible as more bends and twists cause them to lose efficiency. If your blower is starting to have bearing scream, it’s probably singing for replacement, and now is the time to get one that sings in tune.

Are the components such as fuel pumps and carburetors “marine” equipment? Automotive fuel pumps and carburetors can leak fuel in your boat. Have your mechanic use only “marine” parts. Is your distributor, starter and alternator “ignition protected?” Lots of after-market parts aren’t safe and could cause sparking.

Now about the fuel tank. I want to address tanks at length later, but does it have a tag stating it was tested under 33 Code of Federal Regulations 183.580? Gasoline tanks must meet Coast Guard requirements. There are lots of possible problems here, but No. 1 is, does it meet U.S.C.G. requirements? If your tank is aluminum and it has some white sticky stuff coming out anywhere, give me a call, we need to talk.

How about tank-top connections? Are they corroded and are the hoses securely fastened to the tank spuds? If your tank-top is above the carburetor inlet, you need an anti-siphon valve on an electrically operated shut-off valve.

Before fueling, turn off the battery switch and the stove if you have one. Fuel your boat yourself or have it done by a crew member who knows and understands the dangers of fueling. This boat doesn’t fuel like the family car and any fuel spilled can cause problems. Operate the blower for five minutes after fueling and use the best fume detector ever made, your nose, before stating your engine(s).

Don’t overfill because gasoline expands with heat and it can fill vent lines which need to be unrestricted. If you have a fuel spill in your vessel (while under-way), turn off the battery switch, which should be vapor proof. You and your crew don life jackets and call the U.S.C.G. or Marine Patrol. If at dock, evacuate crew or guests and disconnect shore cords at the dock connection. Tell the dockmaster or call the fire department.

There is a wonderful explosion on gasoline powered boats, but that one belongs inside the cylinder walls of your engine. It is designed to propel you and your friends into the realm of boating enjoyment and not into sky diving without a parachute.

Let’s all have a safe and fun boating season.

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