which fueling practice is safe?
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While inspecting the next Mom’s Mink at this winter’s boat shows, you’re going to notice new fuel components aboard boats powered by gasoline engines. I started to see these during Boating’s advance testing of several 2012 models last summer.
The additions include carbon canisters, valves, fuel tanks with bladders inside and more. They compose a complete system designed to control fuel and vapors from escaping. You might hear these systems referred to as “evaporative emissions controls” or “diurnal fuel controls.”
As much as I believe in protecting the environment, I’m a bigger believer in protecting human life. Fueling up, the most common of boating tasks, can also be deadly. The vapor from just one cup of gasoline packs the explosive power of five pounds of dynamite. Gasoline can burn at 15,000 degrees F. I’ve seen a fiberglass boat explode; it burned to the waterline in minutes. Keep these facts in mind and review this fueling-up refresher.
Insist that your crew stretch their legs while you fuel up. Aboard the boat I saw explode, the skipper was thrown overboard by the blast, but was rescued and lived. Your crew may not be as lucky.
Close all hatches, doors and ports. Gas fumes are heavier than air and will sink into the lower parts of the boat, lying in wait for a spark, or just a rush of fresh air, to induce combustion.
Know Thy Boat
Look at the fuel gauge prior to filling. This coupled with knowledge of the tank’s capacity allows you to stop the flow when full or nearly so by monitoring the rate on the pump. Can’t see the pump? Ask a dock hand to stop the pump at a set number of gallons, or assign a crew member to call out to you. Clicking on the ignition to check the gauge during fueling is a no-no.
It’s imperative to make and maintain full and firm metal-to-metal contact between the pump nozzle and your boat’s fuel deck pipe. This grounds the nozzle and prevents a spark created by static electricity. FYI: Newer fiberglass docks create an inordinate amount of static. Forewarned is forearmed.
Fueling complete, open the hatches and sniff for gas fumes in the bilge and engine compartment. If all smells well, run the blower for five minutes before starting the engines. This doesn’t apply to outboardpowered boats for obvious reasons.
Safety aboard is integral to good seamanship. Practice safety when you fuel up.
The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers.
Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency’s Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to “Boat Responsibly!”
Serious accidents can occur when fueling. Never fuel at night unless it is an emergency. If you must refuel after dark, use only electric lights. To protect the water environment, try to refuel away from the water or on a commercial fueling ramp. Follow these procedures in order to fuel safely and responsibly.
Before beginning to fuel:
- Tie the boat securely to the fuel dock.
- Ask all passengers to leave the boat and go onto the dock.
- Do not allow anyone in your group or others at the fuel dock to smoke or strike a match.
- Check to see that fuel lines, connections, and fuel vents are in good condition.
- Turn off anything that might cause a spark—engines, fans, or electrical equipment.
- Shut off all fuel valves and extinguish all open flames, such as galley stoves and pilot lights.
- Close all windows, ports, doors, and other openings to prevent fumes from entering the boat.
- Remove portable fuel tanks from the boat and fill them on the dock.
- Make sure that your fire extinguisher is within reach.
Refueling and Handling
The best place to refuel your pleasure craft is at your local marina. Staff are aware of the precautions that must be taken and are equipped to deal with any emergencies that may arise.
Their familiarity with your boat will ensure that refuelling is carried out safely and efficiently.
The following Refuelling Procedure, which was a recommended practice, is now the law.
- Moor the pleasure craft securely
- Shut down all engines
- Ensure all persons not involved in fuellingthe craft are ashore
- Extinguish all open flames, including pilot lights
- Do not smoke in the refuelling area
- Close all doors, windows, ports and hatches
- Fill portable gasoline cans on shore
- Ground the nozzle against the filler pipe
- Do not overfill the tank to avoid overflow
- Clean up spillage
- Operate the ventilation system for four minutes before the ignition is switched on
- Check for fuel vapors
You should also re-start the engine(s) before your guests re-board the pleasure craft.
Remember: Gasoline is highly explosive when mixed with air and when boat fires DO happen, it’s usually during or shortly after fueling. Always practice safe fueling.
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Control of your pleasure craft is crucial for safe boating and enjoyment on the water.
Water passing over the rudder, or water passing over the outdrive and being forced astern by the propeller, allows a powerboat to steer.
On an inboard and an inboard / outboard, wash from the propeller provides some of that water. The boat moving through the water provides some additional water.
If the power is cut and the boat is still making way, (moving through the water) the rudder on an inboard, or the outdrive leg on an inboard / outboard, can still be used to steer until the boat comes to a stop.
Personal Watercraft operate in a different fashion.
Steering for a PWC comes from movement of water through the pump and the discharge nozzle.
When power is cut, there is no more discharge and the PWC can not steer. It does not have a rudder.