Safety First When Fueling Your Boat
Bob Cusack of the Coast Guard explains how to fuel your boat without causing an explosion.
Proper procedures when fueling your boat may save your life and the life of your boat. This is especially true with gasoline-powered engines. Remember vapors cause explosions. So what can you do to protect yourself and your boat?
1. Check all fuel lines, replace any that appear to have cracks and tighten all fuel line connections. Also make sure the ground wire between fill pipe on through hull fittings and built in fuel tank is connected and not corroded. Check these on a regular basis.
2. Before you start fueling, turn everything off. That includes engines, electrical equipment, extinguish any flames, such as your cooking stove or oil lamp, and shut all fuel valves. Do not leave the blower system used to vent the engine compartment and bilges running. Best is to turn your battery control switch to off.
3. Close everything. This includes hatches, doors, companionways, ports, windows and any opening fumes could enter. You want your boat sealed tight so no fumes can enter.
4. Fuel in daylight if possible. If you must fuel at night, use a flashlight. Do not use any light, which could cause a spark.
5. Do not smoke or have anyone near you or your boat who is smoking. This is one of the quickest ways to blow yourself up.
6. Double check everything is off and closed.
Now you can start fueling:
1. Remove all portable tanks from boat and place them on a stable dock or the ground.
2. Remember to first touch the spout to the fuel tank or fuel pipe to discharge any static electricity. Do this when fueling your car or any other vehicle.
3. Now you can start. Remember to prevent spills and pour slowly.
4. Do not completely fill any tank. Allow room for the fuel to expand and not overflow. Fuel will expand, especially in warm weather.
5. When done, put the fuel cap on, and make sure it is tight so no vapors can escape. Remove the hose or jerry jug from the area.
6. Wipe up any spilled fuel. Make sure to allow the rag to completely dry and air out. Never put it in the boat or water. Properly dispose of it.
7. Remember to store fuel in a safety-approved storage tank.
Before Starting Your Engine:
1. Open all hatches, doors, companionways, ports, windows, and any other openings. This is the first step in making sure no fumes are in the boat.
2. Do not use any electrical equipment yet.
3. Use your nose to smell for gas or oil vapors. Your nose is your best defense.
4. Vapors have a tendency to sink to low spots so stick the old proboscis in the bilge and engine compartment.
5. Now start the bilge blowers. Especially after fueling let them run for 10 minutes. And a minimum of five minutes before starting if you did not fuel the boat. During this period, check the blower exhaust for any smell of gas or diesel vapors.
6. After the blowers have been running for a period of time, double check the bilge and engine compartment again. If your nose gives you the all clear, now start your engine(s).
7. Also consider installing a gas vapor detection/alarm system as well as a carbon monoxide detection/alarm system.
In a future article, we will discuss one of the more common but less detectable causes of boating fatalities, carbon monoxide poisoning.
If there are topics you are interested in, and you would like discussed, or suggestions you have for the boating public, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.